Color Label Solutions

Color Label Solutions

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Red Is Not Always Red

Red Is Not Always Red

Not long ago, I had an end user say, “my label printer does not produce the same color as I see on the monitor."


Even after selling label printers for years, many of you may not have dealt with the issue of color matching.  But in my work with color on-demand label printers, I have had to deal with a color matching requirement occasionally.  In this blog post, I like to offer you a few key elements to consider when presented with a color matching requirement.

Please remember; I am not an expert in the area of color but rather a “newby”.  I hope you can save yourself some time by learning a bit about the very complex subject of color with me.

Before I do offer suggestions around color matching, it is important to have a set of common definitions that I captured from Wikipedia and the following website:  

Color:  is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue, and others.

Additive Primary Colors: Red, Green and Blue (RGB).  All the colors an imaging device using light (i.e. monitors) are produced by varying the amounts of red, green and blue.

Cyan Magenta Yellow (CMY).  The three "subtractive" primary colors used as the basis of dye or pigment-based printing systems (including the TM-C3400).

CMYK. The four colors commonly used in process color printing. C: Cyan M: Magenta Y: Yellow K: Key Color (which is usually black).

Process Color.  Refers to the inks and process used when a wide range of colors are reproduced using a limited number of inks (including the TM-C3400).

As a newby in the world of color, I did not know how to respond to the comment, “my print output does not match my colors on my monitor”.  Rather than saying, “it is what it is”, I decided to learn more color.  

Looking at the definition of color, it is easier to understand how the light of Additive Primary Colors used in monitors produces slightly different colors than the pigments/dyes used for the subtractive primary colors of CMY printers.  So I wondered, what can an end user do to produce a better visual match between the monitor and printer?

Given my question, I went to an Epson Graphic Artist consultant for his support and advice.  According to Graphic Artist, “when a user needs to more precisely match color on his or her screen with the print output, you have only one viable option; they need to calibrate their monitor.   To learn more about monitor calibration, check out one of these two links:

Other than calibrating monitors, users have asked about making changes to the RGB colors in software programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or even label software programs like Bartender, Nicelabel or the Teklynx products.  However, these adjustments are not designed for a novice user; and will affect all colors.

Based on my experience with color on-demand label printing, I recommend using color to add images, text and logos to labels.  Color in these situations:

*  Eliminates preprinted inventory
*  Reduces costs; waste/labor/administration/errors
*  Improves work processes
*  Reinforces brand/company image
*  Permits last-second design changes
*  Increases sales

Trying to match a specific color is difficult; and not for typical end users.

If you are a person new to on-demand color labels, please remember; Red is not always Red!  I hope these suggestion help you meet and match better the color expectations of your internal and external customers.

Guy Mikel

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

OEM Device Labels

With complete solutions for design, development, and manufacturing processes within the medical devices industry, Catheter Research, Inc. (CRI) (www.catheterresearch.comis a leading medical product developer and manufacturer of medical devices.  CRI provides its customers with unbeatable service, excellent quality control and regulatory compliance. Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, CRI is a top Midwest medical device manufacturer and employs 100+ people.  In December 2010, CRI became 100% employee owned company.  CRI’s goal is to provide the most cost-effective product development combined with quality OEM medical device manufacturing.

According to Document Control, Supervisor, Brian Dowd, “CRI prints most labels on a desktop thermal transfer printer.  Both small and large quantities of labels of varying sizes are printed for each work order.  For some products, we use preprinted labels that have customer logos or custom colors included on the label stock.”

Although the black only labels were functional, the Marketing Department in CRI wanted to begin adding color to their labels.  This group in CRI felt color labels would improve the look and appeal of the products.  According to Brian, “sales have been made based on the fact that the labels were in color.”  You may want to review an earlier post on increasing sales by moving to on-demand color labels:

Also, CRI wanted to offer their OEM customers the opportunity to add their logos to their products.  As an OEM provider of medical devices, it is important to offer their customers this capability without adding excess label inventory.  Be sure to check out this earlier post on branding using color labels: 

Based on their interest to begin producing color labels on demand, CRI contacted Weber Packaging Solutions ( and specifically their Go Label website (  According to Bonnie Hoffman, Account Manager, “I recommended and sold CRI the TM-C3400 as the best option available to meet their on-demand color label requirements.  Once we sold the printer to CRI, I connected Brian to Guy to help CRI get started quickly and easily.”  Check out one of my earlier posts involving Weber:

Following the introduction from Bonnie, I held a short webinar with Brian.  We went through the configuration of his printer; as well as printing from his Label Matrix software (  Within 30 minutes, Brian was printing labels.


When starting to print using the TM-C3400, two key points to remember:

1. Set the media detection sensor to match the media you plan to use (No Detection for continuous; Margin Between Labels for die-cut; or Blackmark)

2. Set up the media layout in the TM-C3400 driver and then select this layout inside the application you are using to print.

Remembering these two key points will save new users time and potential frustration.

“The labels are printing fine”, according to Brian.  “We are printing only a small amount of labels with the TM-C3400 currently, but interest is ramping up among the various other departments.”

