Printing A Label Template – Troubleshooting Tips For Trouble-Free Printing

December 5th, 2017

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

Printing A Label Template – The First Rule Of Printing Labels: ALWAYS DO A TEST PRINT FIRST

November 28th, 2017

Regardless of whether you choose to take extra special care with your label template and your print settings OR you simply plough on and “hope for the best”, you should always always always always always always always always always always do a test print first. Always.

Doing a test print is a quick and easy way to check if there are any issues that could cause a misalignment between your label template and your blank labels – before you print all of your labels in one go.

Obviously, if nothing’s wrong then you’ll have a perfectly printed set of self adhesive labels in no time at all BUT if there is a problem then you’ll end up wasting your entire set of printer labels (not to mention the ink/toner your printer has used) – which is especially problematic if you’ve bought just enough blank labels for the job at hand.

Printing your own laser labels or inkjet labels involves a LOT of different elements and ALL of those elements have the potential to throw a spanner in the works when you’re trying to achieve the perfect print. You have to make sure that your A4 labels, your label template, your software, your print settings, and your printer are all going to work in harmony to create the perfect print and it is extremely difficult to predict (and therefore avoid) exactly what might go wrong.

Instead of assuming that everything will “just work” or spending ages trying to second guess what might go wrong, it is much, much easier to do a test print and see for yourself whether your label template is going to align with your blank labels (or not).

How do you do a test print?

It’s really easy! You simply do exactly what you would do to print your blank labels EXCEPT you place a blank sheet of paper in your printer and print a single page of your label template. You then compare this printed page with a sheet of your sticky labels (either by placing your printed page under your blank labels and holding them up together in front of a light source – best for paper labels – or doing a simple side by side comparison – best for plastic labels) to see if your label template is correctly aligned or not.

You can then go back and amend your label template or adjust your print settings to improve the alignment; you should then perform another test print to see if your changes have helped (if not, you can repeat the process of amending and test printing as many times as you like until you are happy).

Remember, when performing a test print you must follow EXACTLY THE SAME steps as you would if you were printing your actual sheet labels; this includes putting your sheet of paper into the media bypass tray and selecting the same set of print settings.

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Printing A Label Template – Troubleshooting Tips For Trouble-Free Printing

Printing A Label Template – Top Tips For Loading Your Labels To Align Your Design Perfectly

November 21st, 2017

Yes, we do have “top tips” for loading your sheet labels into your printer!

Even if you’ve created a perfect label template, chosen the perfect printer, and carefully selected the perfect set of print settings, you can undo all of your hard work in an instant, simply by not taking a bit of care when you load your A4 labels into your printer.

The fact is that as soon as you press print you are entrusting a set of precise digital instructions to a machine that has to physically manoeuvre your sheet labels through multiple sets of rollers while recreating your label template.

Printers are designed to process sheets as efficiently as possible but there is always a risk that sheets can become misaligned or rotate as they are fed through each set of rollers – especially in older printers or in printers that are regularly used for high volume printing tasks.

While there is very little you can do to improve how smoothly your printer processes sheets (other than periodically cleaning the rollers with an acetone – e.g. a non-oily nail varnish remover – and/or a label remover if you regularly print adhesive labels), you can at least give yourself a head start and reduce the risk of alignment issues simply by making sure that you load your blank labels carefully and correctly into your printer.

Label Planet’s Top Tips For Loading Self Adhesive Labels

1. Fan your labels before loading them into your printer

Gently fan or flip through your blank labels to separate the individual sheets and remove any traces of static that could cause your sheets to jam in your printer.

2. Use the media bypass tray and align the guides carefully along the edges of your sheet labels

If your printer has a media bypass tray you should ALWAYS use it to print self adhesive labels; A4 labels are constructed from AT LEAST three layers (a face material, an adhesive layer, and a backing sheet) making them much thicker than standard sheets of paper, which is what the main paper tray is designed to handle.

The media bypass tray is a secondary tray that is designed specifically to process thicker print media and – because of its position just above or below the paper tray – it bypasses at least one set of rollers, creating a straighter path through the printer and significantly reducing the chances of your sticky labels rotating as they are pulled through the printer.

