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Fractions Or Decimals? – How It Affects Label Printing

One of the most confusing things that our label printing customers encounter is the constant “battle” being waged between Decimals and Fractions. “What on earth is going on here?” they ask – “Why can’t you make up your mind and settle on one system of measurement?”

Well, the answer is quite complex – but let’s see if we can shed some light on it. As you undoubtedly know, the good ole US of A tried some decades ago to adopt the metric system – but the attempt ultimately failed and we stuck with inches, pounds, miles etc. Some states made more progress than others (even changing road signs to Kilometers per Hour), then had to change them all back at significant expense.

Anyway, the result is that (rightly or wrongly) here in the USA, we use the “Imperial” system of measurement for most things (the keyword being “most”).  What that means is that generations of school-kids have been taught to use a ruler with funny little marks and notations called Fractions – things like quarters, eighths, and sixteenths of an inch.

How does this affect the labeling business?

Well when deciding how large your custom printed labels should be for your particular product, somebody (probably you) needs to experiment with various measurements to achieve a result you’re comfortable with. Often that means taking a blank piece of paper and cutting it to a size that works on the container of choice – then measuring the result with a ruler.  While many rulers display both inches and centimeters (like the image below), the key point is that most Americans “think” in inches.

Simple, yes? – Well, not really.  Now that we've established we use inches in the US, there's still one further complication. Sadly, most computer design software uses decimals when defining measurements (i.e. tenths or hundredths of an inch) – so to design an image that is 3-3/8” by 4-1/4”, the designer needs to specify the size as 3.375” x 4.25”. In other words, we mortal humans work in fractions of an inch, whereas design software tends to use decimals - and you can't use a ruler to measure decimals of an inch. Are we having fun yet?

That’s why here at Wizard Labels, we make BOTH fractions and decimals available to you on our Wiz-bang Online Quoter. We understand that there is no single standard that everybody uses and understands - and your preference may vary depending on whether you’re an everyday customer or a designer.

A Label Printing Company With A Heart

Interestingly, we’re the ONLY online label printing company who takes this double-barreled approach, because we understand the confusion. All other companies expect you to convert your fractions to decimals before you can even begin to get pricing – how unfriendly is that?

In the US label industry everything is standardized in inches (not centimeters). So, if you decide to engage an offshore designer (the horror!!), please make sure they use inches – otherwise your artwork may be rejected and you may incur extra cost getting it corrected. Do it right the first time!

Visit our Online Quoter for a demonstration of the two options for your custom label sizes. Near the top of the quoting panel (on the right hand side of the page), you’ll see two “radio buttons” labeled Fractions and Decimals. We default to Fractions because most of our customers are not designers. But if you click the Decimals button all the sizes will instantly convert to the label measurements you're comfortable working with.



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