Printing your own A4 sheet labels should be a quick and simple process; unfortunately, it can be difficult to make sure that everything is set up correctly and the smallest of errors can have a big impact on the print quality and accuracy of alignment. When labels go wrong it can be very tricky to pin down the cause of the problem; here at Label Planet, we’ve spent over 12 years working with labels, which means we’ve got plenty of tips and advice to help guide our customers through the process of designing a template, printing labels, and troubleshooting any problems that arise.
Step 1: Finding & Opening A Template
There are a number of ways to find a template to design your labels:
- Download a template from our website: we have created Word & PDF templates for all of our label sizes; visit our Template Section and select your label shape from the list OR visit the product page for your labels and click on the “Label Templates & Printing Information” link.
- Use a compatible template built in to your design software: some software has label templates built in for common or "standard" label sizes. A number of our label sizes are compatible with these standard label sizes, which means you can use existing built in templates to design and print labels that you have bought from us.
- Make your own template: most software will offer you some way to create your own template. For example, in Word, you can click on the “Mailings” tab at the top of the page, select “Labels”, “Options”, and “New Label” before entering the measurements of your label sheets to generate a template. We have created a set of measurements for each label size to get you started if you wish to create your own template; these measurements can be found by visiting the product page for your labels and clicking on the “Label Templates & Printing Information” link.
- If you download a template from our website and are given the option to “Open” or “Save” the file, choose “Save”. You can then use your software to open this saved file (“File” > “Open”), which will allow your software to check that the template is compatible (and convert it if it isn’t) before you start adding your design.
- Word templates can only be edited by word processing software that can edit the .docx file format (e.g. Word, Pages etc), while PDF templates can only be edited in graphics packages that can edit PDF files (e.g. InDesign, Photoshop etc).
- If you cannot edit your template when you open it, it may have been locked; there should be a (yellow) banner going across the top of the page with a button that says “Enable Editing” – click on this to unlock your template.
- Word templates cannot show the shape of round labels and oval labels; a grid of squares or rectangles will be used instead so that each label fits inside one of the squares or rectangles with its outermost points touching each of the four sides.
- If you can’t see the outlines of the labels in your Word template you need to turn on Table Gridlines; left click once in the centre of your template, select the Table Tools “Layout” tab at the top of the page, and click “View Gridlines” (Word 2007 onwards, Word For Mac 2016); alternatively, select the “Table Layout” tab, and click “Gridlines” (Word For Mac 2011).
Step 2: Designing A Template
Most templates create a sheet of identical labels (or labels with a shared design and variable text); the easiest way to make this kind of template is to add your design to the top left label before using copy and paste to complete the rest of your labels. Here are few other simple things you can do to make designing your template as quick and easy as possible:
- Centralise your design: this helps to prevent the outer parts of your design disappearing off the edges of your labels.
- Work from the background forward: if your design uses multiple layers (e.g. a coloured background + text + images), always work from the background to the foreground so that you can build up each layer without parts of your design disappearing behind elements that you’ve already added.
- Take care with borders, coloured backgrounds, and “full size” images: borders, coloured backgrounds, or “full size” images (i.e. one image fills each label) can create white edges around your labels or make any slight misalignment more obvious. Make your border thicker and oversize your background colour or image where possible. Some label sheets will have labels that go very close or right up to the edges of an A4 sheet; standard desktop printers CANNOT print all the way to the edge of an A4 sheet unless they have a specific “Edge-To-Edge” or “Borderless” print function, which means you must make sure that your design doesn’t fall into the “unprintable” area that your printer cannot print.
EXTRA TIPS (for Word templates):
- Word will always prioritise text over everything else – even if you don’t actually add any text – which can lead to your design elements being automatically moved around or even behind your template. These issues can be resolved by changing the default Format options of your elements; left click on your item once to bring up the Picture Tools “Format” tab (images) or Drawing Tools “Format” tab (text boxes & WordArt) at the top of the page. Use the “Wrap Text” option for better control over positioning (choose “Tight” or “In Front Of Text”) and use the “Bring Forward” and “Send Backward” options to layer your elements as needed.
