How to choose the right printer to print your own self adhesive labels.
People are often surprised at how much of a difference choosing the right printer can make when it comes to printing a label template accurately and effectively.
After all, you follow the same basic process when printing a sheet of paper as you do sheet labels. The problem is that self-adhesive labels are a very different print medium; A4 labels are thicker (with at least three layers – a face material, an adhesive, and a backing sheet) and are made with very different materials (even basic paper labels have special coatings to improve their surface properties), which means they need to be processed differently to allow toner or ink to be applied successfully (and accurately) to their surface.
When we refer to using the “right” printer, we mean a printer that has been designed with the task of printing blank labels in mind and has key features and specifications that allow you to print labels accurately and to the same standard as a basic sheet of paper.
LABEL PLANET’S CHECKLIST FOR PICKING THE PERFECT PRINTER TO PRINT YOUR LABEL TEMPLATE PERFECTLY
1. THE PRINTING METHOD
Some self-adhesive labels are made with materials that are suitable for ONE particular type of printing method; i.e. laser labels must be printed with a laser printer and inkjet labels must be printed with an inkjet printer. Laser labels printed with an inkjet printer won’t dry properly, while inkjet labels printed with a laser printer will have print that cracks and flakes away.
CHOOSE A LASER PRINTER TO PRINT LASER LABELS & AN INKJET PRINTER TO PRINT INKJET LABELS.
2. THE TYPE OF PRINTER
Most desktop printers fall into one of three categories; dedicated printers, multifunction (“all-in-one”) printers, and dedicated application printers (e.g. “photo printers”). “Dedicated” machines perform ONE specific task to an extremely high standard (e.g. printing or printing photographs), while “multifunction” machines can perform multiple tasks to a reasonable standard (e.g. printing AND scanning AND copying AND faxing etc). Printing a label template onto sheet labels accurately and effectively requires specifications and features that are not always provided in “all-in-one” and “photo” printer models because they simply aren’t designed for printing self adhesive labels.
CHOOSE A DEDICATED PRINTER (OR CONSULT THE PRINTER MANUAL TO SEE IF AN ALL-IN-ONE/PHOTO PRINTER CAN PRINT LABELS).
We recommend two brands based on our experiences printing our own address labels, shipping labels, and product labels. OKI and HP supply dedicated printers that are extremely efficient at handling thicker print media – including self adhesive labels – and produce high quality and accurate print on a wide range of printer labels. They also tend to have good duty cycles, which refers to the number of sheets that can be printed in a given timeframe (generally a month) to a consistently high standard without damaging the printer.
3. THE PRINT MEDIA
“Print media” refers to the different items that can be put into a printer to be printed; the “media type” refers to the specific item you are printing (e.g. plain paper, photo paper, sheet labels, envelopes, films or transparencies etc), while “media weight” refers to its weight – this is the mass per unit area or grammage (g/m² or gsm). Your printer’s manual will list all of the media types and weights that your printer can process (you should never try to to print a media type or weight that is NOT included in the specification as you may damage your printer).
CHOOSE A PRINTER THAT CAN HANDLE SHEET LABELS (OR AT LEAST THICKER MEDIA IN GENERAL).
4. THE BYPASS TRAY
All printers have at least one tray for loading print media; in most printers this is a PAPER TRAY designed specifically for handling plain paper (80-90gsm). A secondary tray is usually a MEDIA BYPASS TRAY designed specifically for processing thicker print media (such as self adhesive labels). This tray handles different “media” and allows sheets to “bypass” at least one set of rollers in your printer, which provides a straighter path through the printer and reduces the chances of sheets rotating as they are processed by the rollers (improving the accuracy of your printed label template).
CHOOSE A PRINTER WITH A MEDIA BYPASS TRAY.
5. THE RESOLUTION
Printer resolution refers to the number of “dots” of ink or toner that a printer can print within an inch (dots per inch or “dpi”); more dots mean more detail can be added (up to a point), which results in a higher resolution. As a general rule, 300 dpi produces “normal resolution” (good enough for text-based address labels or shipping labels), 600 dpi produces “high resolution” (good for product labels with some basic design-work and/or images), and 1200 dpi produces “photo resolution” (good enough to accurately reproduce digital photographs).
CHOOSE A PRINTER WITH 1200 x 1200 DPI TO PRINT A LABEL TEMPLATE THAT CONTAINS PHOTOS OR DETAILED ARTWORK.
6. THE EXTRA FEATURES
Some dedicated printer models have additional features designed specifically to improve the print quality and alignment accuracy on printer labels. A common example is “Edge-To-Edge Printing” or “Borderless Printing”; most standard desktop printers cannot print all the way to the edge of an A4 sheet but those with edge-to-edge or borderless printing can print the full surface of an A4 sheet. Some label sizes use the full area of an A4 sheet – meaning that, if you can’t print a full A4 sheet, you have to restrict your design to the so-called “printable area” of your particular printer.
CHOOSE A PRINTER WITH SPECIAL FEATURES DESIGNED FOR SELF ADHESIVE LABELS.
The best thing you can do to print a label template successfully is to look through your printer’s manual to see if your printer model can be used to print self adhesive labels (and has specific features that can be used to improve the print quality and accuracy) and if the manufacturer has provided recommendations to follow when printing a label template onto sheet labels.