Printing designs at the edges of your labels is especially tricky; these FAQs should help to keep your designs in line.
While there are various things that can cause problems when you print a template, one of the trickiest issues is dealing with what happens at the edges of each label on an A4 sheet of labels.
If you’re creating a simple set of basic labels then you’ll probably find that you don’t get close enough to the edges of your labels for them to become an issue BUT if you’re working on a design that fills (or takes advantage of the shaping of) each label then you might find that you struggle to get the edges just right. With this in mind, we’ve created a short FAQ special all about handling the potential problems of printing up to (or over) the edges of your labels.
Why won’t my printer print to the edges of my labels?
If you’ve created a large design that fills your labels but find that parts of it are “cut off” around the edges of the sheet, the problem is probably caused by the “printable” (and therefore “unprintable”) area of the printer you are using.
While standard desktop printers are designed specifically for handling A4 sheets, they cannot print the FULL AREA of an A4 sheet; there will be a section around the edges of an A4 sheet that a printer simply cannot reach, which is known as the “unprintable” area. Even if you create a template design that uses the full area of an A4 sheet, your printer will not be able to print the outermost part of your design – which means that if any part of any of your labels fall into this “unprintable” area, that part will remain blank and unprinted. The only way to solve this issue is to either adapt your design to take into account the area that your printer cannot reach (bearing in mind that, if you’re creating a set of identical labels, you’ll need to adapt the design to suit ALL of the labels on your sheet) or to try to get access to a printer that is capable of “borderless” or “edge-to-edge” printing.
How do I find the “printable” area of my printer?
The simplest way to determine how much of an A4 sheet your printer can actually print is to set up a blank Word document, fill the page with a coloured box or background, and print this document onto a blank sheet of paper. The “printable” area of the sheet will be filled in, while the “unprintable” area will remain blank. You can then use this test print to make sure your design sits within the “printable” area of your printer.
When I print my template, Word says my margins are too small and some content may be cut off – what should I do?
For the most part, you can ignore this warning and simply select “Yes” to carry on and print your labels.
Word attempts to account for the fact that most printers cannot print the full area of an A4 sheet by creating page margins to indicate the “printable” and “unprintable” area of your documents (and templates). Unfortunately, these page margins tend to be a rather excessive overestimate of the area that standard desktop printers cannot reach – which is why it is usually safe to simply ignore this particular warning.
However, if your design is actually sitting quite close to the edges of your page (for example, if your margins are less than 10mm), you may want to do a test print of your template onto blank paper first to establish whether or not your printer will be able to print all of your design.
What if my labels go right up to the edges of my label sheets?
Label sheets are made with a variety of layouts; the majority of A4 label products have a selvedge (or blank strip) around each edge of the sheet with some sizes also featuring gaps between the columns and/or rows of labels. These selvedges and gaps create a layout whereby the entire area of every single label on a sheet sits within the “printable” area of standard desktop printers, which means you can print right up to the edge of every single label without any problems.
The exception to this practice is “kiss cut” or “butt cut” labels; these labels are cut into shapes (usually rectangles or squares) that “butt up” against one another (in other words, there are no gaps between them). While some butt cut layouts have selvedges around one or more of the edges of the sheet, some of the labels will sit at the very edge of the sheet (within the “unprintable” area). You will need to either adapt your design to take into account the areas that your printer cannot print, get access to a “borderless” printer, or select another label layout that DOES offer selvedges (and gaps).
Our range of Rectangular Labels With Square Cut Corners are “butt cut” labels; the label sizes in this range that DO have a selvedge (or selvedges) have an “S” at the end of the product code (e.g. LP8/105S, LP12/105S).
My design overlaps the edge(s) of my labels when I print it out, what should I do?
If the design on each of your labels is getting cut off slightly there are a few solutions you can try. If your design is being cut off on each label on one side and by the same amount (i.e. they’re all sitting too far left/right/high/low), then you can overcome this issue by simply increasing or decreasing the top and left margins of your template to manually shift your design into the correct position. If your design is being cut off on two or more sides, then you should consider reducing the size of the text and/or images you have added.
If your design gets progressively more misaligned as you look down or across the sheet (or if it is aligned correctly in the centre of the sheet and gets worse as you move outwards), then it is likely that your printer settings are incorrect; this issue is most commonly caused by a printer being set to a page size other than A4 OR because a scaling setting has been applied (such as a percentage that is more or less than 100% or a setting such as “Fit To Page”).
What can I do to make sure my design is appropriate for the shape and layout of my labels (and so avoid problems at the edges of my labels)?
While every design is different, there are a few “golden rules” that you can follow to improve the quality and accuracy of your printed labels:
- Centralise your design: if you set up your design so that it sits in the centre of each label, it is far more likely that your design will fall inside the central area of your labels (avoiding the edges) and won’t end up sitting in the “unprintable” area of your printer.
- Avoid using a border: borders highlight the edges of your labels, which means they have the unfortunate side effect of also highlighting any inaccuracies in the alignment of your printer. If you absolutely have to use a border, then we recommend using a thick border, which you can overlap over the edges of your labels.
Adding a border is also tricky to get right if any sides of your labels are butt cut; standard printers are not capable of extremely accurate print positioning, which will mean that you may end up with the border of one label overlapping onto another.
- Take care with images and/or coloured backgrounds: if you add an image that is the same shape as your labels you will need to take great care with the alignment, as any slight misalignment will be made more obvious by the repetition of the same shape. If your image and label shapes don’t match, then you need to make sure that the image fits accurately within the edges of your labels OR that there is space around and between each label so that you can oversize your image around the edges of each label. Likewise, if you use a coloured background you will need to take a great deal of care with your alignment if there are no gaps between your labels (to avoid the background overlapping onto another label); if there are gaps between your labels then we recommend oversizing your background (or flood coating your template with a particular colour) to ensure that you don’t end up with any white edging around your labels.
To download a template or to find out more about the size and layout of any of our label sizes, please visit the Template Section of our website. Alternatively, take a look through our Help Pages and Blog for more tips and advice on designing and printing your own labels.