When you’re researching for the best color label printers, it’s hard to stiff through all the information about regular black and white color labels. After testing all the latest printing technology from the leading brand of printers, we’ve selected the Epson TM-C3500 as the best color printer for small businesses. It prints up to 4 inches with and is compatible with printing pigment-based ink. The compact design and low price range make it an attractive purchase for any small business looking to get into label printing.
How Printers were selected
For our review, we choose the leading color label printers on the market. We avoided printers that were out of production and discontinued as well as products that had the same negative reviews. We selected the best color label printers from each brand with a good reputation and print quality.
We only selected from printers with inkjet printing technology. Although you can print color with a thermal printer, we didn’t include thermal printers in our list as the price point and quality wouldn’t make sense for many small businesses looking to get into color label printing.
We also capped the price of the printers at $7,500. Printers priced higher than that are usually for commercial label printers and for small businesses looking to upgrade their existing label printing setup. Check out our review on label printers for high volume printing for commercial label printers for mid-sized businesses.
Features to Consider
You may notice that the pricing of color label printers typically starts around $1,500. The more expensive it is, the more features, capability and print speed is with the printer.
Label, Inks & Consumables
You will also need to consider the costs of consumables such as label rolls, ink cartridges and maintenance box for some printers. You may be aware that printer ink is wildly inflated, but with a color label printer, you are basically paying for flexibility. With a label printer, you can print any image at any quality at any amount of label coverage.
Where to Get Label Rolls for Your Color Label Printer
There are a variety of different online retailers where you can get labels for your products. It’s also important to factor in shipping and delivery time so there are no hiccups in your production. Not all label manufactures will have your label size in stock, so its good practice to have a few extra-label rolls in stock in case you run out.
LabelBasic.com has blank inkjet label rolls of many popular sizes for leading color label printers on the market. All orders over $99 qualify for free US shipping. You can use the discount code: PRINTINGBASIC for 15% off your order total.
Print Speed & Label Output
Label Printers have different print speeds and outputs depending on the type of device. You don’t want to wait 15 seconds for each label if you are printing a couple of thousand labels a month. You want to make sure your business prints enough labels at an acceptable quantity.
Quality of Print
Print jobs at high speeds sometimes have to sacrifice the print quality of the label. It’s important to have the perfect mix of print quality and a sufficient production rate.
Choosing the Type of Label
It’s important to consider which type of label you will be using for your product. You will need a label that is compatible with the surface you are sticking it on.
Polypropylene Labels are great for products that need to be extra durable. The water-resistant, UV fade resistant and durability are great for almost any type of application.
Glossy Labels are glossy labels with a white shiny coating. The labels reflect light and help the colors pop. They are popular for their professional and sleek look.
Matte Labels offer the most organic look and feel as they have no gloss. They are most suitable for products that have a natural marketing position like food and beauty products.
When choosing the type of label, you want to make sure that the inner core can fit in the printer as well as the outer diameter. While each printer has different requirements and may need an external label roll.
The Top Pick – Epson TM-C3500
This pigment-based printer is a small and compact printer that’s great for printing all types of labels. The Epson TM-C3500 is popular for printing GHS compliant labels.
The TM-C3500 prints up to 4.2 inches wide at 720 dpi and works with label rolls with an outer diameter of 5 inches. If you have larger label rolls, you can purchase an external label holder and feed it through the back of the printer. This is useful for scaling your printing operation without taking the step of investing in a larger label printer.
The printer uses four individual ink cartridges to print durable color labels, which can be swapped out anytime once any color runs out. It also has a built-in cutter which can be programmed to cut labels off the printer as they are produced.
The Premium Pick – Epson TM-C7500 – ColorWorks 7500
The TM-C7500 works best with matte based labels to create smudge-free labels that won’t fade and can be applied immediately. It is great for industrial uses that need to be used for immediate application.
The TM-C7500G version works best with glossy based labels to create shiny attractive color labels. This version of the printer makes the labels stand out and make the colors more vibrant.
The ColorWorks 7500 is also compatible to print GHS BS5609 compliant labels.
The ColorWorks 7500 prints at a blazing 10.4 inches per minute with a 1200 dpi making it one of the fastest label printers on the market without compromising quality. It prints labels up to a maximum of 4.25 inches wide and uses label rolls with a 3-inch core and 8-inch diameter.
Like the Afinia L501, the TM-C7500 uses individual ink cartridges so you can minimize any ink wastage. This is especially important if your label is primarily the only color with high ink coverage.
This printer is ideal for printing 3,000 – 100,000 labels a month.
The Budget Pick – Primera LX500
The Primera LX500 is the most sold label printer on the market with a low price point. Most small businesses getting into label printing for their products usually start with this printer. Although the low price point of the LX500 makes it very attractive, the ink cost over the life of the print can add up significantly.
The LX500 uses a single tri-color ink cartridge that needs to be replaced as soon as any color runs out of ink. If your design is primarily one color, this can add up in costs as there will be a lot of ink wastage.
The LX500 is compatible with label rolls with a 2-inch core and 4-inch outer diameter. It prints a maximum of 4.25 inches wide.
The LX500 is best for printing 500 – 1,500 labels a month. Any more than that, you will start seeing the ink costs overrun the breakeven point with a higher model printer.
Printers that didn’t make the cut
The newest printer in the Afinia family is the L501, released in April 2018. It has duo ink technology that allows it to print in both pigment-based ink or dye-based ink. The flexibility allows you to choose between two different ink types for the type of label you are printing on. Pigment-based inks are great for printing durable, abrasion-resistant and UV resistant labels, while dye-based inks are for vibrant colors and eye-catching designs. The Afinia L501 is the perfect small business label printer for mid-volume printing.
The L501 prints at a 2400 x 1200 dpi resolution and prints up to 8.5 inches in length. The printer takes 3” Core Label Rolls with an outer diameter of 8 inches. The Afina L501 uses separate CMYK ink cartridges instead of a tri-color cartridge. This means that once a color runs out of ink, you can replace only that color instead of a single cartridge.
If you plan to produce 2,500 – 15,000 labels a month, this printer is perfect for your use case.
The L301 is Afinia’s entry-level printer marketed towards small businesses. It’s ideal for short-runs and low volume printing. Similar to the LX500, the Afinia L301 uses a single tri-color ink cartridge.
The one thing our team did not like about this printer was the painfully slow print speed. It prints at about 1.8 inches per second. This printer won’t do a very good job at printing high volume labels.
The Afinia L301 prints up to 6 inches wide and is compatible with label rolls with a 3-inch core and a 6-inch outer diameter.
The L301 is best for printing up to 2,500 labels a month. Printing more than that doesn’t make it economical because of the additional ink costs
Choosing a color label printer for your business can be a big investment. It’s important to understand the total cost of ownership from printer, ink and label costs. It’s very easy to purchase the lowest-priced printer and call it a day, but you will soon find out that the ink cost will add up astronomically.
When you choose your label printer, determine the number of labels you plan to produce monthly and work backward from there. You may find the initial investment of a premium color label printer may save you time and money in the long run.