How To Martha-Up Your Jam Labels For Nearly Free In About 5 Minutes

The pile of canned tomatoes and pickles and jams on my dining room table is begging to be put safely away in the pantry. The only problem: I like to Martha-up my jam with cute labels.

Although I have, in the past, recommended inexpensive cut-out labels for jam jars, many readers have enlightened me to the recommendation that jars of preserved goods not be stored with the rings on.

Which brings us to sticky-labels.

Sticky-labels are great for Mason Jar labeling. The 2.5-inch round labels from Avery and other label companies will fit a wide-mouth jar perfectly and a regular-mouth lid with just a little scrunching around the edges.

They are infinitely customizable and can give a really professional and/or homey look, depending on what you are going for. If you have a computer and a printer and basic word processing software, it is a simple process to turn these sticky labels into serious canning jar bling. You don’t even need to be into graphic design.

The only drawback to sticky-labels for your jars is that they can be a little spendy. I ordered an off-brand pack of 1,200 labels for about $20. That’s about 1-and-1/2 cents per label, which is worth it to me to have a more polished-looking preserve for holiday gifting, and even just for the pride and pleasure of a visually pleasing, Martha-freaking-Stewart’d shelf of jams. It might not be worth it to you. I get that. Sharpie is good too.

When I found these kraft-paper-brown labels I splurged the $10 and bought a pack for Can-o-Rama’s jars, and I’m glad I did. There is something very “brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things!” about a kraft paper label that just seems so right with home canned food.

I was all set to invest a few hours developing cute original labels to share with you guys as Downloadables when I realized the people at Avery – label promotion experts that they are –  have completely beaten me to the punch. They have dozens and dozens of non-sucky, pre-formated label templates already on their site, like these:

You can find a template or three that you like, then download them in Word format (works for Pages too, for my fellow Mac users). Then it’s simply a matter of putting in the information you want on your canning jar labels and, if desired, changing fonts and sizes to get the look you’re after.

So, for example, this:

 Became this:

Became, when printed on the cool kraft paper labels, this:

…all in about 5 minutes including print time.

Roma tomatoes got their own label treatment. Here you can see what a 2.5-inch label looks like on a standard-size flat. The whole lid is covered, more or less, but because of the concavity of the sealed lid you get a little crinkling on the edges of the label. This doesn’t bother me, but sticker-sticklers might want to seek out 2-inch round labels. I prefer to only worry about stocking one size.

Strawberry Jam got yet another “look.”

Some of these designs would actually be better on plain while labels, but I really do like my homey brown stickers.

Now all this label business is very close to so precious and froofroo that it kinda makes me want to smack myself. I mean, come on – how punk is a frilly jam label? Exactly none punk.

However, that feeling is largely countered by a certain domestic pride I get from the small pleasure of well-labeled jam jars. Plus, these labels give me the ability to legibly identify jars as fast as my printer can churn out labels. My sharpie lid scrawls – things like “Tom w/p WB c/a nacl” or “straw GM -ptn” – get notoriously difficult to parse after memory of a specific canning session fades.

So I highly recommend that, if you like well-dressed preserves, you check out the wealth of free downloadable label templates on offer over at Avery. You can pump out some good, visually pleasing jar labels with almost no work by taking advantage of what their design team has already created.

Because I am kinda gushing about this free corporate product perk, I just want ya’ll to know that I am in no way affiliated with Avery and I get nothing at all from them to write this.

Do you like to occasionally dress up your jars, or is “sharpie-and-done!” as frilly as it gets for you?


  1. says

    I’ve used Avery templates and labels for my soap too and I find them very easy to use and customise. Your food labels look wonderful and with luscious combos like you’ve done I think they do deserve a special label job.

  2. says

    I’m a sharpie & done kind of gal. I love the look of labels, but I never think about them. And my husband says there’s no chance we’re owning a printer, ever. So even if I did have label-lust, it wouldn’t happen.

    • says

      You could print them off at the local library! I worked at my local library and we helped people print damn near everything–jam labels, wedding invites, tax papers, court-ordered drug screening paperwork…

  3. Jessie says

    I picked up a box of the oval dissolvable labels from Ball ( at the beginning of the season, and think they’re great. My batches tend not to be more than 5 or 6 jars of anything at a time, so hand-writing labels isn’t a big deal — more than that and Avery labels would be the way to go for sure.

