DID YOU KNOW? The printer you use can heavily influence the print quality and accuracy of alignment created when printing self adhesive labels.
PRINTERS, PRINTER LABELS, & PRINT QUALITY
Print quality on self adhesive labels is determined by three key factors:
1. Label & Printer Compatibility
Some A4 labels are suitable for ONE printing method; they are called INKJET LABELS and LASER LABELS and are made with materials that are extremely well-suited to a particular printing method.
For example, laser printing uses heat and pressure to bond toner onto a surface and so laser labels are made with materials that cope well with high temperatures (e.g. paper with high moisture content). Inkjet printing relies on inks drying quickly in the correct position and so inkjet labels are made with slightly absorbent materials (e.g. porous papers) to reducing the risk of smudging.
2. Printer Resolution
Printer resolution is expressed as “dots per inch” – the number of “dots” of ink or toner that a printer can produce within an inch. More dots allow more detail to be added, which means that a higher printer resolution produces better print quality – up to a point.
A DPI of 300 x 300 is “Normal/Good Resolution” (for general documents), a DPI of 600 x 600 is “High Resolution” (for documents with some images or design features), and a DPI of 1200 x 1200 is “Photo Resolution” (for reproducing digital photographs).
Some printers offer higher printer resolutions but there is little benefit as the human eye struggles to discern the difference in quality after this point.
Your printer’s manual will list its maximum printer resolution; many printers will give you a choice of printer resolutions when printing so you can choose a less intensive resolution for everyday printing tasks and a higher resolution when you need more detail.
3. Print Settings
Most desktop printers offer specific print settings that adjust how your printer works in order to produce the best possible print quality on different print media, including self adhesive labels – which are thicker and made with a variety of different materials or coatings. These settings tend to fall into the following three categories:
- Type: this refers broadly to the print medium that you are using (e.g. Plain Paper, Recycled Paper, Gloss Paper, Photo Paper, Card, Labels, Envelopes etc).
- Weight: this refers to the weight of the print medium, which is expressed as grammage – the mass per unit area (g/m²). Options are usually a general description followed by a range of weights (e.g “Light (60-64 gsm)” or “Heavy (105-120 gsm)”).
- Quality: this refers to the printer resolution (i.e. the level of detail) that is used to print your label template. This setting will usually allow you to choose a printer resolution AND the speed at which your printer runs (higher printer resolutions require a slower print speed).
While “dedicated” desktop printers should be able to print most media types and weights, “all-in-one” printers and application printers (e.g. “photo printers”) are limited in the print media they can process; this is because they are not designed for the specific task of printing self adhesive labels, which means they are not built with the features and specifications that would allow them to do so. Your printer’s manual will list all of the types and weights that it can print successfully.
Some printers will also have advanced features to further refine the print quality on your laser labels or inkjet labels. You can consult the printer manual and/or support section of the manufacturer’s website to see what options are available and if there are any recommended guidelines you need to follow.
PRINTERS, PRINTER LABELS, & PRINT ACCURACY
Some printers have features that improve how accurately your label template is aligned with your sheet labels when you press print:
- Media Bypass Tray: usually located just above or below the standard paper tray, this tray is designed specifically for handling thicker materials and offers a straighter path through the printer (“bypassing” at least one set of rollers) – this reduces the risk of your sheet labels rotating as they are fed through the printer.
- Narrow Edge Feed: some printers allow you to feed sheet labels into your printer narrow edge leading (the 210mm edge goes in first) or wide edge leading (the 297mm edge goes in first). You should ALWAYS use narrow edge feed to print self adhesive labels because they have layouts designed to reduce the chances of labels separating from their backing sheet. Paper labels also have a grain that runs the length of each sheet; they must be fed narrow edge leading to ensure that they travel through the printer in a direction that is parallel with the grain to ensure they feed smoothly and with less chance of rotation.
- Starting Print Position: all printers have a slightly difference starting print position, which can determine whether or not your label template aligns with your sheet labels. Some printers allow you to adjust this starting print position (usually through the menu panel that is physically part of the printer) but it is often much simpler to adjust the page margins of your label template.
- Printable Area: most desktop printers cannot print the full area of an A4 sheet; if your labels fall into the “unprintable area” of your particular printer, you will have to adjust your label template (so your design doesn’t use this area) OR source a printer that offers “Edge-To-Edge” or “Borderless” printing (allowing your printer to print the full surface area of A4 labels).
BUY PRINTER LABELS FROM LABEL PLANET
We specialise in A4 sheets of laser labels and inkjet labels, which are designed specifically for use with laser printers and inkjet printers. Our self-adhesive labels use label sizes, layouts, materials, and adhesives that suit the laser printing or inkjet printing process so our customers can print sticky labels at home or at work using their own standard desktop printers!
You can find a full list of our laser labels and inkjet labels (along with their printer compatibility) on our List Of All Materials page.
While we don’t recommend specific printer models because customers need to choose one that suits their overall printing needs, we do recommend two brands: OKI and HP. Both supply dedicated printers that are extremely capable of processing self-adhesive labels and produce high quality and accurate print. Look through printer specifications to make sure that your printer offers a high printer resolution, is capable of processing labels, has a media bypass tray, and has a duty cycle higher than your expected requirements (this is the number of sheets a printer can print to a consistent standard within a given time frame – usually a month).
You should also read your printer’s manual to check a) that it has the necessary specification to process labels successfully and b) whether the manufacturer has provided specific guidelines and recommendations for printing self adhesive labels using a particular model – which you should then, obviously, follow.