For manufacturers similar to CRI, producing color labels on-demand will help them strengthen their brands, improve their customer service, save money and increase sales.  Talk to your customers (both internal and external) about printing labels just-in-time and in color.

Guy Mikel

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Labels Are All The Same: NOT!

Have you experience any of the following with your label printing?

·  Ink smears and/or does not dry on labels
·  Print image not resistance to light abrasion
·  Poor image quality or unreadable barcodes
·  Customer complains that his/her existing labels do not work

If so, you or your customers may be attempting to print on labels or tags that are made for a different type of printer.  In my work on the TM-C3400, I have found that approximately 80% of the media designed for thermal transfer printers does not work with inkjet printers.  Further, I have found differences among media designed specifically for inkjet printers.  This fact makes media the critical issue for moving to on-demand color labels.

As background, let’s review the basic components of a pressure sensitive label (from the website 

Labels are made up of several layers, including the facestock, primer, adhesive, release coating, liner and top coating. Each layer has different options, depending upon the intended use of the label.  For our discussion, 4 key components include:

·  Facestock: (along with the adhesive) is the part of the label that is applied to the surface of the product or package.
·  Adhesive: is a tacky substance on the back of the label, which makes the label stick to the substrate.
·   Liner:  is a paper or film material that acts as a carrier for the label.
·  Top Coating:  is used to make the surface of the label more printable, enhancing the appearance of the label.

When considering on-demand color labels, you need to confirm these 4 label components are compatible with the type of printing you want to do; especially the top coating.   For example:

·  Thermal Transfer coatings are receptive to the heat transfer of wax or resin from a printer ribbon in thermal transfer printers. 
·   Direct Thermal coatings contain heat-sensitive capsules that develop (i.e. change color) on contact with a high temperature transfer system — typically, a printhead.
·   Inkjet Coatings enhance the properties of base papers and films to provide a high quality print surface, which anchors and absorbs the ink upon contact. 

According to Dave Long, Owner of Stafford Press (, “Thermal Transfer coatings are designed primarily to smooth the print surface and to anchor the ink.  Inkjet coatings are designed to adsorb ink readily and quickly to prevent smearing.   Although some laser and some non-treated label stocks work, it best to use media designed for a water-based, pigmented ink for a printer such as the TM-C3400”.

In addition to the basic components, label printers have different means to detect either the gap between labels or blackmarks.  For non-continuous label applications, check your printer’s Paper Specification for proper timing mark locations.

“To support resellers and users of the TM-C3400, Epson has established a program to qualify media with our partners”, according to Doug von Dollen, Media Specialist with Epson.  “Working with our partners, Epson completes a variety of tests of the basic components of the media to insure the highest print quality and confirm the media does not damage the printer” says Doug.  Check here ( see a list of some of the Epson media partners.

Many of you are label experts; with experience well beyond my limited understanding.  Even if you are an expert, check your label and tag stock before you and your customers move to on-demand color labels.  You need to make sure you have the correct media for the job; as all labels are NOT created equal. 

Guy Mikel

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Drop Ship Verification With Color

OK; it is a lame mock up of a 2" x 2" label similar to the ones Chere creates

Desert Meats & Provisions, Inc., is the largest independent specialty meat distributor in the Las Vegas and southern Nevada foodservice markets.  As a division of Sysco (,  the company operates from a 25,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, USDA-inspected processing and distribution facility in Las Vegas, distributing more than 1,200 products, including fresh and frozen specialty and variety meats, aged beef, pork, lamb, veal, poultry and processed meat. The company's diverse base of customers includes more than 200 premier Las Vegas mega-resorts, hotel-casinos, and fine "white tablecloth" restaurants.

As a part of their distribution, Desert Meats sells to an independent food broker who distributes products to a large number of restaurants in and around Las Vegas.  According to Chere Kern, Quality Assurance/Safety Manager, “the 3rd party requires us to identify on the package the name of the restaurant.  The driver needs the mark/label to identify the drop-ship restaurant customer.  In the past, we wrote the name of the restaurant on the package.  As the hand writing did not always look good on the package, we decided to look for a means to print color labels on-demand.”

Based on this requirement, Desert Meats contacted Patrick Rogers and Chuck Soper, Account Managers from Neway Packaging (   Neway Packaging is a full-scale distributor of industrial packaging supplies and packaging equipment.

“When I understood the requirement to print color labels on-demand, I suggested the TM-C3400 and sent information to Chere”, says Chuck.  “Once Chere had the printer, I asked Guy to help her get started quickly and easily.”

During our first 30 minute webinar, Chere was printing labels using Word.  According to Chere, “I printed labels for approximately 35 different restaurant customers in my first batch.  Now I print only what is required to replace the labels as they are consumed.  In the future, I will add logo’s and other features to the label to make it easier for the drivers to identify the drop ship customer.”

In addition to this type of logistic/ship verification solution, I have worked with other customers with similar requirements.  You may have seen the success story on Tubelite ( my post on PCI, Stopping Shipping Errors With Color (

Color labels are an inexpensive means to verify shipments and reduce the costs of potential shipping errors.  If you have customers with delivery routes, discuss with them how on demand color labels will improve the staging and drop ship processes; as well as reduce their overall shipping costs.

Guy Mikel