Before putting your blank labels into your printer, knock them against an even surface to make sure that all of the sheets are lined up neatly so that you know they will at least all start in a completely straight position before you press print. Make sure that the guides in the printer tray are gently resting against the edges of your sheet labels; these guides help to ensure that your sheet labels feed into the printer in a straight path when the pick up roller pulls them into the printer.

3. Load your printer labels so that they feed into your printer narrow edge leading

Your printer labels must always be fed into the printer in a portrait orientation so that the narrowest edge (i.e. the edge that measures 210mm wide) enters the printer first. At Label Planet, our label sizes are made with layouts that have been selected specifically to reduce the chances of your sticky labels separating from their backing sheet during the printing process – as long as they are fed narrow edge leading.

It is also especially important to feed paper labels in this way because they have a grain that runs from the top to the bottom of each sheet (when held portrait); if you try to feed paper labels into a printer against the grain (i.e. with the widest edge leading), it is more than likely that the sheets will jam.

4. Try manually feeding individual sheets or batches of sheets for bulk print jobs

If you need to print a high volume of self adhesive labels in one go, you might be tempted to simply load all of your sheet labels into your printer at once. Printing self adhesive labels is a much more intensive process than printing standard sheets of labels, which can lead to printers overheating (especially laser printers, which use heat to bond toner onto a surface) and struggling to feed each sheet smoothly and accurately (resulting in sheets rotating, misfeeding, and even jamming completely).

To help avoid these problems, we recommend manually feeding your blank labels into your printer – either as individual sheets or in smaller batches – to allow your printer time to process your sheets more efficiently.

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Printing A Label Template – The First Rule Of Printing Labels: ALWAYS DO A TEST PRINT FIRST

Printing A Label Template – Choosing The Right Print Settings To Print Your Labels

November 14th, 2017

Last week’s Template Tuesday talked about choosing the “right” printer to print a label template onto blank labels; this week, we’ll talk you through choosing the “right” print settings to print your label template accurately and efficiently.

Modern desktop printers offer a HUGE range of print settings so your printer can adapt to a wide range of printing tasks – and produce the best possible print quality and accuracy for the specific document and print media that you want to print. While some “smart printers” make basic assumptions about what you want to print (and select the right print settings for you), generally speaking it is up to you to choose the right settings.

If you don’t, your printer will simply use the default settings installed in its software (the printer driver) or – worse – will use the settings selected for its last print job; in either case, it’s likely that those settings won’t print your label template accurately and to a high enough quality. Self adhesive labels are VERY different to other print media and require a much more specific printing process (created by choosing the right set of print settings) to print successfully.

So, before you print your label template, you should first click on “Printer Properties”//“Printing Preferences” and make sure that:

1. The PAGE SIZE is set to A4.

Occasionally, printers revert to default settings stored in the print driver and – in some cases – this will be the American page size “Letter”. It is also possible that your printer is using a page size from a previous print job.

2. There are NO SCALING options selected.

This includes any percentage less than 100% and any settings that refer to scaling or otherwise manipulating the page size or document size (e.g. “Fit To Sheet” and “Fit To Page”).

3. The printer isn’t using DEFAULT SETTINGS.

Some desktop printers have a general option that instructs the printer to ignore any specific print settings you select in favour of those stored in the printer driver (usually called “Ignore Printer Settings”, “Use Default Settings”, or “Use Driver Settings”).

4. The MEDIA TYPE & MEDIA WEIGHT settings are appropriate for self adhesive labels.

These settings adjust how your printer works to suit specific print media; for example, when printing laser labels, you can adjust the print settings so the printer processes each sheet more slowly AND applies more heat to ensure that the toner bonds perfectly with your blank labels.

Some printers group these two items together; where possible, set the media type to a specific “Labels” setting and match the media weight to the printer labels you are using. If your printer doesn’t offer a specific “Labels” settings, select the closest alternative (consult your printer manual and/or the manufacturer’s support pages online to see what is recommended).

Most printers list media weight settings as a general description followed by a specific range of weights, such as “Light (60-64 gsm)” or “Heavy (105-120 gsm)”. Generally, you should use a “Heavy” print setting for printer labels but check your printer’s manual for further advice. Our website includes Material Specification Sheets, which list the weights of all of our blank labels to help you pick the right media weight setting.

NB: our Security Labels (SVP and TEV) and Silver Polyester Labels (SMP) should be printed using “Paper” print settings.

