Guide to Buying a Label Printer

From the early 1800s, most consumer products come with some label or sticker with supplementary information. This information might range from

instructions to nutrition information to simple patterns identifying the manufacturers/ producers.

What is a Label Printer?

To keep things on topic, a label printer, otherwise known as a label maker, are the simplest versions of the machine creating the labels we were discussing. Therefore, a label maker is a special-purpose computer printer that prints on self-adhesive label material or card stock.

Where is a Label Printer Used?

Nowadays, whether you work in a warehouse, retail, a government job, or healthcare, you inevitably end working with one of these. Such is our penchant for labeling things.

Essentially, label printers can print directly from different applications to create various identifiers – a few of which we have listed below.

1- Labels

This format may get as big as eleven inches long and eight inches wide with shaped corners. It can create several different types of papers such as standard, adhesive-backed, and sticker. Not to mention, you can input all sorts of material – fan-folded piles, notched paper, polyester, polypropylene, Tyvek, vinyl, and Mylar.

2- Tags

Tags are similar to labels but without the adhesive back type and are usually attached to the relevant products via string or plastic. Mostly, people use them on rough surfaces where adhesive could leave marks. Unlike labels, these use thicker media and high wax ribbons for scratch-free printouts, generally available in smaller sizes.

3- Wristbands

These are identifiers in the truest sense, used to track humans via printing patient identification, access control, or crowd management. They usually come with higher technology, sometimes even outperforming laser printers. Wristband labels use media that are scratch-free, with permanent adhesive closure, and are even waterproof. 



How Does It Work?

There are two main types of label makers manufactured on a large scale:

1- Direct Thermal 

Such label printers use the heat created during their printing process to print barcodes, labels, graphics, and texts. They complete printing by directly darkening the raw materials. Therefore, the very cheap to produce direct thermal printouts are sensitive to extreme heat and light exposure making them ideal for simple, monochromatic labels.

2- Thermal Transfer 

Said label printer requires the use of carbon ribbons in the form of either wax or resin grades. The mechanism of thermal transfer is substantially more complex than that used in Direct thermal machines. For one, it employs heat to substrates and only then transfers the prints onto the form; hence, the name. This mechanism makes the printer capable of producing high-density crisp, bright and colorful printouts.

Compared to direct thermal units, thermal transfer printers deliver crisp and bright printouts and offer a much longer shelf life. Therefore, it has several more applications than its counterpart- including signage, product identification labels, asset tags, and many others.

Where Can We Buy Label Makers?

While seeing label makers used in the larger retail stores, you might think they are only commercially available. However, these label printers are reasonably easy to find. You can find them in most larger stationery shops, including Staples, and stores like Walmart. They are, of course, also available online on Amazon, among others.

What to Consider When Buying a Label Printer?

Unlike the early 1800s, there is a range of label printers available commercially, and the possibilities are seemingly endless – with every printer packed whatever features and benefits the manufacturer could fit in. In situations like this research, becomes a necessity, and we’re here to help out in whatever way we can. So why don’t we get into what you should be considering when you do the said research.

1- Label Size & Printer Type

As with anything in publishing, if you know the maximum label width you need, choose a printer that can print this size. Although, in the case of label makers, the boundaries are pretty clear cut. All you have to do is figure out the printer type – Direct Thermal or Thermal Transfer – and you are all set.

2 – Printer Resolution

Just like other printers, we measure label printer resolution in DPI (Dots per Inch). Chances are, whatever retailer you’re buying from will have it clearly labeled on the box.

As far as what resolution works for you? Well, old-school 203 dpi printers are great for text and numbers, and you can manage to work with barcodes or low-resolution images. Of course, printers with high resolution (300 to 600 dpi) allow you to display more information on the label.

3 – Printer Size, Output Volume, and Speed

Similar to resolution, this is a game of categories. Specifically, the size of the printer – Mobile, Desktop, or Industrial – as they are all built for specific jobs.

Therefore, the choice of printer should depend on the size of your operation, the volume of printing you do per day, their volume and speed, and whether portability is a concern.

6 – Maintenance & Operational Costs

For these two, consider if your operation will have an in-house technician for repairs, whether the retailer offers any support, and how many moving parts the machine has, along with the acceptable cost of ink and paper to keep things running.

7 – Connectivity

Connectivity refers to USB ports, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi access to figure out the printer’s location and if it works with how you design the labels.

8 – Extra Features

While not always included, you might want to give the edge to a product offering one of the features listed below as they can all be quite beneficial.

  • LCD Display
  • Internal Memory
  • Output several label sizes
  • High-Speed Printing
  •  Mobile Printing
  •  Automated Label Cutter

8 – Price

Like with any big purchase, you need to establish your maximum budget and research accordingly. If you buy not offering the quality of service you expected, it is a waste of time, money, and effort. Essentially, we recommend against cheapness for cheapness sake, but there is no need t fork over cash for extra features you don’t need.


So, in conclusion, label printers have been around forever and have a multitude of uses these days resulting in a large variety of such printers hitting the market. Therefore, you need to take special consideration of your requirements and the categories of the products that interest you.

So, fingers crossed that this in-depth look at Label printers was just the thing you wanted as a user guide.


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