This week, we’ve put together a hit list of troubleshooting tips that you can use to work out what might be the cause of any issues that you encounter when you print label templates onto A4 labels.
THE TOP TWO LABEL TEMPLATE TROUBLES & TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS
Among the template trials and tribulations that our customers report to us, there are TWO that pop up again and again (and again), so we thought they’d be the best place to start with our hit list of troubleshooting tips…
PROBLEM ONE: your self adhesive labels are misaligned in the SAME direction by the SAME amount (e.g. all of your label designs have printed out 2mm too high and 5mm too far right).
TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: printers start printing from slightly different points on A4 labels, which will misalign all of your label designs in the same way. To fix this, you simply need to adjust the page margins of your label template to manually force your printer to begin printing in a better position.
In Word, click on the “Layout” tab at the top of the page, select “Margins” and then “Custom Margins”; adjust the top and/or left margins as needed. In the example above, you would increase the top margin by 2mm and decrease the left margin by 5mm.
Alternatively, there may be an issue with your label template OR a manufacturing flaw with your self adhesive labels.
PROBLEM TWO: the misalignment gets gradually worse as you look down or across your sheet labels OR moving out from the centre.
TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: your print settings are causing your printer to “scale” your label template to the wrong size; go through your print settings to make sure that the page size is A4, no scaling options are applied (e.g. less than 100% or “Fit to Page/Sheet”), and that your printer is using current print settings (and not “Default” or “Driver” settings).
Again, this kind of issue can also be caused by issues with your label template OR with the sheet labels themselves.
LABEL PLANET’S TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS FOR TROUBLE-FREE PRINTING OF LABEL TEMPLATES
If you encounter a problem when test printing your label template, try working through this list of troubleshooting tips to see if you can locate the source of the problem (and apply the appropriate fix). These troubleshooting tips are NOT supplied in any particular order so you should read through the FULL LIST to find the solution to your particular label template troubles.
1. Are your A4 labels cut to the right label size?
Printer labels are manufactured to a tolerance (an allowable deviation from the stated measurements) BUT a manufacturing flaw with your sheet labels (or the wrong label size) will all of your blank labels to be misaligned. Use a ruler to double check your sticky labels (and any margins and/or gaps) are the right size.
2. Are your printer labels compatible with your printer?
Some self adhesive labels suit ONE type of printing method only; i.e. they are laser labels or they are inkjet labels. Laser labels printed with an inkjet printer won’t dry properly, while inkjet labels printed with a laser printer will have print that flakes away. Check the printer compatibility of your A4 labels – this should be listed on the packaging and/or supplier’s website.
3. Are you feeding your blank labels into your printer narrow edge leading?
Printer labels have layouts designed to prevent sticky labels separating from their backing sheet during printing – when fed narrow edging leading (for A4 labels, the 210mm wide edge should enter the printer first).
Paper labels also have a grain running top to bottom on a portrait sheet, which means if you feed your blank labels into a printer wide edge leading (so the direction of movement through the printer is against the grain) your sheet labels are likely to jam or separate.
4. Are you using your printer’s media bypass tray (correctly)?
The media bypass tray sits just above or below the standard paper tray; it is designed for thicker media (like self adhesive labels) and offers a straighter path through the printer by bypassing at least one set of rollers – reducing the chances of your sticky labels rotating as they are printed. Your sheet labels should be stacked neatly in the bypass tray with the guides positioned firmly against each side.
If your top left label and your bottom right label are misaligned in different directions (e.g. top left is 2mm too far left and bottom right is 2mm too far right), then your sheets are rotating.
5. Have you fanned your A4 labels before loading them into your printer?
Fanning your printer labels to separate individual sheets removes any static that has built up during storage; static can prevent your sheet labels moving smoothly through your printer and may even result in some sheets “sticking” together or jamming inside your printer.
6. Are you using the correct page size?
You must set your printer to an A4 page size or you will encounter scaling issues (see Problem Two) as your printer tries to re-size your label template to a page size that is larger or smaller than A4. This is usually a “default” page size stored in the printer driver, such as “American Letter” or “Letter”. Go into “Printer Properties” // “Printing Preferences” and set the page size option to A4.
7. Are you using any scaling options?
Label templates designed for A4 labels will be set up with an A4 page size so if your printer has ANY scaling options applied, your label template will print out at the wrong size (see Problem Two). Check your “Printer Properties” // “Printing Preferences” to make sure options such as “Fit To Page/Sheet” or a percentage less than 100% are not selected. If you have an “Actual Size” option, use it to prevent scaling problems occurring.
