Labeling CDs, DVDs, miniCDs and CD Business Cards

I can’t wait until all CDs, DVDs and the rest of them are pre-labeled and you can write or print directly onto them. They are on the market and coming down in price quickly, thank goodness. Over the last 2 years I’ve been through just about every label software, label sticker and CD and DVD type out there. Trust me, the labeling process is far worse than making the home video. I almost had an intimate relationship with Avery and HP printer customer service as I tried to get the two to work together. I ruined several packets of very expensive labels trying to resolve a problem that HP eventually said wasn’t resolvable. So all these media labels and new media formats are difficult for the printer companies and the label companies, along with the consumer. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and not print “Family Reunion DVD” on the margins instead of on the label!

So, with media labels you can’t just buy the labels, print them and stick them on easily. There are certain label brands that work best with certain printers, several kinds of labels and several different plastic devices to help you stick them on accurately (and several of them you would quickly want to throw to the ground and stomp into bits even though you just paid $20-$40 for the labeling starter kit).

My picks for labeling CDs and DVDs:
Epson Stylus Printer
Neato Applicator
MediaFace Software
Fellowes Labels

I’ll summarize first — I love my Epson Stylus that prints directly onto DVDs/CDs and does a great job with label sheets

For label software, even though they are both good, I prefer creating a label with Fellowes/Neato/MediaFace over Avery. With MediaFace software you can manipulate graphics and images more easily.
For the life of me I can’t figure out what the relationship is between Fellowes/Neato/MediaFace but they all seem to have combined for a really good labeling product.

Hands down, this label applicator works the best. The label fits over that center core and you press the CD onto the sticky side of the label. You have to work hard to mess that up.

I looked for another applicator style (shall remain nameless) that was horrible and it looks like all the label companies have finally copied this type, which was also made as the Stomper brand a few years ago.

Let’s start with label software and the label brands. Marketing works because the first software I considered was the one with market saturation. Avery. Everybody has it, all offices use some type of Avery label and that’s the brand carried by the big stores. (That’s another big problem with media labels … you can’t find a good variety in the stores … more about that later on in this label rant). So I thought, Avery Labels must have Avery downloadable software on their website and they did. For the most part, I like Avery but I’ve discovered they don’t do media labels as well Fellowes/Neato. Also, when my HP printer was pulling one label through correctly and the next one 1/2 inch too high (consistently over 50 tries…very frustrating), and I was wasting label sheet after expensive label sheet, the Avery customer service wasn’t as helpful as they should have been. The Avery software is easier to use initially but when you try to do anything complicated, like put a picture on the label, it just doesn’t work like a good graphics program should.

All the labels, Memorex, Fellowes, Neato (you will run across those too) and Avery all seem to interchangeably print with each others software. So I have no idea which brand is better. And when you buy them at Best Buy, for instance, you would think they’d carry several brands right? No, they show Avery and Memorex on their website but no Fellowes. That brand you have to get at an office supply store like Office Depot.

And that sentence makes this a good time to warn you about online CD/DVD wholesalers without a brick and mortar store. Yes, the prices look very attractive and they often have items you can’t buy at Best Buy, like mini CDs and CD business cards (finding those labels was worse than hens teeth). So I was forced/enticed to order minis and CD business cards and their sleeves from an internet store. They didn’t have CD business card labels so I had to get them from another company. When I put the labels on the CD business cards the labels were too big! I needed to make 100 so I had to trim each CD business card with an exacto knife. No, it didn’t look professional. Then, the business card sleeves had evidently heated to a million degrees because they were wrinkled plastic. I was so desperate I ironed one of them to see if it helped. That is the last time I will order from an internet store where I’m not personally familiar with the people running it. I do recommend Edgewise Media, where I get the majority of my bulk VHS and miniDV tapes .

Now the printer. If you need to print lots of labels like I do (maybe you volunteer to make the church CDs or help a nonprofit with a video fundraiser), use an Epson printer and if you can afford it, the newest versions made for printing CD labels. Just because they are made for photography and video labels, makes them work better for everything media. I had a difficult time deciding between the Canon and the Epson but the Epson’s print right on the CD feature sold me. However, a big disclaimer. I make videos for a living and supply my clients with Video CD or DVD copies, sometimes 200. So I simply haven’t had time to learn how to use the actual printing on the label function and haven’t printed any pictures with this great printer! But because Epson has made this their specialty, the label sheets I print come out flawlessly everytime and the warning from the salesman that it eats ink hasn’t caused a problem yet.
Here is an interesting Q & A from the Epson website about the direct label printing (see the link earlier in this blog):
What are the advantages of printing directly onto a CD/DVD instead of printing a label and attaching it to the disc?
1. Lower Cost- Purchase only ink jet printable discs, instead of both discs and adhesive labels, and save up to 30%.
2. Convenience – It’s an easy, one-step process. You won’t have to waste time dealing with label placement.
3. Risk-Free – Eliminate Potential Drive Damage – Avoid any possible damage to your CD/DVD drive or player, which can sometimes occur with labels that peel off from heat, wear and time. Many manufacturers of CD and DVD drives warn customers against using adhesive labels on CDs or DVDs because the adhesive label could delaminate and damage the drive.

I agree. As I said in the first sentence, please manufacturers hurry up and make the “print on the CDs” the industry standard and bring the price down so we consumers don’t have to be label guinea pigs. There is a technology out there called LightScribe by HP and some information about it on Wikipedia (which the LightScribe people probably put there!)
But I saw that mentioned in a PC World article in 2004 and it hasn’t taken over the market if I am still sticking on 200 labels for my business. By the way, because I did more research for this blog, I’ve decided to hold my breath and purchase a professional labeler/burner for CDs and DVDs that makes 100 at a time. I’ll report back success or failure in a couple weeks.

I just did an online search for CD labels and it’s just as confusing as it was when I started learning about this 3 years ago. I don’t think, until everyone can afford a printer that prints right on CDs and DVDs, will labeling cease to be an inexact science.