Once in a while, I come across the solution to a problem and wonder how well-known the answer is. It’s very possible that I’ve been living under a rock and everyone else already knows, or perhaps it’s not common knowledge and today’s lesson will help someone else who is looking to print shipping labels at home.
I started by experimenting with a common printer but encountered two different issues:
1. The cost of ink can be expensive, and unless you’re printing a lot of things all the time, you’ll likely be frequently replacing ink cartridges. I found the solution to this problem was to move to a laser printer. They are a bit more expensive to buy, but they don’t suffer from the same ink challenges. I use a Brother MFC-J5330DW for most of my printing as it offers A3 colored printing, wireless connectivity, and scanning which all come in handy. I rarely have to replace the cartridges.
However, this didn’t solve the second issue.
2. There are many types of sticker paper that come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of thicknesses. I tried many different types over the years but frequently found that they got stuck going through printers. There have even been times where sheets have worked for a week or two and then stopped going through. I always managed to find a solution in the end, but it became frustrating when I wanted to quickly print something and found myself having to switch paper to stickers and then troubleshoot for 15 minutes.
I turned to professional solutions and tried several sticker printers. These are small machines designed to print stickers and work perfectly. Not only that, but they don’t take up too much room and can quickly print a lot of stickers when needed.
However, as these were custom machines, they needed custom ink cartridges, and it was nearly impossible to find off-brand refills. I had solved the reliability issues but gone straight back to expensive ink.
A few months ago, I decided it was time to revisit this 5-year-old problem and came across thermal printers, something I hadn’t encountered before. I purchased a MUNBYN thermal sticker printer, and it has been amazing.
It’s small, reliable, and has a variety of sticker sizes, which not only means I can use it for shipping labels, but I’ve also found myself using it to print updates to prototypes as it gives me ready-to-go card-sized stickers that I can just stick over existing cards.
If, like me, you were unfamiliar with thermal printers, these printers use heat instead of ink. You need thermal paper stickers, which I’ve found aren’t any more expensive than normal stickers, but the printer itself doesn’t need cartridges. It simply heats parts of the paper up to show the text you want to print.
The only downside to this is that you’re going to be limited to black and white printing, but for shipping labels, this shouldn’t be an issue.
I now have an InDesign file set up for a variety of sticker layouts, and it uses the data merge functionality to load a CSV file and auto create all the stickers for printing straight to my MUNBYN. It’s saved me a lot of time and money this year, and I haven’t had to do any troubleshooting yet!