Thursday, 19 March 2015

Label Planet: The Problems With Precision

We specialise in supplying blank labels on A4 sheets so that our customers can print their labels themselves. There are so many benefits to printing your own labels; you have complete control over what you print and when, there’s no need to pay someone else to do it for you, and you don’t have to meet someone else’s requirements for minimum quantities or design specifications.

However, DIY printing means you have to accept the limitations of the equipment you have available to use – and this means you may have to compromise on the precision and accuracy of the print you can produce.

It’s true that DIY printing CAN produce labels of excellent quality and precision – it simply depends on the equipment you have available (and the time you have to get it just right).

Things to think about: Hardware
You need to keep in mind that your printer will have its own set of limitations in terms of the quality and accuracy of the print that it can produce. Different printers are designed for different purposes and they have the specifications to match; for example, some printers (such as all-in-one printers) are designed to do a variety of tasks to a reasonable standard, while others (such as photo quality printers) are designed to do a single task to a very high standard. These printers will differ in the accuracy and quality of print that they offer.

If you have a detailed design that requires a high level of precision and/or a mix of colours, you should check that your printer is capable of the print quality and resolution required to produce this image. Some printers may struggle with designs that require a multitude of colours in close proximity or that have extremely fine levels of detail and embellishment.

Before printing labels, you should check that your printer is able to accept and process thicker and heavier materials (as labels are made up of a number of layers, unlike a single sheet of paper), and to take a look through the settings offered by your printer to see if there are any that are designed specifically for printing labels, to improve print quality, or to improve print resolution.

Default settings are usually designed to get a decent result when printing onto standard paper – so it’s always worth taking a stroll through your printer’s settings to see if there are things that can be improved.

You should also bear in mind that printers tend to be accurate to within 1-2mm, that the accuracy and alignment of each printer is slightly different, and that most standard printers are limited in the area of an A4 sheet that they can print (with the outside edge often falling within the “unprintable area”).

Things to think about: Software
Like your printer, the software you use to design your template will have its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Inevitably, the type of software you use will determine how much control you have over the finished design. While some will have access to design software such as graphics packages, others will simply use whatever software they have available.

If you do have software intended for designing templates, you should find that this software offers you specific features and tools for creating complex and detailed templates with a high level of fine control over even the smallest of details. If you are adapting more generic software to your purposes, then you will find that you need to compromise on the level of detail and accuracy that you can achieve.

However, you don’t need to rush out and buy the most expensive design package you can find; simply bear in mind the limitations of the software you do have and try to keep your design clean and simple – you’ll find that you are perfectly able to create an accurate and attractive design with the most basic of tools if you simply take some time and care with your template.

Things to think about: Label Product
It’s something that often doesn’t occur to people but you also need to take care when selecting a label product for your particular application. The materials and the size and shape of label you choose will have their own properties that can create a variety of benefits and problems when it comes to getting accurate print results.

Make sure the material you are using is compatible with the print method you are using AND that it isn’t too thick or heavy for the model of printer you have.
  • Check that the layout of the labels is suitable for your intended design. For example, if you have a coloured background, you need to make sure that your printer can print the ENTIRE area of all of the labels on your sheet – you should avoid square cut labels with no selvedge if your printer doesn’t have “edge-to-edge printing” which would allow you to print the ENTIRE A4 sheet.
  • Take care with the shape of the labels if you are wanting to add shaped decorative features such as borders and boxes; ensure that the shape is easy to replicate and try to opt for labels with gaps between them so that you can oversize your borders to avoid any white edging.
  • Using coloured labels means you don’t need to add the colour yourself, which reduces the amount of ink/toner your design needs AND avoids potential issues with white edges or inconsistencies in print quality.
In short, doing it yourself is an excellent way to save time and money and to give yourself greater control over your printed items BUT if precision and quality are of vital importance to you then you MUST take the time to set things up just right for the unique combination of hardware, software, and label product that you want to use. For more tips and advice, please visit our Help & Advice pages or take a read through our Blog.

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