Steps to a Successful Shrink Sleeve Project

November 19, 2014

When it comes to your company’s product, you want to maintain maximum visibility so that your customers will keep coming back for more. Shrink sleeve labels offer maximum visibility to help your product continue to stand out among the competition. We previously discussed the benefits of utilizing shrink sleeve labels for your product, now let’s take a look at the steps involved in creating a successful shrink sleeve label project.

Container Selection

First, it is important to know the type of container you are labeling. It is most beneficial to get the label supplier involved in the process early on as there are several considerations that will affect the label process and material selection. Is the container glass, plastic or metal? If the container is plastic, is it PET, HDPE, PP-based or another plastic? Is the container clear or opaque?


The next most important thing to determine with your shrink sleeve label is the type of film you would like to use for your product. Film choices for shrink sleeve labels are determined by:

• Percentage of shrink needed
• Desired finish
• End user requirements
• Application considerations
• Sustainability initiatives

Before you choose a film for your product, it is important to determine the shrink percentage needed to conform to the container. The label supplier will calculate the shrink percentage by determining the smallest and largest diameter of the container. This information will help to ensure your product’s label covers properly and provides the best shrink performance and visibility.

Fort Dearborn offers a variety of shrink sleeve films to meet customer needs including: PVC, PETG, OPS and EarthFirst® PLA.


The major dimensions that are used in shrink sleeves are lay flat and cut length. The lay flat will be calculated to ensure the sleeve is sized to fit correctly over the container. The cut length is based on where you want the label to start to the bottom of the container. Do you want it to cover the entire product to include tamper evidence? Do you want it to only cover part of the container? Determine how much of the container you would like the shrink sleeve to cover in order to determine the appropriate cut length. Note: If the sleeves are being applied automatically, the equipment manufacturer will make the final lay flat determination. The grid test will confirm the final cut length.

Graphics & Template

Shrink labels may require distortion of the graphics to enable them to appear correctly once shrunk and conformed to the container. A printed grid pattern is used to show the pattern of distortion and areas to avoid or leave for compensation of graphics and is run through the chosen shrink tunnel using actual containers for the project.

A template will also be created for the graphics. A basic template can be created using the container dimensions, but the final template will be created based upon the results of the grid trial. The grid trial is used for determining the sleeve seam position and determining perforation locations for tamper evidence features. The final template will incorporate these elements as well as a distortion map for the graphics.

Think Before You Shrink

With these helpful tips you can gain optimal visibility for your product with shrink sleeve labels. We call our shrink sleeve development methodology ‘Think Before You Shrink’, and it includes all the steps necessary for consideration in a successful shrink sleeve project. Our knowledgeable technical services associates will work with you and your container and application equipment suppliers on the various steps are taken into consideration and provide guidance throughout the process.

If you are ready to take the next step in marketing your product with a shrink sleeve label, contact Fort Dearborn Company at (847) 357-9500 or