5. The PRINT QUALITY setting is appropriate for the level of detail (resolution) needed to print your label template.

If you are printing a basic text-based label template (e.g. address labels and shipping labels, ingredients on food labels, instructions for use on products labels etc), then you can use the default print quality setting. If your label template contains images (especially photographs) or high resolution artwork, then you should change the print quality setting so that your printer will print more slowly and at a higher printer resolution.

6. The MEDIA SOURCE is set to the media bypass tray.

Always load printer labels into the media bypass tray (if your printer has one). While some “smart” printers automatically detect when you are printing a label template (and automatically process your sheet labels from the bypass tray), others may not, so it’s always best to tell your printer specifically to use the bypass tray.

7. The FEED DIRECTION is set to Narrow Edge Leading.

Most desktop printers only offer narrow edge feed but if your printer offers both you MUST make set it up to use narrow edge feed. The feed direction refers to the orientation of your sheet labels as they are fed into your printer; during narrow edge leading, the narrowest edge enters the printer first (for A4 labels this is the 210mm wide edge). There are THREE reasons to do this:

  • Paper labels have a grain going from the top to the bottom of a portrait sheet; if you feed your paper labels wide edge leading, the feed direction will go against (perpendicular to) the grain, which can cause your paper labels to jam in your printer.
  • Many label sizes (including all Label Planet’s label sizes) have a layout that is designed to prevent printer labels separating from their backing sheet as they are pulled through/around the rollers – as long as they are fed narrow edge leading.
  • If you load printer labels into the bypass tray narrow edge leading but your print settings are set to wide edge leading, your printer will detect the mismatch and refuse to print your blank labels at all!

If you have ANY doubts about how to set up your printer to print self adhesive labels, consult the printer manual and/or support section of the manufacturer’s website; many manufacturer supply recommended guidelines for specific print tasks (such as printing onto A4 labels).

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Printing A Label Template – Top Tips For Loading Your Labels To Align Your Design Perfectly

Printing A Label Template – Choosing The Right Printer To Print Your Labels

November 7th, 2017

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.

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Printing A Label Template – Choosing The Right Print Settings To Print Your Labels

Printing A Label Template – Printing Templates 101

October 31st, 2017

So far on Template Tuesday, we’ve taken a closer look at what label templates actually are and how to add your label design to a template quickly and accurately. This week, we move on to the next step in the process of creating your own labels – printing your label template!

While you might be tempted at this stage to think “well, I’ve set up my template, now all I need to do is press print”, the fact is YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER JUST PRESS PRINT. EVER.

What most people don’t stop to think about is just how many different elements are involved in the process of printing a document. While it might seem like a simply one step process (you press print and a printer prints your document), there are actually a LOT of different elements involved and all of them have to interact in just the right way to create a perfectly printed template.

The Printing Process
Your software (the application you are using to design your label template) sends your template to another piece of software called a printer driver; the driver converts your template into a Page Description Language (which basically describes the content of a page and how that page is arranged or constructed as a series of geometric lines and shapes defined by mathematical equations) that can be understood by your printer – this vector-based language is then converted by a Raster Image Processor into a bitmap image (a rectangular grid of pixels) that your printer then recreates on your labels (using, of course, the print settings that you have selected – or a default set of print settings stored in your printer driver, if you haven’t indicated any printing preferences for your template).

Elements Involved In The Printing Process
Looking through the printing process, therefore, you can see that your software has to communicate properly with your printer driver, and you have to select the correct print settings to get the best possible print alignment and print quality on your labels – which doesn’t take into account the fact that your printed template can also be affected by the print tray you use and how you load your labels into that print tray, the starting print position of your particular printer model, the fact that all labels are made to a tolerance (i.e. an allowable deviation from the stated measurements), and that some labels are designed specifically for ONE printing process (i.e. they are “laser labels” or “inkjet labels”).

Of course, this isn’t to say that you won’t get lucky if you do just press print – it may be that your software, hardware, and labels are all set up in a way that allows you to achieve a decent print alignment and quality without making any adjustments at all.

The problem, of course, is that there is no guarantee that “just pressing print” will work and taking that risk can result in a massive waste of time and money (not to mention a waste of labels, toner or ink, as well as your own patience/sanity).

