Posts Tagged ‘Printers’

Definitions – What Does “Compatible” Mean?

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

If you’ve been looking at designing and printing your own self adhesive labels, you’ve probably seen the word “compatible” being thrown around with alarming regularity – with regards to inkjet labels and laser labels, label templates, and software.

This week, we’ll talk you through what “compatible” actually means (in the context of designing and printing label templates) and why it is so important to printing A4 labels.

Compatible – A Definition

When two (different) items are compatible, they can be used together without the need to adapt or modify one or both of those items.

In the context of label templates and blank labels, in order to create a set of perfectly printed sticky labels you need to use a label template that is compatible with your label size, a label template that is compatible with your software, and printer labels that are compatible with your printer.

Compatible – Label Sizes & Label Templates

To print your required design onto your blank labels in the correct position, you need to use a label template that is compatible with your label size – that is, your label template needs to use the same label size AND layout as your sheet labels.

It is important to remember that, while some manufacturers and suppliers supply the SAME LABEL SIZES, they may use DIFFERENT LABEL LAYOUTS (so the same size of label is laid out differently on each A4 sheet – meaning that they may use different page margins and/or different gaps between the blank labels).

All of our label templates have been set up using measurements taken from the cutters used to make our self adhesive labels to ensure that the label size and layout in each template exactly matches those of the relevant sheet of blank labels. Where we list “compatible” Avery templates, we have checked the Avery measurements to ensure that they match the label size and layout of our adhesive label products.

Compatible – Label Templates & Software

If you are using a standalone label template (i.e. an individual file or document that you open using a software application on your computer), you must make sure that the FILE FORMAT of your label template is compatible with your software – in other words, that your software can both READ and EDIT your label template.

“File format” simply refers to the way that information in a file is encoded; your software will be able to read and/or edit specific file formats – but not others. This is why it is important to make sure that the label template you download uses a file format that your software can both read* and write* – otherwise you will not be able to add your required design to your label template.

*READ: your software can open and display the contents of a file.

*EDIT: your software can open, display, and change the contents of a file.

See next week’s Template Tuesday for a more detailed guide to file formats.

At Label Planet, we supply Word templates (with a .docx file format) and PDF templates (with a .pdf file format).

Compatible – Laser Labels & Laser Printers / Inkjet Labels & Inkjet Printers

Finally, you need to make sure that you are using printer labels that are compatible with your printer; this means that the materials used to make your sticky labels are suitable for the printing process used by your printer.

Laser printers use a dry printing process (applying heat and pressure) to bond a dry powder (toner) onto surfaces; this means that laser labels are made with materials that offer a smooth surface and resistance to (short term) exposure to high temperatures.

Inkjet printers, however, direct droplets of ink onto surfaces where they dry in place to form a final printed image; this means that inkjet labels are made with materials that are slightly porous in order to allow printing inks to dry more quickly and effectively in the correct position.

At Label Planet, we list the printer compatibility of all of our adhesive labels on range pages, product pages, and product packaging.

Next Week On Template Tuesday – How To? – How To Find Out If A Label Template Is Compatible With Your Software

Definitions – A Short Glossary Of Label Template Terms

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

When designing and printing your own self adhesive labels, you might come across a few terms that you haven’t heard before – which is why we thought we’d put together a short glossary of terms associated with designing and printing label templates.

Alignment

Generally speaking, alignment describes the arrangement of items along an actual or imaginary line (or lines), in positions relative to each other or to other items, or that have the same positioning within a shared space or on two separate surfaces. When designing and printing label templates, alignment can refer to the positioning of a design (and individual design elements) within a single label, the positioning of blank labels within the area of an A4 sheet, and the positioning of a label template that has been printed onto sheet labels.

All In One Printer

A printer designed to perform multiple tasks to a reasonable standard; e.g. printing, copying, scanning, faxing etc.

Avery

A manufacturer of pressure sensitive adhesive materials best known for their self adhesive labels (and label templates).

Bleed Template

A label template that provides a blank space (bleed area) around each label so that a design can overlap (bleed over) the edges to avoid white edging.

(Web) Browser

Application software used to connect to the World Wide Web via the internet. Common examples include Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and Edge.

Built-in Template

A label template that exists within (as part of) application software; for example, Word includes built-in label templates that can be accessed via the “Mailings” tab.

Centralised

A type of alignment whereby content is centred in the middle of a page, text box, table cell etc so that it “begins” in the centre of the item and expands outwards.

Clipboard

A temporary storage tool that stores items that have been removed using the “cut” tool or duplicated using the “copy” tool.

Compatible

When two (different) items are compatible, they can be used together without the need to adapt or modify one or both of those items. When designing and printing self-adhesive labels, you need to use a label template that is compatible with your label size (i.e. uses the same label size and layout), a label template that is saved in a file format that is compatible with your application software (i.e. use a Word template in Word etc), and printer labels that are compatible with your printer (i.e. laser labels for a laser printer and inkjet labels for an inkjet printer).

Copy

A tool that creates a duplicate of an item (e.g. an image or piece of text) and adds it to a temporary storage tool called the “clipboard”.