      • says

        1) jar might “unseal” and, from the pressure of the ring, “reseal” without you knowing. Honestly, I think the chance of this is super slim, because if mold or something is growing in your “sealed” canned good – you throw the entire thing out, always, no question. You never, ever try to “salvage” the food because mold can wreck havoc with ph levels and allow the dreaded BOTULISM to grow in things that were originally strong acid.
        2) some sort of fermentation might happen in the jar and the ring might not allow the pressure to escape and your jar might explode. Again, my concern about this happening to any properly processed food is, like, almost none. Not saying it couldn’t happen, but avoiding exploding jars is one of many reasons why I process my preserves for the full recommended time.
        3) any exhausted syrup or jar-contents left on under the ring can form syrup super glue which, 5 months later, can make it almost impossible for to get the ring off the jar. THIS is the thing I am actually concerned about, and something that HAS happened to me. Therefore, you really should take all rings off and wash the jars before storage. Since you should do that anyway, why put the rings back on?

        That’s the conclusion I’ve come to. I never found any of the “officially scary” reasons to store w/o rings particularly convincing, honestly but when I could not for the life of me twist the ring off that jar of apricot jam from a few years back I thought…oh, THAT’S why I should take the rings off. Ok. :)

        • Stephanie says

          The canning jar rings should be removed as soon as the contents are cool. Water that accumulates beneath the rings can lead to rusting of the ring as well as the lid.

          If you remove the lids and hang them up on a coat hanger, they will last a lot longer.

          But definitely remove the rings before storing your canned goods. It saves a lot of money in not having to repurchase rings.

          • Newbie Girl says

            I’m sorry everyone, I’m confused – are you saying to remove the rings after you have boiled your canned items and they have cooled, but before storing them? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose by breaking the seal that is preserving them? Perhaps you are talking about the rubber rings that are separate from the metal round flat part of the lid? ie: like the rubber ring + glass lids they used to have before the metal ones?
            I’m sorry, I’m very new to all this….maybe you have a link for me of an intro/basics of canning and supplies, etc….?

          • Lara says

            Also if you are like me, you buy a lot of your jars second hand, or look for free ones that people are giving away. They don’t always comes with the metal ring, or they are too rusty too use. I have way more jars than rings!

  4. says

    We sharpie but right before Christmas last year I used your cut out paper labels for the gifts and put rings on. We don’t store with rings, but we always give with rings. ;) Happy to see Avery has kraft labels now. I always passed on the labels before because i didn’t like the plain ol’ white ones.

    • says

      Yep. That. I traced and cut a bunch of circles from brown paper grocery bags for christmas and use a little fancy penmanship to gift tag them up. Not as sophisticated as Erica’s, but still something I was proud to give.

      Totally agree, something about brown paper..

  5. says

    Thanks to the comments, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only Sharpie gal out there! These labels do look beautiful, though, and much more gift-worthy. Thanks for the tip!

    • Stephanie says

      One year, I was canning all sorts of different things that didn’t abbreviate well. I’m normally a sharpie girl myself. However, that year I got into sharing some of my canned items with an older lady who also shared with me and I wanted them to look nice but also be able to remove the label easily afterwards.

      I created my own labels by printing out blocks of art and text in tables without lines. Just used crop marks.

      I cut them out with a paper cutter and taped them to the front of the jars with packing tape.

      It worked great! The tape came off easily, the labels were sealed against dust and all I had to do was print on regular paper so it was also cheap. I’m a cheapskate!

  6. Homebrew Husband says

    I really like to do this for homebrew that I gift out as well. At home I’m usually drinking out of a five gallon keg identified with a note written on some blue contractor’s tape.
    But I like to give away a few 22oz bottles now and again and have really found that a good label makes all the difference. We got a bunch of brown paper look mailing labels on clearance from OfficeMax a few years ago and they work really well, the brown paper gives the beer some character just like it does the preserves. It has been hard to find more, and I’m down to my last package, so I hope that this unbleached “green” look is getting more popular!
    The one lesson I’ve learned is not to be too subtle with my designs…I’m not the artist that Erica is so I tend to rely more on photos and the dark background means I have to be careful they don’t just get muddy and indistinguishable.

