These days, ease of use and convenience mean everything. If there’s a faster and easier way of doing something, you can bet that it will be just as easily adopted by everyone. For labels, hand writing all of your labels can be overly labor-intensive. And making and printing barcode labels isn’t exactly rocket science.
If you’re not sure where to begin, whether you’re a small product manufacturer or a store owner, look no further. Here’s a step-by-step guide to show you how to make and print barcode labels.
We’ll go over three ways to make barcode labels, the types of barcode labels, and cover barcode printers. Follow our advice, and you’ll be able to print barcodes in the best way to fit your business in no time. We recommend Lightspeed POS to streamline your barcode scanning and printing and help you manage and track your inventory.
Three Ways to Make a Barcode
The three main ways to make barcodes for your store are:
- Handheld barcode maker
- Barcode making website or software
- Point of sale/inventory management system like Lightspeed
No matter which one you choose, you can print different kinds of product labels, such as UPC labels, shelf labels, and grocery labels, with these three methods. Whichever option you choose, you’ll need to purchase a printer capable of printing barcodes on label stock.
1. Handheld Barcode Maker
Using a handheld barcode maker (like the Brady BMP21-PLUS) is the simplest way to create and print barcode labels. If you don’t sell a lot of products at your store, or if you manufacture fewer than 10 items, this method may be for you. As you have to manually input the barcode numbers, a handheld barcode maker may not be the best option for folks with larger inventories.
Using a handheld barcode maker is pretty straightforward. You type the label information into the device, connect a printer, and then print. These devices can store up to 12 different labels and depending on the brand, they can print standard barcodes of different, less frequently used kinds of labels.
Handheld barcode printers can cost between $95 and $300, depending on how many labels they can store. When it comes to barcode label makers, these run on the cheaper side, and can be cost effective as long as your business isn’t very large. But as you have to manually enter the label information, you may find the process time-consuming if you sell a lot of products. But fear not, larger businesses – there are label makers meant for you.
2. UPC generator/label websites
This method is most commonly used among product manufacturers. UPC barcodes are required for products made for resale. Websites like onelinelabels.com sell all types of labels and they specialize in printing product code labels in bulk.
If you have a large inventory or find yourself selling lots of product, printing labels in bulk through a label website can save you money. And it’s just as simple as using a handheld label maker.
All you need to do is visit a website like onlinelabels.com and enter your information, such as barcode type, data, and size. Then they print the labels for you and send them in the mail. Additionally, they’ll send a file containing all your barcode labels for future printing purposes. You could use the same website to print them again, or use your own printer afterwards.
As with anything you can buy in bulk, the more labels you purchase, the lower the price per label. For example, on onlinelabels.com, 700 labels costs $20, and 7,000 labels cost $135.00 – making it $0.03 versus $0.02 per label, respectively.
These websites don’t just print UPC labels, however. They can print other label types such as EAN, Codabar, and PostNet labels. Whatever your needs, you’ll be able to find the service out there for you.
We recommend onlinelabels.com for your label needs. You can find labels by shape, size, type, and material. You can also find different design templates and even customize your own. And what’s more, onlinelabels.com offers it all at a reasonable price.
3. Point of Sale/Inventory management system
Finally, you have the POS software. Programs such as Lightspeed and Square come with built-in barcode and label printing capabilities. If you sell 100 items or more with regular volume, this is probably the best option for you.
You have no limit to the number of printable label types and you won’t have to waste time running to your back office to print new labels. You can also even print labels right on the sales floor. You’ll easily be able to look up product information and printing new labels is as easy as hitting a button.
Lightspeed stands out amongst the crowd of POS systems for its ease of use and comprehensive inventory functionality. With Lightspeed, you’ll be able to transfer merchandise between locations and have full visibility of all of your inventory.
POS systems are not the cheapest, however. Lightspeed costs $99 per month for one user. Then you have the additional hardware costs of label printers, cash register displays, and credit card readers. While Square is free to use, you will pay 2.75% and 15 cents for every transaction. This system also has some additional hardware costs.
Sometimes preprinting labels from a website can become a hassle, as you might need to change pricing information or other label details even after you’ve put in the order. But POS systems such as Lightspeed and Square allow you to create, print and change product labels on the spot.
