An Everyday Guide to Inkjet Label Printers

Inkjet color label used on a bottle of wine

Adding splashes of color to labels is a step many small and moderate businesses are looking to take. This unique customization is possible through the use of inkjet label printers.

These printers manufacture high quality images and text that enhances the value of labels used in dozens of industries and markets.

However, depending on the make, model, and functions, the price of these printers can climb from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands.

Let’s take a look at the information surrounding inkjet label printers and see if purchasing one is in your best interest.

What is an Inkjet Label Printer?

An Epson Inkjet Label Printer

Inkjet printers are printers that use ink in liquid form. This process works by propelling minuscule droplets of ink onto paper or other substrates, like cardboard, plastic, and non-woven fabrics, during the printing process. 

These drops are designed to dry rapidly to form an image. This drying process is aided by a specialty coating that’s already been applied to the substrate in use. Images can even be waterproof or resistant to harsh chemicals depending on the combination of ink and coating used.

When it comes to the price, Inkjet label printers differ depending on models and functions, such as print speed, volume, and the types of material they can print on. They range in prices starting around $1,000 and can climb as high as $10,000 or more.

Examples of Inkjet Labels

Example of a colored label printed from the Epson TM-C7500G

What comes to mind when you think of inkjet labels?

Surprisingly, these kinds of color labels can be seen just about everywhere due to their versatility and durability.

You can spot them at the supermarkets on items ranging from condiments to beer and wine or view them at farmers markets on custom brand items, like local honey and handmade candles.

These labels are also found at factory plants on toxic and flammable products, like oil drums and barrels, and laboratories that deal with hazardous chemicals, providing health warnings and safety instructions to workers and personnel.

You can even find smaller inkjet labels used in hospitals and pharmacies on items like medicine bottles and ID badges.

The Differences in Inkjet Printers

When it comes to inkjet printers, there are 2 types: home and office printers that require sheet labels and inkjet printers that require roll labels.

Home and office inkjet printers are the smaller, cheaper option for users. With prices around a few hundred dollars, they work well in limited space areas for low volume printing, a couple hundred pages a month. These printers are capable of producing photo quality images, pages, and documents in full colors. 

Materials for home and office inkjet printers can include paper and synthetic substrates in multiple colors and finishes. While they have the ability to print labels, they must be in sheet form, such as 8.5 x 11. And with a lower handling capacity, media must be restocked more frequently. 

A pricer option, label specific inkjet printers are typically located in businesses, warehouses, and factories. These larger sized printers are utilized for their increased productivity, fast speeds, high quality, and versatility.

Home and Office Inkjet Printer

An inkjet printer that's used in home and office settings to print sheet labels

Label Specific Inkjet Printer

An Epson Inkjet Label Printer

Label specific inkjet printers use roll or fanfold labels. Volume for these printers ranges between hundreds to thousands a month, making them ideal for moderate to large scale printing.

Depending on the application, both paper and synthetic materials, like polypropylene, can be utilized. Customizations to designs, texts, colors, and finishes are easily accommodated, leading to more versatile options for users. Labels are produced with a higher resolution for a cleaner, more detailed print.

Inkjet Printer Ink

Inkjet printers typically have 4 colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This is often referred to by the acronym CMYK.  When these colors are mixed, a technique called 4-color process, it allows users to obtain about 55% of the pantone spot colors. 

Some advanced home and professional printers used for graphics and photo applications may contain 7 or more colors. Future inkjet label printers with 7-color would comparatively be able to achieve a much wider scope of the color gamut and potentially 90% of the pantone spot colors. 

Some newer label specific laser printers are 5-colors: CMYK + White. Although some may think white ink wouldn’t make a difference for printing, it’s extremely beneficial and allows text and images to be printed on clear and dark backgrounds.

One major difference between inkjet roll printers is the contrasting types of ink they use to print: dye-based or pigment-based. While there are some models that can operate using both ink types, most inkjet printers are manufactured to print one or the other.

Dye-Based Inkjet Printers

Dye-based inkjet printers utilize dye-based inks. 

Dye inks produce more vibrant colors, helping images and texts on labels to stand out. It is less expensive, absorbing into the fiber of the material it prints on. This makes smudging more likely, and the ink may come off if exposed to water with no protective coating. 

Brighter, eye-catching prints make dye inks an ideal choice for prime labels. These are applied to everyday retail products like food and drinks, beer and wine, cosmetics, cannabis-infused consumables, hair care products, and more. 

Indoor applications are an ideal choice for dye inks as they tend to fade faster when exposed to daily or direct sunlight.

Pigment-Based Inkjet Printers

Pigment-based inkjet printers utilize pigment-based inks.

A pricer option, pigment ink sits on the material and fuses with the fibers. While pigment inks can produce colorful prints, they are not as vivid as dye based. 

However, pigment inks are more resilient against water, sunlight, and chemicals. Images and texts can better endure smudging, scratching, and tearing, usually lasting around 2 years. This makes them ideal for durable print applications outdoors or in industrial and factory settings where labels encounter harsh environments.