Copy and Paste

The process of using the “copy” function and then the “paste” function to duplicate an item and insert that duplicate elsewhere.

Cut

A tool that removes an item (e.g. an image or piece of text) from its original location and adds it to a temporary storage tool called the “clipboard”.

Cut and Paste

The process of using the “cut” function and then the “paste” function to remove an item from its original location and insert it elsewhere.

Dedicated Printer

A printer designed to perform a single task (printing) to a high standard; printers designed to print a specific type of print media (e.g. self adhesive labels, photos etc) are known as “dedicated application printers”.

Default Print Settings

The print settings stored in the printer driver; these settings will be used if you don’t select your own print settings.

Default Tabs

In Word, the default tabs appear at the top of the page at all times. They contain basic tools that can be used to edit any type of document and are usually listed as follows: “File”, “Home”, “Insert”, “Design”, “Layout”, “References”, “Mailings”, “Reviews”, and “View”.

Drag And Drop

A method for performing the “cut and paste” or “copy and paste” functions; this method involves clicking on an item and holding the (left) button of your mouse down as you move your cursor to the place you want to insert your item (this usually performs the “cut and paste” function – to perform the “copy and paste” function, you need to hold down the Control Key (Windows) or Option Key (Mac)).

File Format

File formats specify how information is encoded for storage in a computer file. Label templates are often available in a range of file formats so that users can find one that is compatible with the application software they want to use to design their blank labels; at Label Planet, we supply label templates in the Word file format (.docx) and the PDF file format (.pdf).

Format Tabs

In Word, the format tabs are additional tabs that appear when you click on a certain type of item -e.g. tables, text boxes, images etc. They contain formatting tools that can be used to alter the design and arrangement of those items; the Table Tools tabs (Design and Format) alter tables, the Picture Tools tab alters images, and the Drawing Tools tab alters shapes and text boxes.

Format Tools

In Word, these are tools that allow you to change the design (appearance) and arrangement (layout) of items in Word documents (e.g. tables, images, shapes, text boxes etc).

Graphics Package

Application software used to create and edit images; graphics packages can be used to create or add designs to label templates. Common examples include InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop etc.

Highlighting Content

Selecting an item (or items) is often referred to as “highlighting” because most application software will “highlight” selected items using colour (e.g. by adding a coloured background, reversing the text colour, or by adding dots or lines around the selected item).

Inkjet Labels

Self adhesive labels made with materials that are well-suited to the inkjet printing process; inkjet labels should only be printed with a inkjet printer.

Inkjet Printer

A printer that distributes printing inks onto a surface (substrate) where the inks dry in place to form the final printed image.

Landscape Template

A label template that shows the layout of sheet labels when the sheet is in the landscape orientation.

Laser Labels

Self adhesive labels made with materials that are well-suited to the laser printing process; laser labels should only be printed with a laser printer.

Laser Printer

A printer that uses heat and pressure to bond a dry powder (toner) onto a surface (substrate).

(American) Letter

The default page size used in the US; this page size measures 215.9mm wide by 279.4mm high – compared to the A4 page size used in the UK, which is 210mm by 297mm.

Mail Merge

A design tool that allows you to merge a single template document (e.g. a letter or label template) with a data source (e.g. a spreadsheet of addresses or database of product information) to create bespoke documents for each row or record in the data source.

(Page) Margin

The measurement from the edge of a page to the beginning of the content on that page; there are four page margins (top, bottom, left, and right), which determine where content starts and ends on a page. In label templates, the margins indicate the gap between the edge of a sheet and the first/last row or column of labels.

Media Bypass Tray

A secondary tray usually located just above or below the main paper tray in a printer; this tray is designed specifically for processing thicker print media (like self-adhesive labels) and allows these sheets to bypass at least one set of rollers, creating a straighter path through the printer.

Media Weight

The weight of item(s) that are to be printed is usually expressed as grammage – the mass per unit area, symbolised as g/m2 or gsm. Heavier print media usually require different print settings to achieve the same print quality as on light print media.

Mirrored Template

A label template designed to create transparent labels that can be applied onto a transparent surface and read correctly from the opposite site (for example, window stickers applied to the inside of a window that are intended to be viewed from outside); these label templates reverse (or mirror) the design so that it can be viewed correctly from the opposite side.

Multiple Design Template

A label template that allows you to add different designs onto each label (as opposed to having the same design on every label).

Narrow Edge Leading

A feed direction whereby the narrowest edge of a sheet (for A4 labels this is the 210mm wide edge) enters the printer first.

Operating System

System software that manages your computer’s hardware (e.g. monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, graphics cards, sound cards etc) and software – and allows the two to communicate. Common examples include Windows, MacOS, Linux, Unix, Android, and iOS.

Paste

A tool that takes an item stored in the “clipboard” (by using the cut or copy tool) and inserts it into the new location of your choosing.

PDF Template

A label template that uses the .pdf file format and can be edited using any graphics package that is capable of editing .pdf files (e.g. InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop etc).