Types of Barcode Labels
The types of barcode labels you need to use will change depending on the type of business you own. Manufacturers will need different types of labels than grocery store or boutique owners. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but covers the most common types of labels you’ll find out there.
Standard Shelf labels
These labels are used mainly for non-grocery items. They contain all the standard item information such as product name and weight, and pricing details. As for the label itself, it comes blank, so you can print the information on it with your printer. A roll of 225 standard shelf labels costs $35 at onlinelabels.com.
Grocery labels, AKA unit of measure labels
These labels look a lot like standard shelf labels, but they provide a bit more detailed information about the unit of measure. In the case of groceries, customers must be able to see how much they are paying per pound, for example.
The exact unit of measure, however, can be tweaked, and you can control what units are printed on the label. These labels also cost $35 for a roll of 225 at onlinelabels.com.
Inventory Count labels
Shop owners and manufacturers alike use inventory count labels, and they’re straightforward to use. These labels are often used when taking stock of inventory. While counting items in the stockroom or on shelves, you print out the labels, count the item, then record the information before sticking them on the box or shelf space.
These labels also help you keep track of where you’ve counted inventory. They cost the same per roll at onlinelabels.com as the other labels in this list.
If you find yourself needing to print a lot of labels, having your own printer will turn out to be a good investment. You can use one of two main types of printers: laser printer or a portable label printer.
Both these types produce sleek, clean labels that give your stockroom and sales floor an organized, professional look that’s pleasing to customers when they walk in the door. But which type is better for you?
Laser printers, such as the HP LaserJet Pro M125nw, come at affordable prices, costing around $80 on Amazon or local retail stores. You can also find multi-function printers to help fulfill your other business needs, such as ones equipped with scanners and copy capabilities.
But these printers aren’t at all portable whatsoever, so you’d most likely have to rush back and forth to your office to print out any new labels. That can be a bit inconvenient if you need new labels fast.
Portable Label Printers
If you need to print new labels on the spot, you can bring your portable printer right to the sales floor with you. The printer connects to a laser scanner, which is sold separately, or a mobile application that connects to your POS system if you have one. Then you scan the item or case on the shelf, check if the info is correct, then you can go ahead and print a new shelf label right then and there.
You can find printers like the Zebra QL-320 for $500-$900 new and for a little over half the cost used on Amazon.com. If you can afford the fairly hefty upfront cost, you shouldn’t have any problems using a portable printer.
Loading labels in your label printer
Once you have your printer, you’ll need to load your labels in it. For laser printers, it’s as easy as loading your regular letter-size paper in the printer. For a label printer specifically, the method is a little bit different.
These instructions are for the Zebra model QL-320, but most portable printers work the same way.
To load your portable label printer, follow these steps:
- Find the colored lever or push button. For the Zebra, this lever is colored yellow.
- Open the label compartment by pulling down the lever or pushing the button.
- Slide the label holders apart with your fingers.
- Insert your labels and let the levers go. They should fit into the ends of your roll.
- Feed your labels through the metal guide in front.
- Close the printer. You should hear it click shut. Then you can go ahead and start printing labels!
There are lots of different brands out there as far as portable label printers go, but we recommend Zebra’s QL-320 printer. The company specializes in portable printing, and is one of the largest such companies in the world. They offer other technology solutions for businesses of all sizes, including inventory management, point of sale, and pricing strategy services.
As for the QL-320 itself, the price tag is pretty middle of the road as far as portable printers go. It does the job it’s designed to do perfectly well, with high reliability and ease of use. All it takes is those six steps above, and you’ve got your printer up and running.
Making and Printing Barcode Labels: Our Final Take
There’s no one single way to print labels for your products and store shelves. For small businesses selling few products, a handheld label maker will work just fine. They can cost less than $100, and you don’t need any other kind of software to help create your labels.
Manufacturers may want to use an online label website to produce their barcodes. With these websites, you can print in bulk and save money in the long term.
But if you own a store that sells hundreds of items, a printer with a POS/inventory management system may be the method for you. It comes at a steep up-front cost, around $1,2000, but the investment will pay for itself in no time. The multifunctionality of a POS system such as Lightspeed also makes it easier for you to manage your sales and inventory, in addition to printing labels.
Now that you have all the essential information about making and printing barcode labels, you can go ahead and choose the options that are right for your business. With printed barcode labels, you’ll find managing and possibly even selling your inventory a lot easier.