Many people started their first e-commerce business during the pandemic. You could have been dreaming of it for years, but up until then, the process had seemed too daunting. Covid gave people a reason to dive in, and once they did, it took on a life of its own. Building websites, creating Shopify and Amazon pages, and establishing an online presence can all be fun. Then you hit a surprising wall:
How do you actually send stuff to people? Where do you even get those complicated-looking labels? Can you print shipping labels using your regular printer, or is there some process for that? As it turns out, there is not.
You can print all the labels you need at home using equipment available from any electronics store near you. As long as it sells printers, paper, and ink cartridges, you’re ready to go. But there are pros and cons to each option that can make a big difference to any blossoming e-commerce entrepreneur. Here are the different options for using a regular printer and things to think about with each one.
Print Your Shipping Labels Using an Inkjet Printer
This is the most common type of household printer. As their name implies, inkjet printers press ink onto regular printer paper.
After the initial setup, the printing process is usually simple. Just send it a PDF of your label, print it out on a regular sheet of paper, and tape it to your package.
The downside to inkjet printers is their lack of specialization. Shipping labels that are printed on regular printing paper need to be secured to the package. If the shipping label gets damaged, the package could get lost. However, using too much tape will mess with the scanners.
The ink for these printers is also fragile. If the package faces any harsh weather or treatment, the label could smudge the information on the shipping label, making the package undeliverable.
One answer is to use adhesive labels, which also cause problems. They’re difficult to size for all packages, the paper is more expensive, and the ink is even more prone to smudging.
Lastly, anyone using inkjet printers knows they run out of ink fast. While ink cartridges are easy to replace, doing so isn’t cheap. You could find your shipping costs going up very fast if your business takes off.
- Cheap upfront cost if you own one
- Supplies are easy to find
- The label is fragile and can tear off
- The ink on the label can easily smudge
- Replacing ink is expensive
- Printing, cutting and taping labels to each package is time-consuming
Print Your Shipping Labels Using a Laser Printer
If you’ve worked in an office, you’ve probably used a laser printer. Though they feature the word ‘laser,’ these devices cleverly manipulate static electricity to attach toner to printer paper and are most commonly used for printing photographs. Thanks to this, they print more finely-grained documents and use less ink.
Right off the bat, you can see that these qualities give them an advantage. The ink is less fragile, and the printer doesn’t require frequent ink replacements.
However, there are some downsides. Laser printers cost more upfront and are more specialized than inkjet printers. They require a specific “laser-compatible print media,” meaning they don’t take any old printer paper from the store. The toner they use is also more expensive than standard inkjet cartridges. So, while you don’t have to replace them as often, they do cost more when you do.
- The printed labels are better quality than inkjet
- Toner doesn’t need to be refilled as often as inkjet printers
- Prints more labels than an inkjet at a better cost over time
- Higher upfront cost
- Toner is more expensive than standard inkjet cartridges
- Works with harder-to-find materials
- If you use adhesive labels, you must ensure they can work with the printer
Print Your Shipping Labels Using a Thermal Printer
Thermal label printers use heat instead of ink or toner to print information onto the label. As a result, you don’t need to buy any ink or toner. That bears repeating. Thermal printers don’t use ink or toner at all, so you don’t have to keep buying supplies. Additionally, using heat to print information onto your labels guarantees no smudging and longevity.
The only downside to a thermal printer is the higher upfront cost, given its specialization.
- Doesn’t use ink. No more spending money on cartridges or toner
- Prints the sturdiest labels at the cheapest cost over time
- High upfront cost for specialized product
Which Should You Pick?
It is possible to print shipping labels using a regular printer. The question is, what level of business are you aiming to run? If you’re a hobbyist only looking to ship a few items a month then an inkjet or laser printer can work for you.
Each label might be more expensive in the long run, but because you’re not looking to do more than a couple of orders a month, it may be fine.
If you’re like many that are aiming to ramp up sales and shipments and spend more time on things other than printing and taping, a quality thermal label printer is the best option. A good thermal label printer can take you from accidentally becoming a DIY FedEx to becoming what you want to be: a real e-commerce business.
Buy a High-Quality Direct Thermal Shipping Label Printer From Rollo
Shipping your products to your customers should be a fun and rewarding experience. Rollo can do that for you. Over 100,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs use our label printers to save money and ship fast.
Our printers don’t require you to use any specific labels, however, our labels are Made in USA, and FSC-certified, allowing you to ship eco-friendly!
Ready to take your business to the next level?