8. Are you using default print settings?
All printers have a default set of print settings stored in the printer driver; while you can change these using “Printer Properties” // “Printing Preferences”, some printers also have a general option (usually called “Use Default/Driver Settings” or “Ignore Printer Settings”) that will overrule current settings in favour of the default set.
9. Are you using the correct media type/weight print settings?
Most printers offer print settings that alter the way the printer works to produce a higher quality of print on different types of print media (e.g. paper, adhesive labels, card etc); if your printer offers specific “Media Type” and “Media Weight” print settings (some combine the two), you must select an option that suits self adhesive labels. A specific “Labels” setting is best but you can use “Heavy Paper” as an alternative. If you don’t use the correct print settings, ink won’t dry correctly (on inkjet labels) and toner will crack and flake away (on laser labels).
10. Have you got a mismatch between your print settings and your sheet labels?
Some printers allow you to select the tray and feed direction that you intend to use, while others automatically detect these factors. If there is a mismatch between the tray and feed direction you are ACTUALLY using and those your printer THINKS you are using, you will get a “mismatch” error and your printer won’t accept your blank labels. Check your “Printer Properties” // “Printing Preferences” are set to the appropriate tray and feed direction. If your printer automatically detects these factors (and you can’t choose them yourself) you may need to load your sheets into another tray or contact the manufacturer for further advice.
11. Does your design fall into the unprintable area of your printer?
Most desktop printers cannot print the full area of an A4 sheet so, if your blank labels (and your design) sit very close to the edge of your sheets, your design may get cut off. Some printers have special “Borderless” or “Edge-To-Edge” functions that allow them to print the full area of A4 labels; if your printer doesn’t offer such functions, you will need to adapt your label template so your design doesn’t fall into the unprintable area.
The unprintable/printable area of your printer should be listed in the manual but you can also print a full page of a (very light) colour to quickly check the areas that your printer can (and cannot) print.
12. What is your printer’s starting print position?
Printers start printing in slightly different positions, which can lead to a misalignment of label templates (see Problem One) where each label is misaligned in the same direction by the same amount. While some printers allow you to alter the starting print position using the built-in display and menu options, you can easily resolve this issue by increasing or decreasing the top and/or left page margins of your label template.
13. Is your printer driver up to date?
If you are having printing issues (especially if you’ve recently upgraded your software or installed a new printer), you should check if your printer driver is up to date; the driver allows your printer and computer to communicate, which means if it is out of date you may encounter printing problems of all kinds. Most operating systems allow device drivers to be updated through the main updating system (e.g. Windows Update, App Store etc); alternatively, you may be able to check for updates via the built in display and menu options or additional software supplied with your printer.
14. Is your printer clean?
Over time, a layer of dust and ink or toner residue can build up on the rollers in your printer. This can prevent the rollers processing your blank labels properly (leading to sheets jamming, rotating, or scrunching up) and can cause alignment problems. Clean the rollers with acetone (e.g. a non-oily nail varnish remover) and, if you also print self adhesive labels on a regular basis, use a label remover to get rid of any build-up of adhesive residue.
15. Are you using the right label template?
Printer labels (and their label templates) often have similar codes, which makes it all too easy to download and/or open the wrong label template. Double check that you have the correct label template for your label size by checking both the file name of the label template AND its measurements to make sure it is the right one for your printer labels.
16. Is your software causing alignment issues?
Some customers have found that their alignment is thrown out by the software they are using. For example, a PDF template may produce the wrong alignment when printed via complex design software and the right alignment when printed through a standalone PDF reader.
Similarly, Word templates opened in Pages may be converted to a slightly different size because of the differences between the software. For example, Word allows table rows to be as small as 0.4mm but Pages will only go down to 3.2mm. Templates for label sizes with smaller gaps will be converted to the wrong size so you will need to use a “bleed” template, where the label template merges the gaps between rows with the blank labels themselves.
17. Has your (Word) label template adjusted during the design stage?
Word often tries to “help” by resizing your label template as you add content (especially when pasting items from an external source). Check that the measurements of your labels (and any margins and/or gaps) are still correct after you have finished adding your design to your label template.
Some alignment issues are caused by a combination of elements, which means that you will need to apply all of the relevant fixes to resolve your problem. It is also worth noting that some of the issues mentioned above will result in similar (if not identical) misalignment issues so you may need to use a bit of trial and error to work out exactly which issue is responsible for the problem you have encountered.
Always do a test print after applying a fix to see if you have resolved your problem (or not).
Next Week On Template Tuesday: Label Templates; Designing & Printing Labels – A Summary