Most standard desktop printers can process sheets of paper with no problems whatsoever. But what about when you need to print labels – how do you know that the labels will go through your printer?
There are many different printers out there and each one will have slightly different specifications – including the types and weights of materials that they are able to process.
Some printers will have been designed to process PAPER ONLY, in which case you may not be able to print any labels on them at all. Other printers may be able to process some materials but not others. To find out which materials your printer is able to process, you should consult your printer’s manual or contact the manufacturer.
The key issue when checking if labels will work with your printer is the WEIGHT and THICKNESS of the labels; printers tend to have a maximum weight and/or thickness that they are able to process – labels made with materials that exceed this limit may not go through your printer or – if they do – may cause problems and/or damage your printer.
WEIGHT: the weight of paper is usually given in terms of its grammage; the mass per unit area (expressed as grams per square metre). Grammage is also used to describe the weight of a variety of materials, including plastics and fabrics. Grammage is written as g/m² but “gsm” is commonly used in its place.
THICKNESS: the thickness of paper is usually described as its caliper; the distance between two surfaces of an object (in our case, the two surfaces of a sheet of labels made from paper or other materials). Caliper is measured in microns (one thousandth of a millimetre) or mils (one thousandth of an inch).
It is important to note that, when you are looking at label products, you need to know the weight and thickness of ALL of the layers used to make the labels, including the face material AND the backing sheet. This means that a sheet of labels will always be heavier and thicker than a sheet of standard paper; while paper has singular weight and thickness measurements, labels have multiple weights and thicknesses – and printers must be able to process a sheet of labels in its entirety.
So, if you have any doubts, there are three steps to take.
- Find a specification sheet for the labels you want to use and find out which materials are used to make the labels, along with the exact weights and thicknesses of those materials.
- Check your printer’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends in terms of which materials the printer can process and the maximum weight and thickness that your printer can accept – including if there are different recommended weights and thicknesses for different trays (for example, the main paper tray may be designed specifically for sheets of paper, while the media bypass tray is capable of accepting heavier and thicker materials).
- If the first two steps indicate that a material SHOULD be okay with your printer, request a sample to try the labels for yourself.
[We should also mention that some label products are designed for use on laser or inkjet printers only. You also need to make sure that the labels you are purchasing are compatible with the type of printing process used by your printer; a laser printer cannot print labels that are designed to be printed by an inkjet printer, nor can an inkjet printer print labels that are designed to be printed by a laser printer.]