Bar Code labels - make your own or buy pre-printed?


If you are going to be using barcode labels, you need to consider whether to print your own with software, labels and maybe a dedicated barcode label printer OR whether you should just order from a company that specializes in the printing process.

If you need to print a lot of labels - hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands, we recommend outsourcing it to a specialist.   Here are some situations where this usually applies;

  1. 1. Each barcode label is exactly the same.
  2. 2. Barcode labels are sequentially numbered. 
  3. 3. Permanent adhesion is planned. A specialized label can be non-removable and even indestructible - maybe you want the label to go through a furnace, or repeated 300 degree washings.
  4. 4. Security is an issue – labels that you print yourself can be easily replicated. You might want a hologram on your label that is very hard to reproduce.
  5. 5. You need specialized tags – extra small, weather proof, metal (maybe for permanent attachment to fixed assets like computers, desks, chairs or outdoor equipment – think party rental equipment or machinery, or for the floor of a warehouse.)

If you need special labels, particularly for applications including automotive, health/medical, retail, warehouse or logistical needs - you are best off working with a barcode label specialist who can print the right product, on the right material, in the proper sizes.  


On the other hand, you might be better off printing your own if:

  1. You need to put unique customer information on each label (addresses, purchase order numbers, weight, quantity.)
  2. You do not need a lot of labels all at one time – maybe hundreds or a few thousand.
  3. Each label is going to be a little bit different, perhaps depending on method of shipment, or the receiving vendor’s requirements.
  4. You want to put barcode labels on documents.
  5. You want the flexibility of changing the barcode label over time.
  6. You plan to put photo’s or other images on the labels (like membership cards) .

To print your own barcode labels, the most common approach involves using barcode software on your computer to design and print labels. Labels can contain all kinds of data, not just bar codes.  Here's a list of barcode software companies. Most software can print barcode labels on your laser or ink jet printer or on a specialized barcode label printer. Barcode label printers come in various sizes and styles and a complete discussion of those here is not possible. However, suffice to say that label width is a common variable, with many printers handling labels up to 2 inches wide , or up to 4 inches wide. Additionally a number of companies sell card printers specifically for identification cards, or items like ski passes. If you plan to print ID cards, you are best off picking out the type of card, and printer manufacturer that you intend to use, and only then choosing software that runs that particular machine.

A list of companies that sell labels (by roll, sheet, for warehouse floors, exotic situations, etc)

More articles about bar code labels:

Printing Barcodes? See these FAQ
Why Thermal Label Printing Dominates Ink Jet and Laser Label Printing
Barcode Label Solution For A Medical Rental Company
Direct Thermal vs. Thermal Transfer Label Printers
Case Study: Custom Product Labels with Epson's SecurColor Printer For GEMFormulas Natural Remedies
Color RFID Tag Printers for Labels and Identification Cards
RFID Cards Offer a Slick Solution for Ski Resorts
Extreme RFID Tags at 30,000 PSI and 400 degrees F.
ID Cards - Security - Access Control
Choosing a Bar Code Label Printer

Written by Craig Aberle

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The Bar Code News ( does not sell bar code equipment, supplies or anything else - but we do know a lot of great companies that have the right products and solutions.  If you found this article useful, please share it with others by using the buttons below, and by bookmarking it in your browser. Thank you.