It is far, far wiser to take the time to load your labels correctly and to set up your printer with the optimum print settings so you KNOW that you will achieve the best possible print alignment and quality.

Over the next few Template Tuesdays, we’ll take you through the different elements involved to help you make sure that YOUR unique combination of hardware and software is correctly set up to print YOUR template onto YOUR labels as accurately and professionally as possible.

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Printing A Label Template – Choosing The Right Printer To Print Your Labels

Designing A Label Template – Troubleshooting Tips For Trouble-Free Label Designs

October 24th, 2017

Over the last sixteen weeks, we’ve been taking a closer look at the process of adding a label design to a label template, including advice on implementing a design that works for you, for your labels, and for the limitations of your software (along with specific guides on how to find and use Word’s design tools and features).

This week’s post gathers together all of the content from the last few months to create a hitlist of top tips to make the process of designing your labels as trouble-free as possible.

Presenting Label Planet’s Top Ten Top Tips For Designing Your Own Label Template!

1. Keep Things Simple

Most people print their own labels because it is a quick and easy way for them to create bespoke or personalise labels without having to spend time and money paying a designer and printer to do the job for them. Choosing an overly complex design is a sure-fire way to find yourself wasting time and money trying to replicate a design that far exceeds the limitations of your software, your hardware, and/or your own abilities when it comes to digital design.

2. Plan Your Design Before You Start

Taking a moment to sketch out your design (and type out the contents of your label) is a quick way to double check that:

  • Your design fits onto your labels without looking cluttered or messy
  • Your label design accomplishes what you need it to do AND looks professional

Making changes to a hand-drawn sketch is MUCH quicker and easier than getting partway through your design and realising that it isn’t going to work.

3. Start With The Background & Work Forward

If you’re creating a design with a lot of different elements (that need to be layered or that overlap to create your completed design) then it is always best to start with the “background” layer and work your way forward.

4. Use Cut, Copy, & Paste (Carefully) To Make The Design Process Quicker & More Accurate

Cut, copy, and paste are easy to use functions that can speed up the entire process of designing a label template; you can use these functions to add different elements to your template from an external source AND you can also use them to replicate your design in order to add it to all of the labels within your template. Using copy and paste is a much more accurate way to adjust and/or replicate your design by duplicating one item rather than inserting multiple items and attempting to adjust them one by one AND it can be used to duplicate both content and the formatting options you have applied to your content.

5. Remember That Formatting Matters

If you don’t bother to change certain formatting options from their defaults, you may find that you are limited in the tools that are available to you AND in how accurate you can be with the changes that you make to the various elements within your design – especially when it comes to positioning and layering different elements together.

6. Centralise Your Design

Using a centralised layout makes it easier to make sure that ALL of your design fits neatly onto ALL of your labels – and can avoid problems around the edges of your labels (see tip 7).

7. Take Care At The Edges

If your label design goes all the way to the edge of each label, you need to make sure that you aren’t setting yourself up for alignment nightmares when you come to print your labels; avoid narrow borders (which are nearly impossible to align perfectly) and only use a full colour background if you have space to overlap your design slightly (without creating a mismatch on labels that “butt up” against one another).

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Use Bleed

While you might be preoccupied with making sure that your design fits INSIDE each label, if you want to add a coloured background or a border you may be better off deliberately oversizing your design so that it overlaps (bleeds over) the edges of your labels to prevent any white edging appearing on your labels.

9. Be Aware Of The Unprintable Area

Most desktop printers cannot print all the way to the edge of an A4 sheet, creating an “unprintable area” around the edges of a label sheet; if any part of any of your labels falls into the unprintable area of your particular printer then you need to make sure that your design doesn’t involve adding any print to those parts of your labels.

10. Put Your Text In Text Boxes

If you are creating multiple sections of text, it may be worth putting each section into its own text box so that you have greater control over where the different elements in your design sit on each label. Adding your text as one block and then trying to manually space out your text to create your required design layout is unlikely to give you anything like the precision you need to replicate your design as accurately as you’d like.

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Printing A Label Template – Printing Templates 101

Designing A Label Template – Why The Kiss Principle Creates Perfectly Practical Labels

October 17th, 2017

If you haven’t heard of it before the “KISS” principle stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid” and states that most things work best if they are kept simple (i.e. they don’t have unnecessary complications) and therefore simplicity should be a key consideration during the design phase.

