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•    Now: Using 3D software to streamline the pre-press process

Now, this process is made much simpler —and quicker— with the advent of 3D modeling technology for packaging. After receiving a sample of your packaging, your converter can render a 3D version of it. Using the artwork and the 3D rendering of the container, the converter can predict the level of expected shrink and distort the image accordingly. 

This technology even allows you to simulate how the finished product packaging will appear on the shelf next to the competition. This will give you a clear idea of what the final product will look like before your shrink sleeve design ever hits the press. 

Pre-press virtualization programs have certainly streamlined the shrink sleeve design process. But it’s still important to have your converter run a sample sleeve to ensure the digitized artwork looks good on your physical container. 

Preventing shrink distortion: Best practices for brand owners

Although your label converter will handle the pre-distortion, you can streamline the pre-press process —and reduce your lead time— by ensuring your artwork is optimized for shrink sleeves when you hand it off. •    Select the material best-suited for your container

While there are many shrink sleeve material options out there, the two most common are PVC and PETG. Which you choose will depend on budget, application and how much the material will need to shrink to wrap around your container.  

PETG tends to be more expensive, but has a higher shrink potential —good for uniquely shaped packaging— and is considered more environmentally friendly than PVC. PVC is cost-effective and performs well in use, but only offers 60% shrink potential, limiting which containers it can be used for. 

•    Pay attention to seam placement

It’s harder to prevent shrink distortion close to the seam. You can place your seam anywhere on the sleeve — just make sure you plan for seam placement when designing your artwork. Choose an area without small text or realistic imagery and avoid having continuous graphics go through the seam.  •    Orient barcodes correctly

Barcodes must be printed with a high level of accuracy to ensure they can be scanned. Orient your product’s barcode vertically rather than horizontally in your design to minimize the possibility of distortion. 

•    Avoid small text, realistic imagery and intricate design in high-shrink areas

Even with new technology, replicating realistic imagery or geometric shapes in high-shrink areas is difficult (think grips on a trigger bottle or the neck of a soda bottle). Instead, opt for abstract shapes in high-distortion areas — these shapes are more forgiving of a small degree of distortion.