Color Label Solutions

Color Label Solutions

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

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