This principle is a useful concept to keep in mind when it comes to designing and printing your own labels; many people start off with a very complicated (albeit beautiful) design in their head, only to find that it is extremely difficult to reproduce that design accurately – often leading to a waste of time, money, effort, and labels.

Starting off with a simpler, more straightforward design is a quick and easy way to save yourself the headache – with the added benefit that label designs with less content and less complexity often end up looking much cleaner, attractive, and professional than “busy” designs (that often look messy and even illegible).

Here at Label Planet, if you’re doing anything more complicated than a single image or a single block of text, we highly recommend taking a moment to draw a quick sketch of what you want your labels to look like. Simply tracing out where all the bits of your label design should fit can help to give you a better idea of where to start when you come to add your design to your template – and how to go about building up your elements to produce your final design. It also gives you a chance to see if your design actually WORKS in the way you need it to and to play around with different versions to see if there’s a better way of arranging your elements to make your labels more effective.

If you’re also intending to add a LOT of text (for example, a list of ingredients, health and safety warnings, or instructions for use etc), we also recommend taking the time to type up your text FIRST, so you know exactly how much room you need for your text (and how much space is left for adding more decorative elements around your text) – or even if you perhaps need to consider cutting down your text or dividing your text over a couple of labels (rather than scrunching it all up onto one).

While the prospect of designing your own labels might seem like an opportunity to create a really “unique” design, you need to bear in mind that it is YOU who will have to actually recreate your ideas in a label template. You need to consider how confident and experienced you are when it comes to using software for design purposes – as well as how sophisticated (and accurate) your software is when it comes to replicating a design. If your software simply can’t perform a particular task to create a specific part of your design OR if you simply don’t know how to use the more advanced features of your software, then it really may well be worth simplifying things into something that you know you are able to recreate successfully instead of wasting time struggling with something more complicated.

Remember, there are lots of ways to create unique labels that DON’T rely on complicated designs and advanced design tools – and there are plenty of forums and sites available online for you to pick up hints and tips on how to use your software to create some pretty amazing designs and effects.

It’s also worth remembering that you probably decided to design and print your own labels as a way to save yourself some time and money by not dealing with a design company and/or printing company – it’s not worth doing it yourself if you only end up wasting time trying to set up a needlessly complicated design.

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Designing A Label Template – Troubleshooting Tips For Trouble-Free Label Designs

Designing A Label Template – Top Tips For…Round Labels & Oval Labels

October 10th, 2017

This week, we’re taking a quick look at our top tips for designing ROUND LABELS & OVAL LABELS.

Their curved and ever-changing edges can make these labels a bit more difficult to design (and print) accurately, especially if you need to rely on software (and hardware) that isn’t really geared up for pin-point accuracy when it comes to creating the perfect label design on circular labels and oval labels. HOWEVER, our top tips should help to give you a head start in designing your own round labels and oval labels with as little stress as possible!

TOP TIP NUMBER ONE: always centralise your design.
One of the easiest ways to create beautiful looking labels with a minimal amount of fuss is to centralise your design; this means that your design will be positioned in the centre of each label, which helps to prevent parts of your design getting cut off at the edges and can stop white edging appearing on your labels (this occurs with coloured backgrounds, where the printer doesn’t quite line up your design perfectly, leaving part of the label unprinted – as most labels tend to be white in colour, this is referred to as “white edging” although “blank edging” would probably be more accurate).

At Label Planet, ALL of our label templates are set up with a central alignment so you don’t have to remember to set this up before you start designing.

TOP TIP NUMBER TWO: use a bleed area if you want to add a coloured background and/or border.
A bleed area is basically a blank space outside of the actual area being printed that is used to overlap a design in order to avoid white edging.

Bleed is used for all kinds of printed materials, including labels where the blank spaces between labels can be used as a bleed area. This technique is ideal for designing round labels and oval labels, which always have at least some blank space between and around each label.

Even if there is only a few millimetres between two labels, you can still use this space to avoid white edging. Basically, all you need to do is to very slightly oversize your label design so that its edges overlap each label; when you come to peel your printed labels off their backing sheet, you shouldn’t get any blank unprinted areas at all.

You must make sure that you don’t include any important design elements at the very edges of your labels – if they fall into the bleed area, they will be left behind when you remove your labels from their backing sheet.

