How to Print Labels

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Wondering how to create high quality labels from your home or office? Based on decades of label printing experience and top questions we’ve received from our customers, we've organized the key information you need to design and print labels at the best quality possible.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the label printing process from start to finish, including how to select the right labels for your project, design your labels for the best results, prepare your printer settings and troubleshoot common printer issues.

1. Choose the right label for your printer

The very first step towards printing the best labels is making sure that you're buying the right labels for your needs. One of the most common mistakes is purchasing labels that are incompatible with your printer.

Inkjet and laser printers work differently and while some Avery labels will work with both, most Avery labels have been engineered to work with one or the other for the best print quality. If you use laser labels in an inkjet printer, the printer ink will not absorb into the label properly which causes smearing. Likewise, if inkjet labels are used in a laser printer, the toner will not adhere properly and will begin flaking.

An easy way to know what type of printer you have is by checking what types of cartridges you are using. Ink cartridges are used with inkjet printers and larger toner cartridges are used with laser printers. If you're not sure if your printer is laser or inkjet, we suggest going to your printer manufacturer's website or contacting the printer manufacturer directly for the most accurate information.

2. Choose the right label layout for your project

The next aspect to keep in mind when choosing labels is knowing which labels will work best for your design. Does your label design use a full-color background? Do you need to print a full-page design? Are you planning on using a 4" x 6" sheet? Make sure that you choose labels that will provide the best results for the design you have in mind.

vitta nursery round labels extra space between labels
Print beautiful borderless designs on Print-to-The-Edge round labels (22807).

Designs that fill the entire label are known as full bleed designs and will need to print beyond the border of the label to achieve this look. This is why Print-to-the-Edge labels are perfect for projects that are focused around colorful and impactful designs.

vitta nursery rectangle label no space between labels
Bordered designs work great with classic address labels (5160).

Labels without this extra space are better for designs that use borders or no background color at all. This condensed layout also allows for more labels per sheet, making this a more cost-effective option for projects that are more practical and less design intensive. For example, address labels for mailing lists and file folder labels would work perfectly with this sheet design.

full sheet labels half sheet stoked rainbow eiffel tower stickers
Print and cut out custom shapes with full-page sticker label sheets (3383). Quickly handwrite labels on the spot with file folder labels on 4" x 6" sheets (5215).

Having trouble finding the exact label size or shape that you need? Then a full 8-1/2" x 11" sheet label could be a perfect way to print out unique shapes that you can cut yourself with scissors or cutting machines. Full sheet labels are also perfect for printing large, eye-catching labels for bins and signs.

However, with full sheet labels, make sure that your design stays away from the non-printable edges of the sheet. Although some printers are capable of printing to the edge of the sheet, most printers will leave behind a blank margin around the sheet.

Smaller 4" x 6" sheets of labels also exist and are a convenient size for storing and transportation. If you're planning to print on a 4" x 6" label sheet, we would highly recommend checking your printer options first to confirm that it can print on this paper size. However, these labels are also great for handwriting.

You can also use our guide on how to choose the correct label size to determine the exact shape and size that you need for your project. This helpful guide will help you narrow down your options so that you can buy the right labels or even have us print your design for you.

Once you have the right labels, keep them stored in the original packaging and in a cool, dry location, as humidity can cause your label sheets to curl up. Having the original packaging will be helpful when you need to reference the template number, check the printer compatibility and to keep the labels in a container that is just the right size.

3. Use the Matching Avery Label Template

A common mistake that leads to print misalignments is using the wrong label template with the wrong product. Check the packaging or the sheet of Avery labels itself to find the 4-5 digit product or template number. You can then use that code to search our site for the exact label template that you need. If you need a little more help with searching for templates, you can take a look at our help center article on how to find templates on avery.com for more assistance.

You can also use our in-browser design software, Design & Print Online, which will automatically optimize your design experience to display the safety area, provide warnings when your design is incompatible and offer a variety of editing tools. Our software also allows you to choose from thousands of pre-designed templates that are already optimized for the best print experience.