- Take care when using copy and paste; if the content you add is larger than your labels, you may find that Word alters your template to allow it to fit properly. You should either ensure that your content is the right size before you copy it or double check your template after pasting to make sure the width and height of your labels hasn’t been altered.
- When copying, select ALL of the cell contents to copy the layout and format options you have used as well as the actual elements in your design:
EITHER: move your cursor inside the cell (but not over an image or text box you have added) and quickly triple click to select the entire cell contents (then right click and select “copy”).
OR: left click once inside the cell, then click on the Table Tools "Layout" tab at the top of the page. Click on the "Select" icon on the left hand side and select "Selet Cell".
- If there are no gaps between your labels, you can paste into multiple rows or columns at the same time; move your cursor left of a row until it turns into a large, white arrow pointing diagonally up and right and left click once OR move your cursor above a column until it turns into a small, black arrow pointing down and left click once. To select multiple rows or columns hold down the control key on your keyboard as you select each row or column OR to select ALL rows or columns select the first row or column then hold down the shift key on your keyboard as you select the last row or column.
- Use Word’s Mail Merge tool to create labels using information from a database (e.g. Excel spreadsheet of addresses or product details). We recommend using the “Step-By-Step Mail Merge Wizard”; select the “Mailings” tab at the top of the page, click on “Start Mail Merge”, and select “Step-By-Step Mail Merge Wizard”. This works best if you use a built in template but you can also use an existing template that you have saved onto your computer or device.
Step 3: Setting Up Your Printer
There are also a few things you should do with your printer to help improve the accuracy of alignment that you can achieve:
- Use the Media Bypass Tray (if your printer has one): this tray is designed to accept thicker materials (such as labels) and offers a straighter path through your printer by bypassing one (or more) set of rollers, which reduces the chances of your label sheets rotating slightly as they are printed. Paper labels have a grain (like wood), which runs from the top to the bottom of each A4 sheet (when held portrait); always feed your labels into your printer narrow edge leading (portrait) to avoid labels releasing from the backing sheet and jamming in your printer.
- Check your Printer’s Properties: always check these settings before printing your labels:
Type / Weight: these settings automatically adjust how your printer works to suit the type and/or weight of material you are printing. Some printers list these two options separately, while others group them together; use a specific “Labels” setting (if offered) or try a “Heavy Paper” setting to get the best possible print quality on your labels.
Page Size: make sure your printer is set to an A4 page size (and not a default such as “American Letter”).
Scaling Options: check that no scaling options (such as a percentage or options such as “Fit To Page”) are selected.
Default Settings: ensure options such as “Ignore Printer Settings” or “Use Driver Settings” are NOT selected – these settings will ignore the options you have chosen and will use a default set installed in your printer’s driver instead.
TOP TIP: ALWAYS do a test print FIRST
No matter how long you have spent making sure your template LOOKS perfect on your screen, there is no guarantee that you’ll get the same perfect result when you press print. Templates and printers are both limited in the accuracy of positioning that they can create, which is why you should ALWAYS do a test print of your template onto blank paper before you load your labels into your printer. This will allow you to see if your alignment is correct and – if it isn’t – to make any necessary adjustments before using your labels.
The TWO most common issues with label alignment tend to be the following:
- THE ALIGNMENT GETS WORSE GOING DOWN/ACROSS THE PAGE: this is usually caused by your printer being set to a page size other than A4 (your printer wants to print your template onto a page size that is larger or smaller than A4). Alternatively, it may be that the sizing of your template has altered slightly as you have added your design, so you should double check that the measurements of your template are still correct.
- ALL OF YOUR LABELS ARE PRINTING TOO HIGH/LOW/LEFT/RIGHT BY THE SAME AMOUNT: this is usually caused by your printer’s starting print position, which varies from model to model. You can correct this by simply increasing or decreasing the top and/or left margins as needed to manually shift your entire template into the correct position.
You can find templates for all of our label sizes on our website; Templates For ALL Label Planet Label Sizes. For more tips and advice, visit our Label Printing Guide For Round Labels & Oval Labels, our list of Top Tips, our Troubleshooting Guide, or take a look at our Label Blog. If you need any further assistance or advice, please visit our Contact Us page to find out all of the ways you can get in touch.