Template Tuesday Presents...top tips to pick the perfect printer to print your own printer labels.
First Things First – Inkjet Or Laser?
The first decision is choosing an inkjet printer or a laser printer. These are the two main types of desktop printers used for business and personal use.
- INKJET PRINTERS: disperse inks across a surface where they dry in place. Most inkjet inks are liquid and water-based, although a range of options are available – including solid wax inks.
- LASER PRINTERS: use heat and pressure to bond toner (a dry powder) onto a surface.
Both methods have advantages and disadvantages so you’ll need to choose one that suits your overall printing needs. For printer labels, these are the things to keep in mind:
- While some labels can be printed using either method, some can only be printed with an inkjet printer OR a laser printer. Here at Label Planet, we have more laser labels than inkjet labels so you might want to consider which type of printer offers the label options you need.
- Laser printers are best if you need WATERPROOF LABELS. Laser print is waterproof; inkjet inks are usually water-based and run or smudge if they get wet. While waterproof inkjet labels are available, it is much easier to source waterproof laser labels.
- Traditionally, high resolution artwork (such as digital artwork or photographs) has been printed using inkjet printers. Modern laser printers produce equal resolutions to inkjet printers. However, inkjet printers are still more likely to offer “high resolution” print options – especially for printing photographs.
- You must budget for a printer AND consumables. Inkjet printers tend to be cheaper but have smaller cartridges, which need regular replacements (that are often quite expensive). Laser printer consumables (cartridges and image drums) tend to last longer, which may offer a lower long-term cost.
Next Things Next – How Specialised Do You Need To Go?
There are three levels of “specialisation”; all-in-one printers, standalone printers, and task-specific printers.
- ALL-IN-ONE: perform several functions to a basic standard – e.g. printing, scanning, and copying.
- STANDALONE: perform one function to a high standard – e.g. printing.
- TASK-SPECIFIC: perform a specific type of one function to a high standard – e.g. printing photographs.
Many people (including small businesses and individual users) choose all-in-one printers because they do several things and tend to be cheaper. However, while they are perfectly capable of day-to-day printing tasks, they are rarely designed for printing labels. All-in-one printers, therefore, tend to produce low quality labels OR fail to process label sheets at all.
You might, therefore, think that a task-specific printer would be the best option. If you have the budget for a label-specific printer – great! – unless you want to print other documents as well. In which case, your task-specific printer might be too specialised for other printing tasks. You would also need to source a printer that matches your application EXACTLY. A common example is photograph printers; some people struggle because their photograph printer will only print onto a very specific print medium (usually one supplied by the printer manufacturer). This prevents them from printing other print media or print media they have sourced elsewhere.
We therefore recommend standalone printers – designed to perform various types of one function (printing) to a high standard. This way you can use one machine for day-to-day documents AND printer labels.
Find The Right Features & Specifications
The best printers have features specifically designed for printing labels. This doesn’t mean they are label-specific printers – simply that printing labels is one of the tasks they can do! Look out for…
- Labels as a print medium: your printer’s specification will list the print media it can handle (e.g. paper, envelopes, transparencies etc). Make sure labels are on that list!
- Label printing options: the specification should also list “special” print options available for printing labels.
- A media bypass tray: a secondary tray designed for thicker print media (like labels). It also improves the accuracy of print alignment.
- Special print functions: a common example is “edge-to-edge” or “borderless” printing. This allows desktop printers to print the full area of an A4 sheet, which standard printers cannot do! If your labels sit near or at the edges of your sheets, you might not be able to print the full area of each label without these functions.
- A decent duty cycle: this is the number of sheets a printer can print to a consistent quality within a given time frame (usually a month). As a thicker print medium, labels require a more intensive printing process. This means you need a higher duty cycle than the actual amount of printing you require.
- A reasonable resolution: to print digital artwork or photographs, you’ll need a decent print resolution. However, you DON’T have to pay extra for the highest possible resolution available. This is because, after a certain point, the human eye can no longer distinguish the difference between resolutions. As a general rule 300dpi (dots per inch) is “normal resolution” (ideal for basic address labels), 600dpi is “high resolution” (ideal for basic designs), and 1200dpi is “photo resolution” (good enough to reproduce digital photographs).
Pick A Printer That’s Right For You
(And Your Needs) (And Your Budget)
Finally, the best advice that we can give is that you need to pick a printer that’s right for you. You don’t need to purchase the most expensive printer simply because it has every feature available. A simpler (more budget friendly) printer might be perfectly capable of printing your labels – without having to waste money on pointless extras.
List the printing tasks you need, set a budget, and find a printer that meets your requirements. We don’t recommend specific printer models because we know that every customer’s needs and budget are different. However, we do recommend two manufacturers – HP and OKI. We have used both for our own printing needs and both produce standalone printers capable of producing high quality print on self adhesive label stock.
If you don’t have a suitable printer, or the budget to buy one, why not ask around to see if someone has a printer you can borrow. Alternatively, there are a number of local high street printers who could print your labels for you. Obviously, this does cost more as you would need to purchase your labels and pay to have them printed. For some, this is a suitable workaround until they can purchase a printer of their own.
Next week on Template Tuesday: How To Set Up Your Printer Correctly To Get The Perfect Print On Your Printer Labels