4. Understanding the Printable Area of a Label

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Design and print borderless templates with Print-to-the-Edge 2" square labels (22816).

Before you begin the design process, it's important to realize how much of your label space is printable so that you can know what kind of canvas you are working with and to prevent crucial parts of your design from getting clipped during the print. The printable area of a label will be divided into three sections:

Safety Area: The section that is guaranteed to print on the label. Keep all of your important content such as text and business logos within this area.

Trim: The physical border of the label. This border will give you a good approximation of where your design will be cut off.

Bleed or Print-to-the-Edge Area: The extra design space outside the trim line that full-color backgrounds, images and other content fills in order to have a print-to-the-edge or full bleed design. Filling in this area ensures that there will not be any blank margins around your final label.

5. Design Best Practices

Unfortunately, printers aren't perfect. It's common for sheets to shift slightly during the printing process and this misalignment is easier to spot when trying to print accurately on label sheets. However, you can optimize your design by using safe, trim and bleed areas to make any slight misalignments less noticeable. We also have a few tips you can keep in mind depending on the type of design you plan to print.

Make Sure That Your Text is Legible

problem black and co label
solution black and co owen alcala label

Use address labels with Sure Feed ™ technology (5160) for a more reliable feed and improved print alignment.

Keep vital information like names and addresses within the safety area to reduce the chance of crucial details getting cut off. Design & Print Online makes this easy to do by showing a warning when your content is moving out of the printable area.

You should also make sure that your text will be legible when printed at actual size. Your font may seem readable when the entire label is filling your screen but it can look very different once printed. Try to use 7pt font or larger depending on the size of your label. Design & Print Online will also display a warning if your font size seems like it will be too small to read.

Also make sure that your font color will stand out and won't blend into the background. If you want to learn more, you can check out our article on choosing the right fonts for your labels.

Achieving a "Full Bleed" or "Print-to-the-Edge" look

Make Sure That Your Text is Legible

problem terrella maple syrup
solution terrella maple syrup round label
Make sure you have the best labels for full bleed circle designs with Print-to-the-Edge round labels (22807).

Not all labels are compatible with full bleed designs so make sure that you are using the right template with Print-to-the-Edge labels. A quick way to check if you're using a Print-to-the-Edge template in Design & Print Online is to check if your design extends into the "bleed" or "Print-to-the-Edge" area past the label trim line.

Preventing Overlapping Designs on Labels

problem terrella maple syrup
solution terrella maple syrup round label
White-bordered designs look beautiful on 3-1/3" x 4" TrueBlock™ labels (5164).

If the labels on your sheet do not have space between them, make sure that your design is comfortably within the safety area of your label. This will create a uniform border around your design and prevent your label design from printing on other labels on your sheet. You can also use completely blank backgrounds to make sure that your design won't cross over onto other labels.

Using Full Sheet Labels

solution terrella maple syrup round label
Easily print removable signs with 8-1/2" x 11" sheets of sticker project paper (3383)

Most printers won't be able to print to the edges of a sheet so it will be important for you to know the non-printable margins of your printer before printing your design on a full 8-1/2" x 11" label sheet. This area can vary depending on the printer model and manufacturer, but a .25" margin around your design is a good general rule. Design & Print Online will show a dotted line to help you visualize the page margin on label templates that go to the edge of the sheet. Test your print on a blank sheet and check your printer options to confirm the printable area of your printer.

6. Pre-print Procedures

Before you print labels, the three big printer settings to check are your paper size, paper type and the page scaling. However, this can be tricky since these settings can be named in different ways depending on your printer manufacturer. You can reference our help article on recommended printer settings for more assistance with navigating your printer options.