  7. Mark M. says

    You shouldn’t store your canned goods with rings, because if something does grow in the jars and produces gasses, your jar could explode. I’ve never had it happen, but it’s possible.

    How well do these Avery labels come off the lids after use? I wouldn’t want the hassle of scraping off old labels.

    • says

      They are relatively permanent once they’ve been on there a while. This, to me, is a feature – I like knowing for sure what lids have already been used to seal jars and what was in them because I don’t reuse flats except for non-canning purposes, like maybe dry storage. Plus, if they came off easily, my 2 year old son would DEFINITELY make a game of pulling them off. No good in my house. :)

  8. Amy Hoffmann says

    For Christmas this year, I made my dad (an enthusiastic canner and Sharpie fan) a set of labels. I used a photo of him with a Photoshop sketch filter over it, gave his preserves a name–“Papa’s House”, and did a fill-in-the-blank for date and contents. I printed them on full sheet sticky paper (white was all I had) that I my 2 year-old had brushed watercolors on beforehand. They came out great–I packaged them in a mason jar. Wish I could upload a photo!

  9. says

    I never anticipated that I would be the kind of girl that: a) canned her homegrown food and b) became excited by labeling said cans, but alas! Here I am.

    This is my first year of gardening and my first year of canning. I’m very thankful to have found your blog, because so far you’ve provided A LOT of inspiration to me and have also soothed my qualms about canning for the first time.

  10. Lori S. says

    I buy the 8-1/2 by 11 labels, make my own image with the help of photos on google, combine the image with text saying what the jar contains with my name and the date and then print them on the label paper. I cut them out, peel the backing off and then place them on the jar! The labels do soak off after the jar is empty!

  11. Ellen says

    Hi Erica, I’m giving personalized labels to my girlfriend who has been making jams for a gazillion years. I know she’ll love them. Thanks for making it so easy for me. I LOVE your website.

  12. Kassandra says

    OMG Erica, you did a beautiful job!!! I am such a copycat…how about the names of those beautiful fonts you selected?? Please please???

    I make lots of homemade cleaning products and cosmetic items and it is just TIME to have a comprehensive system for labeling those jars and bottles, and I love yours. I found the downloadables on Avery website, thanks very much. It is mid-winter, so time to Martha-up and ditch the Sharpie I have been using!!! lol.

  13. Kassandra says

    Actually, Erica, I think I can figure it out, cause I went to that Avery don’t need to download, they have a create and print section online…so I found those gorgeous fonts!!!

  14. Michele says

    The brown label that you have pictured is on the Avery website in purple. How did you change the “filigree” and ring border to brown?

  15. missuebee says

    About the lids, rings, and labels: what I have always heard is that it is fine to remove and re-use the rings from sealed canning jars, as long as they aren’t bent, but never to re-use the (flat) lids. Because that rubber ring on the underside is what actually creates the seal when the jars are processed, and it is probably somewhat compromised once you open the jar. So, I never worry about whether the label on top will wash off, because it will get tossed anyway. Actually, I prefer to put my labels on the side of the jar, because it’s easier to read on the shelf.

  16. says

    I am extremely impressed with your writing abilities and also with the format to your blog. Is this a paid topic or did you customize it yourself? Either way stay up the excellent high quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

  17. Catherine says

    Thank you so much! I’ve been looking for a way to make labels for my honey jars and you made it soooo easy – appreciate it!!

  18. Mindy says

    I just came back from OfficeMax where I bought Avery labels and had them print them for me using the Avery design and print web app to make a pfd that I brought with me on a USB drive. Easy and no additional charge. The only warning is they can’t print ink jet only labels like the metallic round version at our store so you may want to check before you head out.

  19. Alexis says

    If they are put into a word document, how do you get them to be stickers? Do you print the word document and then cut and place them onto the Avery sticker labels? Are both sides of the Avery labels sticky? Thanks!


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