Pressing print and discovering that your label template is woefully misaligned is the stuff of nightmares – especially when you can’t figure out exactly why your label template is so badly misaligned. In this post, we’ll take you through the five main causes of misaligned label templates – and how to identify which one is causing your template troubles.
The Five Main Causes Of Misaligned Label Templates
The five main causes of alignment issues when you print a label template are :
- The printer’s starting print position
- The printer’s print settings
- The wrong label template
- Unhelpful autocorrect
- Manufacturing tolerances
Each one of these causes produces a particular sort of misalignment, which means that you can identify which issue is causing your particular template troubles.
Misaligned Label Templates – Printer’s Starting Print Position
Standard desktop printers do NOT print the full area of an A4 sheet. This creates an unprintable area or border around the edges of sheet labels that cannot be printed. It also creates a specific point in the top left corner that becomes the starting point for where your printer can actually print.
This starting point varies slightly from printer to printer. Some printers give you the option to adjust the starting print position – but most don’t.
The starting point of your printer may cause your design to be misaligned because your printer starts adding your design at a point that is slightly lower/higher thn or to the left/right of the first sticky label on each sheet.
- Type Of Misalignment Caused: all of your sticky labels will be misaligned in the SAME direction by the SAME amount.
- Solution: adjust the page margins of your label template.
Misaligned Label Templates – Printer’s Print Settings
Print settings (also known as Printer Properties / Printing Preferences) can also cause misalignment issues. We call these scaling misalignments because your printer is trying to scale your template onto a page size larger or smaller than A4.
Like many people, you may be tempted to assume that your printer is using the correct print settings. And for the most part, it probably will be. The problem is that there are situations where your printer may default to a different set of print settings. The most common examples are:
a) printers reusing print settings from the previous print job.
b) printers defaulting to settings stored in the printer driver.
The first example is less common; generally speaking, most people print onto A4 all the time. The second example is much more common. Printers may default to driver print settings on a number of occasions. Common examples include anytime updates are applied to your operating system, software, or print drivers.
A lot of software used in the UK has ties to American companies. Printers may therefore default to “American” settings, which include a page size called “Letter” or “American Letter”. This is the page size used in the US; it has a slightly larger width and a smaller height than A4.
- Type Of Misalignment Caused: the misalignment gets worse as you move down, across, or out from the centre of your sheet. Some labels may be aligned; usually the misalignment will get worse moving away from these correctly printed ones.
- Solution: use the correct print settings before printing your label templates.
Misaligned Label Templates – Wrong Label Templates
Sometimes misalignment problems are caused simply by using the wrong label template. Self adhesive labels are often sold under rather meaningless product codes, making it tricky to pick the right label templates.
At Label Planet, our label templates include product codes in the file name. This allows customers to cross-reference the two and make sure they have the correct template. Each of our product pages features a direct link to the label templates page for that particular label size to help prevent confusion.
Of course, it is still possible to get things mixed up. Especially as some of our label sizes have very similar product codes. For example, LP24/40R refers to round labels with a 40mm diameter, while LP24/45R refers to round labels with a 45mm diameter.
Label templates may also be set up with the correct label size and layout BUT the wrong page size. This can create a mis-match between your template and your sheet labels, which can prevent your printer printing at all. Alternatively, your template will be scaled to the wrong page size, causing scaling misalignment.
- Type Of Misalignment Caused: none of the designs will align correctly. There may be a pattern to the misalignment (creating an extreme version of scaling misalignment where none of the designs align) if you accidentally use a template for a very slightly different size. For example, if you mix up our LP24/40R and LP24/45R label sizes.
- Solution: double check that you are using the correct template!
Misaligned Label Templates – Unhelpful Autocorrect
Some software – like Microsoft Word – is designed to be “helpful”. This includes “autocorrect” functions that try to predict what you want to do and doing it for you. Unfortunately, this can ruin the alignment of a label template.
For example, sometimes when you paste a large block of content (e.g. a lot of text or a large image) from an external source into a Word label template, Word will assume that you want your template to contain that content at its original size. It will resize your template around the content and destroy the alignment of your template.
- Type Of Misalignment Caused: varies depending on how your template has been resized. It is often similar in appearance to scaling misalignments; if the resizing has been applied equally to each row or column it creates an accumulating effect, which causes the misalignment to get gradually worse.
- Solution: go back through your label template and double check that the measurements of each row and column of blank labels (as well as any gaps between them) are still correct.
Misaligned Label Template – Manufacturing Tolerances
Generally speaking, self adhesive labels are cut accurately to the given measurements. However, as with all manufactured goods, sticky labels may fall into acceptable “tolerances” that influence the size and layout of sheet labels. A tolerance is an acceptable deviation from the measurements stated on the goods. This is a small range – usually a few mm – but it may influence how accurately your label template aligns with your sticky labels.
If the other four issues aren’t causing your alignment issues, it may be worth taking a closer look at your sheet labels. Take a quick measurement to ensure that the sticky labels are the correct size – as well as any gaps between the row and columns of blank labels AND the size of the margins between the blank labels and the edges of the sheet.
- Type Of Misalignment Caused: varies depending on the measurements of your sheet labels. Given that the variation will most likely be repeated, it is likely that there will be a pattern to the misalignment. If it is just the margins that are affected, all of your designs will be printed slightly too high/low/left/right. If it is the size of the labels themselves that is slightly off, the alignment will most likely get worse as you look down or across the page.
- Solution: get out your ruler and measure your sheet labels to determine the issue. If the margins are slightly out, increase or decrease the page margins of your label template as needed. If the label size is slightly out, adjust the measurements of your label template as needed.
Terribly Tricky Template Troubles – When Alignment Issues Combine
Of course, it is possible that a particular misalignment could be a result of a combination of these causes. The best thing to do is to use your judgement to determine which cause is the most likely. Apply the appropriate solution to fix the issue and do a test print of your label template. If the issue isn’t resolved, try the solution for another issue that causes the same type of misalignment (and test print). Repeat until the problem is fixed!
Next week on Template Tuesday: How To? – How To Correct Misaligned Label Templates