For some of our customers it comes as quite a surprise that – sometimes – it isn’t quite as simple as 1. Buy some labels, 2. Put labels in printer, 3. Press print. For some it’s also a surprise that their printer isn’t just a “printer” that can, well, print anything.
While you might think that a printer is a printer is a printer, there is enough variation in these products to catch some people out if they don’t check a few all-important things first.
1. Do You Have An Inkjet Printer Or A Laser Printer?
This may matter more than you think. Inkjet and laser printers use two very different printing methods and these differences have two key consequences when printing labels.
- Labels are often made specifically for one kind of printing method; in order to get the best possible print results, the materials will be designed with that particular printing method in mind. For example, inkjet printers disperse ink onto the surface being printed, where the inks then dry in place – labels designed for inkjet printers often have a porous surface, which allows some of the ink to be absorbed and so improves the quality and resolution of the final printed image. Likewise, laser printers use heat and pressure to fuse toner onto the surface being printed and so materials for laser labels will often contain moisture (to combat the heat applied during printing) and will usually have a smooth, consistant surface that allows the toner to bond evenly across the label surface.
Most importantly, you will find that you CANNOT print laser labels with an inkjet printer or inkjet labels with a laser printer – you must make sure that you purchase labels that are suitable for and compatible with the printing method used by your printer.
- Inkjet printers generally use water based inks, which means that print produced by these printers is NOT WATERPROOF; if labels printed with an inkjet printer come into contact with water, the print will run and/or smudge. Laser print, however, will remain firmly in place even after being submerged in water.
2. Do You Have A Media Bypass Tray?
A media bypass tray is a second tray that is usually located just above or below the standard paper tray. Where the paper tray is usually set up specifically for sheets of paper, the media bypass tray is set up to accept thicker materials – including label products, which tend to be thicker simply because they are made up of a number of layers (face material, adhesive, backing sheet etc). The media bypass tray will also often provide a more direct route through the printer, with the sheet being handled by fewer sets of rollers as it is pulled through the machine – this tends to improve the accuracy of the positioning of the print, a feature that becomes much more important when printing onto labels.
3. Do You Have A Speciality Printer, A General Use Printer, Or An All-In-One Printer?
These days, you have the choice of a variety of “types” of printer, which will be designed either for a specific use, general use, or many different uses. This can have an impact on how efficiently you can print labels and, indeed, if you can print labels at all. Speciality printers (e.g. photo printers) are designed to do one specific task extremely well and, if that task is NOT printing labels, you may find that these printers will struggle to adapt to different tasks. At the other end of the scale, all-in-one printers are designed to do a lot of different tasks (e.g. print, scan, copy) BUT not necessarily to a high standard; while all-in-one printers may seem like the better option financially, you may find that they simply cannot cope with tasks that require a higher level of accuracy and print quality, such as that required when printing labels.
Our labels are designed specifically for standard desktop inkjet and laser printers, which should offer an ideal combination of print settings, hardware features, accuracy of print position, and print resolution when printing labels. While they may not be able to produce the accuracy and print resolution of printing presses used by companies in the printing industry, a standard general purpose printer should be capable of most label printing tasks.
4. Does Your Printer Have Any Guidelines Or Restrictions About The Materials And Dimensions It Can Process?
All printers will have a section in their manual that outlines the manufacturer’s recommendations for the types and sizes of materials a particular model of printer has been designed to work with. Some printers may be limited in the materials they can successfully process and most will have recommended maximum weights and thicknesses of materials that they will be able to print.
If in doubt, there are two things you should do:
- Check the specification sheet of the labels you are looking at purchasing for the weight/thickness of the labels and compare this to the guidelines provided in your printer’s manual.
- Request a sample of the labels you are interested in so you can try printing a sheet or two before committing to a full purchase.