In printer settings, the "sheet size" or "paper size" setting controls how your design is scaled to the label sheet. Make sure the size selected matches the size of the sheet of labels you are using. Otherwise, your labels will be misaligned. The most commonly used size is letter-size 8-1/2" x 11" paper. If you are using another sheet size, such as 4" x 6", make sure to change the paper size setting to 4" x 6".

The "paper type" or "media type" setting changes the speed at which the sheet is fed through your printer. Change this setting to the "Labels" option to slow down the speed and reduce the risk of misalignment. If your printer does not have an option for "Labels," you can select one of the options for "Cardstock," "Heavyweight" or "Premium" instead. In some printers, the "Labels" or "Cardstock" option will also mean that your sheet will need to be fed through another tray like the manual feed tray. The manual feed tray will provide the best results since the sheet will be fed through the printer flat. This avoids having the sheet bend and curl while traveling up multiple printer rollers.

The page scaling setting should always be set to 100% or "Actual Size." Never use the "fit to the page" option, which will cause your design to shrink to the wrong size and result in misaligned labels.

solution terrella maple syrup round label
Whether it's one or a thousand, order as many sheets of 8-1/2" x 11" labels (94268) as you need with Avery Blank Labels.

Once you have these options set correctly, make a test print on a blank sheet of printer paper to see how they come out. Mark your blank test sheet beforehand to show which side is up and which direction the sheet is being fed so that you can confirm exactly how to feed the label sheets.

Most labels will just need to be fed with the right side facing up, but you can double check the recommended feed direction by checking your Avery label sheet.

7. Troubleshoot

Noticing something wrong with your print? Here are some fixes to common problems when trying to print labels.

Print Misalignment

Q: Why is the entire print shifting in one uniform direction?

A: Unfortunately, this can be caused by numerous factors and the exact cause can be difficult to trace. However, you can shift the print on the last step of Design & Print Online by choosing the option to adjust the print alignment. You can also adjust the margins of the print if you are using a downloadable template.

Q: Why are all of the labels printing towards a corner?

A: This is most often caused by the print trying to "fit to the page" and not printing at the correct size. Double check your page scaling settings to make sure that the print is set for "actual size" or to print at 100% scale.

Paper Jam

Q: Why are my labels jamming?

A: Paper jams can occur from several different factors including sheets being fed incorrectly and damaged printer rollers. Make sure that the paper or media type in your printer is set to print on labels to handle the sheet at the right speed. If you're printing stacks, you can also try to print one at a time or make sure that the sheets are separated and not clinging to each other. You can also try Avery labels with Sure Feed technology that are designed to reduce printer jams by providing a more reliable feed through your printer.

Smearing or Smudging

Q: Why is the print smearing?

A: The most common cause of smearing will be because the labels are not compatible with the printer. Try double checking and make sure that labels that are only compatible with laser printers were not accidentally used in an inkjet printer.

Blank Margin Around the Sheet

Q: Why is there a blank white margin around the sheet?

A: Many printers are not able to print to the edges of the sheet and this can leave behind a blank margin around the page. You can check if your printer is able to print with a full bleed or you can try using Print-to-the-Edge labels to work around this.

8. Print Your Labels

After making any final adjustments, go ahead and print again on the label sheets. And you're done!

If you still need a little help, you can contact our consumer care center for assistance or browse our helpful knowledge base for more answers. Not sure if printing labels is for you? You can also have our team of experts print your projects perfectly aligned and at the best quality with our WePrint printing service.

Products used in this article:

2" Round Print-to-the-Edge Labels (22807 / 94501)
1" x 2-5/8" Address Labels for Laser Printers (5160 / 94200)
8-1/2" x 11" Sticker Project Paper for Inkjet Printers (3383 / 94268)
1/3 Cut File Folder Labels on 4" x 6" Sheets (5215)
2" Square Print-to-the-Edge Labels (22816 / 94107)
1" x 2-5/8" Address Labels for Laser Printers (5160 / 94200)
3-1/3" x 4" Shipping Labels for Laser Printers (5164 / 94215)