9 Things to Consider Before You Buy a Color Label Printing System 

If you’re looking to bring an in-house solution into your business by purchasing a color label printer, there are many things to consider before taking the plunge.

Inkjet Color Label printers start from $1,500 and skyrocket to over $10,000 depending on the specifications and features so learning exactly what you need from your label printer is important to make an informed decision. When you’re shopping for a color label printer, you need to understand the benefits, key features and value of what you’re getting.

There are a lot of options on the market for color label printers. It’s tempting to purchase the lowest priced printer on the market and call it a day, but part of figuring out the total cost of ownership of your color label printers is considering what you are getting for your investment. One thing to consider is a low-cost entry level printer isn’t really the cheapest option, if uses up the most ink and consumables compared to other printer in the market.

What type of label are you printing on?

Different Types of Wine Labels

When looking at color label printers, it’s important to determine what types of labels you will be printing on. Some printers and printer inks are compatible with certain types of labels.

Matte labels are generally compatible with dye based ink, while Gloss labels are compatible with pigment based ink. The last thing you want is to setup your newly purchased label printer and have the inks smudge on your label designs after the first run.

Thermal or Inkjet?


Inkjet Printers use ink to print graphic and text on to different types of labels. This technology is very common printers in homes and small offices. It is used for high quality print jobs such as brochure, flyers and of course labels.

Inkjet sprays thousands of ink droplets on to the label to product sharp looking images. This is measured by the Dots Per Inch (DPI). You can compare the print quality of other label printers by looking at the DPI print resolution.


There are two types of Thermal Printers, Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer. Thermal transfer printers use heat to activate pigments from the ribbon to create ink to mark onto the label. Direct thermal applies heat to the chemical label which turns the label dark. This technology is typical used for shipping labels and receipts.

For color label printing, you would want to narrow down your choice to inkjet printers since they create more vibrant labels compared to thermal. Thermal labels are also at risk of melting and fading if the environment they are in is too hot. Thermal printers are also limited to less colors compared to Inkjet printers as they are restricted to wax and resin ribbon choices.

What size labels are you printing?

It’s important to define what size labels you will be printing since certain printers have size restrictions regarding print width. For example, the Epson TM-C3500 can only print up to 4.25 Inches in width, while the Afinia L301 prints up to 6 Inches.

You wouldn’t get the same label printer used for lip-balm labels as for a chemical drum label. The printer you purchase has to be able to give you exactly what you and your product require

What are the price of the consumables of the printer?


Afinia L301 Inks

When you purchase your color label printer, you also need to purchase a consistent supply of ink cartridges, label rolls, and maintenance accessories.


Some printers are designed with individual ink cartridges consumption, while some printers use a tri-color ink cartridge. Individual ink cartridges uses less ink, especially if your design uses a primary color. With a tri-color ink cartridge, a replacement is required once any of the three colors run out.


The two main factors that drive the per label cost - coverage of ink and label size. If your label design is full of vibrant colors and has no white space, it will consume more ink. Whereas if your label design doesn’t require as much ink and doesn’t use the full label coverage, the overall ink costs per label would be significantly cheaper.

Cost Per Label

Label costs also need to be considered when selecting a label printer. Usually label manufacturers offer a cheaper cost the more label rolls your order. However, you don’t want to be stuck with overstock.


It’s important to have a good understanding of how many labels you would need to produce each month so you can have a steady supply of labels instead of having them sit there and take up storage space.

Calculate your costs of printing it in house and purchasing a color label printer vs getting it outsourced to a label producer. If you are producing different label designs in short-runs, the overhead start up costs may make sense to bring in a color label printer.

Print head

Another thing to consider is the print head cost and typical life of the print head. The print head is probably the most important part of the printer. It’s also the most delicate and will cost a lot more than your labels. Factor in how frequent you will need to replace the print head and what the costs would be. Printers from the Epson ColorWorks product line have a built-in print head that lasts the lifetime of the printer.

Do your labels have regulations? (FDA)

Some labels have certain label requirements to follow such as, FDA regulations for medical labels or nutrition facts. To distribute your products without breaking regulations, these must be met.

There are many regulations such as font sizes, mandatory statements, allergen disclaimers, and calculations for daily values. As a food manufacturer, you need to spend your time on your production and branding – not on interpreting FDA labeling mandates.

It’s necessary to adhere to FDA regulations to avoid recalls and to present your customer with transparency in the product they purchase.

There is a great risk of mislabeling when you rely on pre-printed labels, especially if they are hand applied. Purchasing an in-house label printer allows to you adapt and adjust your labels as you develop new iterations of your product.

DPI (Dots Per Inch) 

Label DPI (dots-per-inch) is the resolution at which your labels are printed. The higher the DPI the more dots of ink there are per square inch. For label designs with lots of vibrant colors, small text and detailed images you would want a printer with High DPI. If your labels designs are not graphical or don’t use many images you don’t need to purchase a printer that prints at a high DPI.

Print Volume Requirements

Depending on the volume of labels you will be printing and the design of your labels, your needs may not be best served by just any color label printer.


If you need to regularly print large amounts of color labels, you will need a high speed color label printer. Printers with slow print speeds will stifle your productivity and end up costing you money in the long run.

Print quality can vary on the same color label printer depending upon what print speed you select. Some color label printers are capable of printing at high speeds, but that does not mean you will get the highest quality label

Where do you store your products?

This is important question to consider since you can have a lot of wasted label rolls and unattractive products on your shelves for your customers. You need to review your products will be exposed to and the environment where they will be.


With the wrong type of label, your frozen food labels can wrinkle from the condensation in the freezer or your product label can fade from prolonged sun exposures from the UV rays.

You want to make sure that the color label printer and the label rolls you purchase are compatible to work together and able to address these problem.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, purchasing a color label printer isn’t a easy task. There are many things to consider to ensure you get the best bang for your buck. Check out my post where I review the top color label printers on the market. I do an in depth review of each of the leading label printers on the market, so you can figure out which one is best for your needs.

Selfie of me, John McIntyre

John McIntyre, Writer

John is a American who grew up to be a nerd with a philosophy degree and too many hobbies to count. He emigrated from California to New York in 2013. While he is not writing he is busy taking care of his two kids Claire and Vicky.