TOP TIP NUMBER THREE: use a thick border if you have to use a border at all.
While we’d generally say that borders can be more trouble than they’re worth, if you do absolutely HAVE to have a border on your labels you should make the border as thick as possible so that you can still make use of the bleed technique described above.

It is unlikely that a standard printer would be able to reproduce a very narrow border accurately enough to line up that border perfectly all the way around an oval or circular label – which will probably lead to some white edging. It will also emphasise the fact that your labels are (very slightly) misaligned, which can spoil the overall look and finish of your labels.

To overcome this, you can increase the size of your border so that it will overlap the edges of your labels all the way around – leaving behind a (more or less) even border with no blank unprinted gaps when you remove your labels from their backing sheet.

TOP TIP NUMBER FOUR: accept the limitations of the software you are using.
While some people will make their own labels using graphics software that is designed specifically for creating complex and detailed graphics, other people will be “making do” with software that isn’t really designed for this purpose.

While most software has tools that can be used when designing a label template, they simply won’t be as sophisticated and accurate as those provided in graphics software – and you may need to simplify your design to make sure that it can be replicated by your software.

For example, many people use Word to design labels and, while it is perfectly possible to create decorative AND professional looking round labels and oval labels in Word, you do need to adapt the tools that are available in Word to the task of adding a design to a label template (and have a bit of patience with their limitations).

It is also worth noting that Word is NOT sophisticated enough to create templates that show the outlines of round labels and oval labels. Instead, Word templates are made up of tables that replicate the layout of a sheet of labels; the square or rectangular cells in the table represent the spaces in which each round label or oval label sits (so that the outermost points of each label touches the four sides of the corresponding square or rectangle). This means that you may need to use a bit of trial and error to make sure that your design aligns correctly with your labels (by performing a few test prints onto paper).

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Designing A Label Template – Why The Kiss Principle Creates Perfectly Practical Labels

Designing A Label Template – Top Tips For…Rectangular Labels

October 3rd, 2017

This week, we’re taking a quick look at our top tips for designing RECTANGULAR LABELS.

TOP TIP NUMBER ONE: check if your labels have rounded (radius) corners or square cut corners.
Square cut corner rectangles have sharp, pointed corners naturally formed by two sides meeting at a 90° angle, while rounded corner rectangles have curved corners that form an arc – the corner radius can vary from a very rounded corner to a very slight arc at the extreme of each corner.

Generally speaking, there isn’t much difference between designing a rounded corner rectangle and a square cut corner rectangle unless you are trying to create a border or shaped element within your design that follows the outline of your labels (radius corners included) exactly.

The other thing to consider is that rounded corner rectangles tend to have selvedges and gaps between (some of) the labels as part of their layout. This means that you are less likely to run into problems with the printable area of your printer (see top tip number 2) or when printing full coloured backgrounds (see top tip number 3) if you are using rounded corner rectangles rather than square cut corner rectangles.

At Label Planet, we specify whether a product has rounded corners or square cut corners in the product description on the individual product page for each item that we supply. Our rectangular paper labels are also sold through two separate range pages; Rectangular Labels With Rounded Corners and Rectangular Labels With Square Cut Corners.

TOP TIP NUMBER TWO: check if your labels have selvedges.
A selvedge is a blank area at the edge of a sheet of labels. This area is used to help make sure that most (if not all) of the surface area of each label falls within the “printable area” of an A4 sheet.

Most desktop printers CANNOT print all the way to the edge of an A4 sheet of paper, creating both a “printable area” (in the middle of the sheet) and an “unprintable area” (around the edges of the sheet).

While rounded corner rectangles tend to have selvedges built in to their layouts by default, some square cut corner rectangles are made by simply dividing the full area of an A4 sheet into equally sized rectangles – meaning that part of some of the labels will inevitably fall into the “unprintable area”.

If your labels don’t have selvedges OR if your printer’s printable area doesn’t extend as far as the selvedge that is present on your label sheets, there are a few easy workarounds you can try:

  1. Avoid using full colour backgrounds (so the coloured elements of your design – that actually require print to be added to your labels – will fall into the printable area of your sheets).
  2. Reduce the size of your overall design (so it fits into the printable area of your sheets).
  3. Choose a different label size! It is more than likely that there will be a similar label size available – just with rounded corners.
  4. Get access to a printer with an “Edge-To-Edge” or “Borderless” print setting (this allows the printer to print the full area of an A4 sheet).