When combined with synthetic materials, pigment inks produce durable labels suitable for GHS and BS 5609 compliance. These are an internationally recognized standard where labels must endure rigorous testing. Pigment-based inkjet printers like the Primera LX2000 and Epson C7500G are certified for printing these types of labels.

Ink Cartridges

The colorful and vibrant images and designs produced by inkjet printers elevate commonly printed monochrome labels. They improve on the information being printed, often highlighting critical sections and text.

To do this, they require color ink cartridges. These color inks must be purchased separately, which does add to the overall cost of an inkjet printer.

However, after the initial first purchase needed to load the printer, each individual color can be purchased as needed.

Desktop inkjet printers in homes and offices use smaller ink cartridges than their label specific printer counterparts, meaning a lower amount of print jobs before the cartridges need to be restocked.

Inkjet label printers use larger cartridges, allowing ink to last longer and requiring fewer restocks in-between.

What is a Picoliter?

DPI or dots per inch is used to measure resolution for an image or text when it prints, with a higher DPI generally creating better resolution. 

A component of DPI with inkjet printers is the use of picoliters. 

A picoliter refers to the size of the dots of ink. This unit of measurement is one-trillionth of a liter – so small the human eye cannot see it! The smaller the measurement of picoliters, the more control the printer has over the print detail. This coupled with a high DPI number leads to a more detailed and sharper image.

Buying Inkjet Labels

When it comes to buying inkjet labels, it is important that they are compatible with the right printer. 

These labels come on a 3” core inner diameter (ID) with a 6” outer diameter (OD). Labels can be continuous, die-cut, or reflective sensors for many customizable sizes and applications. Both paper and synthetic materials accommodate different ink types, depending on the printer model. 

For label projects that require a more pronounced look, gloss and matte finishes are supported. Gloss coatings add a reflective shine while matte coatings provide a smooth, muted overlay. These finishes help to elevate label appearances for a more professional look. 

Ready to find the perfect inkjet label for your printer?

At Smith Corona, we offer a wide variety of inkjet label sizes, materials, and finishes for your printing needs. Shop smithcoroa.com or give us a call at 800-875-7000 to place your order!

Who is Buying Inkjet Label Printers?

While the advantages inkjet labels offer makes them beneficial to many industries, they are most commonly found in business, manufacturing, and industrial settings.

For small businesses that choose to customize their products, color labels are eye catching, allowing products to be noticed and further sales.

This can be beneficial for selling retail items, like candles and cosmetics, to specialty market items, like craft beers and local products.

Healthcare establishments, such as hospitals and pharmacies, are able to use color to visually distinguish warnings and critical instructions on items such as medications and wristbands, helping to reduce risks and bring attention to vital information.

Warehouses are able to minimize errors by organizing their products for easier picking and distribution. With inkjet labels, images can be printed and used to distinguish between product variations, such as style and color. 

One of the largest markets to benefit from inkjet labels is the industrial industry. 

Industrial companies require products to be properly labeled per GHS specifications.

GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Like its name denotes, this is an internationally recognized standard that defines and classifies hazardous chemical materials and communicates this important information on labels and safety sheets through symbols and color. 

These labels are government mandated and require separate colors and symbols, which change depending on the product. Because of this, a color printer is absolutely necessary.

How are Inkjet Labels Being Applied?

A prime feature of inkjet printers is their ability to print labels on demand.

This means users can print as many or as few labels as necessary.

While some brands, like Primera, offer label applicators designed for objects ranging from cylindrical to tapered to rectangular in shape, most of the time these labels are applied by hand.

Brands of Inkjet Label Printers

Advantages of Using Inkjet Labels

Print Quality 

Inkjet label printers offer a higher quality print level. They are capable of printing very fine details, color variations, and multitudes of text sizes. This high level of quality is perfect for images like barcodes, making them easy to scan no matter the size.    

Resolution

Due to the small size of ink used when printing, the image resolution for inkjet printers is typically much higher than others. It is one of the main features that makes inkjet a valuable printer to have.

Customization and Marketing 

Customization and variations of products allow customers to personalize their business designs which helps their products stand out against other market products. Users are also able to print on demand since pre-printed custom labels are not required. Because inkjet label printers can tailor SKUs specifically for individual customers, businesses can feature products and promotional content on labels as a means to expand their marketing.

Versatility

Labels can be individually printed to meet inventory changes and variations to images, codes, brands, and logos. Color eases product identification and can be produced for each individual item, improving picking accuracy and lowering error costs. 

Durability 

Labels created on synthetic materials are able to withstand environmental conditions and harsh chemicals without smudging or fading. This includes being UV ray, water, and oil resistant.

Cost-Effective 

Inkjet printers are able to print labels on-demand for companies requiring just the right amount of labels. They also eliminate the need for pre-printed labels in industries such as retail and food and beverage, where new products frequently become available. 

In Conclusion

Inkjet printers add a colorful component to labels, easing product identification, promoting company brands, and highlighting essential information.

Although they can be a financial investment, for businesses looking to expand how they label their products, acquiring an inkjet label printer is the way to go.