Pitch

The measurement from the leading edge of one label and the label next to it – including any gap between the two. The vertical pitch is the distance from the top of the first label on a sheet to the top of the label below it, while the horizontal pitch is the distance from the left edge of the first label to the left edge of the label next to it. Pitch measurements are required when constructing label templates for sheet labels.

Point And Click

A method for performing the “cut and paste” or “copy and paste” functions; this method involves using your mouse to click on items and the “cut”, “copy”, and “paste” menu options or icons. These tools are usually listed under the “Edit” menu (in Word, they are listed under the “Home” tab) or can be accessed by right clicking on an item.

Portrait Template

A label template that shows the layout of sheet labels when the sheet is in the portrait orientation.

Print Media / Media Type

Any item that can be put into a printer for printing. Common examples include sheets of paper, sheet labels, envelopes, photo papers, card, and films/transparencies.

Printable Area / Unprintable Area

Most desktop printers cannot print the full area of an A4 sheet; the area that they can print is called the “printable area”, while the areas around the edges of the sheet that they cannot print form the “unprintable area”.

Printer Driver

A device driver is system software that allows the software on a computer to interact with a particular piece of hardware; a printer driver translates instructions from the operating system or application software into a form that the printer can “understand” and carry out.

Printer Resolution

Printer resolution refers to the amount of detail that a printer can produce, which is measured in terms of how many dots of toner or ink a printer can apply within a given measurement (usually an inch). Printer resolution is expressed as dpi (or dots per inch), although print settings usually use descriptions such as “Fine”, “Best”, “Normal”, “Good”, and “Draft”. 300×300 dpi is considered “normal” resolution (for general text-based documents), 600×600 dpi is “good resolution” (for documents with some design work and/or images), and 1200×1200 dpi is “photo resolution” (for reproducing digital photographs).

Radius Corners

Corners that are made with a curved or rounded shape as opposed to the sharp pointed corners that form naturally where two lines meet.

Ribbon

In Word, the ribbon is the strip at the top of the page that contains the tools for inserting and editing text (and other items). The content of the ribbon is determined by selecting one of the “tabs” that sit just above the ribbon; each tab contains a selection of related tools, such as those related to adding items to a document (gathered under the “Insert” tab).

Scaling

A printing defect caused by incorrect printer settings; these settings cause a printer to scale a label template to a (page) size that is larger or smaller than the actual labels.

Self-Adhesive Labels

Adhesive labels made with pressure sensitive adhesives; this type of adhesive is tacky (sticky) under “normal” conditions and requires only the pressure of a hand or finger to be applied.

Selvedges

Blank strips at the edges(s) of sheet labels that are added to account for the unprintable area of most desktop printers; selvedges mean that most (if not all) of the blank labels are positioned in the centre of each sheet and therefore fall within the printable area of most desktop printers.

Sheet Labels

Self adhesive labels supplied on individual sheets (as opposed to rolls etc) – in the UK, most self adhesive labels are supplied on A4 sheets, although they are also available in other sizes, such as A5, A3, SRA3 etc.

Single Design Template

A label template that allows you to add the same design onto each label.

Software / Application

A set of computer instructions that allow users to interact with a computer, its hardware, or to perform specific tasks. There are a variety of different types of computer software, including system software (e.g. operating systems, device drivers etc) and application software (individual programs that allow users to perform specific tasks, such as word processors, web browsers, media players, graphics packages, spreadsheets, and databases). Label templates can be created and designed in a range of application software (including word processors, graphics packages, and specific label design applications).

Standalone Template

A label template that exists as an individual file or document that is opened using application software; label templates are usually available in different file formats because application software is usually only able to edit specific types of file formats (for example, a PDF template can only be edited by graphics package).

Template

A document or file that contains a pre-determined page layout and style, which can be edited to produce a finished document. Label templates show the layout of blank labels on a sheet so that the required design can be added to the spaces that represent each blank label (and printed onto those labels in the correct alignment).

Test Print

Printing a label template onto a blank sheet of paper so that the test print can be compared to your blank labels to determine if the label template and printer have been correctly set up to create the correct alignment.

Text Box Template

A label template designed to create text-based label designs; these label templates contain blank text boxes that can be filled in with the required text.

Tolerance

An allowable deviation from the stated measurements of manufactured goods. For self adhesive labels, this can apply to the materials used to produce the sticky labels as well as their dimensions and quantities produced.

White Edging

A printing defect caused by a slight misalignment between blank labels and a label template where the design includes a coloured background and/or border. The misalignment leaves the edge(s) of the blank labels unprinted creating “white edging” (on white labels; a better term for this defect is “blank edging”).

Word Processor

Application software used to insert, edit, and arrange text on a page; Word processors can be used to create or add designs to label templates. Common examples include Word, Pages, LibreOffice etc.

Word Template

A label template that uses the .docx file format and can be edited using any word processor that is capable of editing .docx files (e.g. Word, Pages, LibreOffice etc).

Wrap Text

A formatting tool in Word that allows you to select how text is arranged around an image; to get better control over the positioning of images in Word, this should be changed to “Tight”.

Next Week On Template Tuesday: Definitions – What Is A Built In Label Template?

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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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