You might be surprised at just HOW important it is to use the right printer (and print settings) when you are printing your own labels. Your choice of printer determines a number of factors that can have a big influence on the quality of print that you can achieve when printing labels (that is, if you can print labels at all).
Type Of Printer:
All of our labels are supplied on A4 sheets and are designed specifically for use with standard desktop inkjet printers and laser printers. You may have noticed that all of our label products are marked with a particular printer compatibility – Laser Only, Inkjet Only, or Laser & Inkjet.
This is because the two types of printers use two different printing methods and our labels are generally made with materials that suit one of these print methods. Laser printers use heat and pressure to bond a dry powder called toner into place, which means that laser labels are made using materials that have a smooth, consistent surface and that are heat resistant (paper laser labels, for example, will have a much higher moisture content than standard sheets of paper). Inkjet printers, however, will disperse inks (usually water-based) onto a surface where they will dry in place to form the final printed image or design. Inkjet labels, therefore, may have a slightly porous surface to absorb some of the ink and allow it to dry in place much more accurately.
If you try to print laser labels with an inkjet printer or inkjet labels with a laser printer, the best you can hope for is extremely low quality print – at worst you could damage your labels and your printer so you MUST make sure that the labels you buy are compatible with your printer.
You may also find that certain label products are only available for ONE type of printer. For example, all of our Waterproof Labels are laser labels – this is because laser printers create waterproof print, whereas inkjet printers tend to use water-based inks that will run or smudge if they get wet (or even if they’re simply handled a lot).
Model Of Printer:
The next factor is the exact model of printer that you intend to use. Some models of printer will have limitations that make them entirely unsuitable for printing labels, while others will have features specifically designed to produce high quality print on labels.
As a general rule, if you want to print labels you will need to use a general purpose printer – not an All-In-One Printer or a printer that is designed for a specific purpose other than printing labels (e.g. Photo Printers). All-in-one printers are designed to do a lot of different tasks to a reasonable standard (rather than doing one specific task to an exceptional standard), which means they are often too limited in their specifications to print labels properly (if at all). General purpose printers will usually include a range of hardware and software features that are designed specifically for use when printing labels – to improve the print quality and alignment accuracy that you can achieve.
Some printers will also be limited in the types and thicknesses of materials that they can accept and process properly; labels are made from a variety of materials and are naturally thicker than paper because they are made up of several layers (there are at least three: face material, adhesive, and backing sheet, with some labels having extra layers such as special coatings).
The best thing to do is to check the manufacturer’s manual for the following:
- Specifications: there should be a section that lists the hardware features and specifications of your printer, including whether or not it has a media bypass tray, along with the types and weights of materials that it can accept.
- Recommended guidelines: if your printer does have features for printing labels then the manual may also include recommended guidelines for how to print labels (including any specific print settings you should use).
While we don’t recommend any specific models of printer (you do, after all, need to buy one that is suitable for your unique set of printing requirements and budget), we do recommend the OKI and HP brands, as we have found that their printers tend to be able to handle large volumes and thicker materials very efficiently.
Printer Hardware Features
As we mentioned above, you should make sure that your printer has a media bypass tray; this is a secondary tray, usually located just above or below the paper tray, that is designed to accept thicker media (such as labels and envelopes) and to bypass at least one set of rollers within the printer, which produces a straighter path through the machine and reduces the chances of your label sheets rotating slightly as they are printed (improving the accuracy of alignment that you get).
You may also want to check if your printer offers the following features:
Wide Edge Feed (Long Edge Feed) AND Narrow Edge Feed (Short Edge Feed); most printers will have trays that use narrow edge feed, which means that your sheets feed into your printer narrow edge leading (portrait). If your printer offers both types of feed you must make sure that you only use the narrow edge option (and check that your print settings are also set to this option). All of our labels are made with layouts that are designed to feed narrow edge leading, while our paper labels also have a grain (like wood) that goes in this direction. If you feed your labels into your printer wide edge leading (against the grain), you may find that they start to separate from the backing sheet, which can cause your label sheets to jam in your printer.
Edge-To-Edge Printing; also known as “borderless” printing, this feature will allow you to print all the way to the edge of an A4 sheet. Most standard desktop printers cannot do this, which means there will be a border around the edge of your label sheets that your printer simply cannot print – if any part of any of your labels fall into this unprintable area, you will need to adapt your design to make sure that these areas of your template are left blank.
Printer Software Features (aka Print Settings)
Finally, you need to make sure your printer offers suitable print settings for printing labels – AND that you have actually selected these settings when you print. Before printing, check your Printer’s Properties for the following:
- Page Size: this must be A4 (you should always check this as some printers will sometimes default to American Letter).
- Media Type/Weight: choose a specific “Labels” print setting if one is available; if not, choose a “Heavy Paper” setting to get the best possible print quality on your labels.
- Scaling: make sure that no scaling options are applied (for example, a percentage or any “Fit To Page” options).
- “Ignore Printer Settings”//”Use Driver Settings”: these options will cause your printer to ignore any specific settings that you have selected to use when printing your labels and will use a default set installed in your printer’s driver (software) instead.
Visit our Help Pages for more tips and advice on printing your own labels or visit our List Of All Materials page to view all of the label products available from Label Planet along with their printer compatibility.