We list layout measurements for all of our label sizes on our individual template pages so you can use the page margins to check how much blank space there is at each edge of a particular sheet of labels. Our square cut corner rectangles with selvedges at the top and bottom of each sheet also have an “S” after the first part of the product code (e.g. LP10/105S, LP16/105S DF, LP21/70S MWPO etc).

It is worth checking the page margins of square cut corner rectangles AND rounded corner rectangles because some rounded corner sizes do sit quite close to the edges of their sheets.

If your printer does not have an “Edge-To-Edge” or “Borderless” print setting, you may be able to find the printable area of your printer by visiting the manufacturer’s website or checking your printer’s manual. Alternatively, you can use this quick-fix method to check for yourself:

  1. Open a blank Word document.
  2. Go to the “Layout” tab, click on “Margins” and “Custom Margins”, and change the Top/Bottom/Left/Right margins to 0.
  3. Click on the “Insert” tab, and use the “Shapes” option to add a rectangle that fills the ENTIRE page of your blank document.
    Top Tip: change the colour of the rectangle to a light colour to avoid wasting too much ink/toner.
  4. Print your document (ignore any warnings that your margins are too small and DO NOT allow Word to automatically “fix” your margins).
  5. Your printed sheet will now indicate how much of an A4 sheet your printer can print (i.e. its printable area) and how much it cannot print (i.e. its unprintable area).

TOP TIP NUMBER THREE: take care with full colour backgrounds and borders.
There are very few rectangular label sizes that feature gaps between the rows AND columns of labels; while this isn’t an issue for most people, it can become problematic if you are trying to add a full colour background and/or border to your label design. This is because it can be tricky to get a standard printer to print EVERY label in EXACTLY the right position on your label sheets; if the alignment is even slightly out, you can end up with part of your label design overlapping the edge(s) of your labels and (if your labels don’t have gaps between them) partially printing on another label.

If the edges of your label design are all the same colour, then you might be able to get away with a very slight misalignment BUT if the edges change colour at all then any misalignment will show up when you remove a label from its backing sheet.

Usually, the way to sidestep this problem is to use of “bleed areas”; i.e. to deliberately overlap your design into a blank space around each label so that the full colour background or border extends beyond all of the edges of your labels (preventing both white edging and overlapping onto neighbouring labels).

As mentioned, however, most rectangular sizes don’t have gaps between the labels; while rounded corner rectangles tend to have gaps between the columns of labels, both rounded corner and square cut corner rectangles will have at least some labels that “butt up” against each other along one or more of their sides.

This means that if you are struggling with your alignment, you may need to try:

  1. Changing your design so that the background and/or border are uniform in colour all the way around each label (so it is possible to disguise any slight overlap).
  2. Reduce the size of your design to create a blank/white border around the edges of your labels.
  3. Remove the coloured background and/or border from your label design altogether.
  4. Choosing a different label size! There may be a close label size that does feature gaps between all of the labels.
  5. Take your labels to a professional printer; they will have access to printers that offer a higher level of precision than standard desktop printers (allowing them to recreate your design with enough accuracy to prevent any noticeable overlap).

TOP TIP NUMBER FOUR: use your alignment tools to keep your label design organised.
Many rectangular label designs will contain a number of different elements or areas within the design, such as a space for a company logo, an address, a message, health and safety warnings, contents, or even a blank space to add information.

To keep all of those elements under control within one label design, you can use alignment tools to assign each element a particular alignment to help keep it out of the way of other elements in your design.

For example, while it’s always best to use a central alignment for your overall template, you can alter the alignment for individual items to make sure that items that should be on the left of your design are always positioned to the left, while items that should be on the right of your design are always positioned to the right.

Remember, if you are including multiple elements in your label design and you are using Word, you should change the “Wrap Text” option for images and shapes to “Tight” (or “In Front Of Text”) and consider using text boxes if you want to be able to precisely position separate sections of text.


You can find templates and material options for all of our rectangular label sizes on our Templates For Rectangular Labels With Rounded Corners and Templates For Rectangular Labels With Square Cut Corners pages.

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Designing A Label Template – Top Tips For…Round Labels & Oval Labels