Label Printing: Troubleshooting Tips & Tricks

Print quality is one of most common complaints we encounter in the label business. Many times, only minor adjustments are needed and so we will begin a series of articles aimed at providing you some printing guidance.

Problem: Thermal Labels have poor print quality and the image is too light, faded or missing print

Potential Reason Solution
For both Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Labels
  • Incorrect darkness setting for the label material is being used.
Increase the heat setting (aka printhead energy) on your printer.Watch out for increasing the heat setting too much as this tends to wear the printhead faster. It can also make the print smear or blur.
  • Uneven or insufficient printhead pressure is being used.
Adjust the printhead pressure.
  • The print speed is too fast for the label material being used.
Slow down the print speed.
  • The print head and/or the drive roller is dirty.
Clean the print head and/or drive roller. A dirty print head can cause poor heat transfer.
  • The printhead is defective.
Replace the printhead.
  • The drive roller is damaged or pitted.
Replace, repair or clean the drive roller.
  • The label material is defective, old, dirty or pitted.
Replace the material.
  • The label material is not properly matched to the printer.
Try a different label material, change your printer or have someone print your labels for you. For instance, small desktop printers do not allow you to apply enough heat or pressure to transfer a good image to materials like polyimide or retro-reflective polyester.
For Thermal Transfer Labels
  • The label material and printing ribbon are not properly matched.
Test alternative label materials or ribbons. For instance, wax ribbons print best on papers, wax/resins ribbons on synthetics and full resin ribbons are made for glossy polyester materials.
  • The ribbon may be loaded backwards
Ribbons are wound “Coated Side Out” or “Coated Side In” for specific printers, which means the ink is either on the outside or wound inside. Do the scotch tape test to figure out which side of the ribbon has the ink coating and then load the ribbon correctly.

Electronic Imaging Materials