Printing tips: Learn how to print labels, envelopes, and more

Do you tear your hair out when trying to print labels, greeting cards, or anything more complicated than a standard letter sized document? If so, you’re not alone. For many people, printing odd-sized or specialty items is difficult.

That’s because it’s so easy to make a mistake. Feed envelopes into a printer in the wrong direction and they’ll come out printed upside down or sideways. Fail to enter the correct brand, size, and product number of your labels and you can waste a whole expensive sheet of them. And just try to print a homemade, multi-sided, folded greeting card correctly the first time. It’s not simple!

Here are some tips to help you and a few links to more information.

Labels and envelopes

To print envelopes and labels, you should use software with features that make it easier to fill them out and print them. Many word processing, desktop publishing, and design programs contain templates for printing on a wide variety of envelope and label sizes.

Some programs allow you to print a single envelope or an individual label, while others help you create mass mailings with features such as default return addresses and customized shipping labels. You might be able to choose font types or sizes, add images, or customize your layout. Make sure you know the size of the envelope or label you are printing on, because all programs will require this information.

Some programs have options for entering the product number for labels from various companies, in place of the label size. This takes the guesswork out of printing and makes it easier for you to print labels correctly.

After you fill in an envelope or label template with your text, the next step is to figure out what direction to feed the blank envelopes or label sheets into your printer. Should you feed them face up or down, and which direction should you rotate them?

Fortunately, many programs help you figure this out, including Microsoft Office Word and Microsoft Office Publisher. Some label makers also provide their own software for printing labels. Check the word processing or desktop publishing program you use to see if it supports label or envelope printing. Before printing on a label sheet or envelope, print a sample on plain paper, and examine all print options the program gives you.

For information about printing envelopes and labels in Microsoft Word, go to Create individual envelopes and labels. For information about printing envelopes and labels in Microsoft Office Publisher, go to Tips for printing your publication.

Picture of Envelopes and Labels screen in Microsoft Word
Some programs contain features, such as this one in Microsoft Word, to help you print envelopes and labels

Here are some additional tips:

  • When printing envelopes, you’ll first need to figure out what direction to feed them into your printer. Check the print options in the program you are printing from or check your printer driver software. You might have to try inserting a few envelopes in different directions until you get them to print correctly.

  • Buy high-quality envelopes with a sharp crease. Do not try to feed envelopes with a clasp through your printer.

  • If you are printing a lot of envelopes at once, stack them loosely. If they are stacked too tight, your printer might jam.

  • Buy envelopes and labels that match the type of printer you have. Some print best with inkjet printers while others are designed for laser printers.

  • Practice printing labels on a plain sheet of paper before you print on an actual label sheet. This can save you lot of time, money and frustration. After you print a test sheet, place it on top of a blank label sheet and hold them up to a bright light to see if the text aligns to the labels.

  • Don’t print address labels that the post office will have trouble reading. Use a large enough font and don’t print addresses on a dark or colorful background image.

Greeting cards

Greeting cards are some of the most difficult items to print. They can be top-folded or side-folded, quarter-page or half-page. Many people prefer to print them on specialty paper, such as thick cardstock or photo paper. A typical card has text or images on four “pages,” all of which have to be positioned correctly so that when you fold the paper every page ends up in proper order and facing up.

After you design your card, you’ll have to figure out how to feed the paper into your printer so it correctly prints each side of the card. If your printer prints on only one side at a time, you’ll have to print the first side, turn the paper over, insert it again, and print the other side of your card. If you turn the paper the wrong way, part of the card will be upside down.

Most people make greetings cards with special software designed for creating them, or with desktop publishing software that includes greeting card templates. Fortunately, such programs usually help you print the cards you create. Most ask you how your printer feeds paper (from a slot on top, for example, or a tray in front.) Some programs even come with a step-by-step guide for making a test print. After you select from a list of options showing how the test images printed, the software shows you which way to feed paper.

Even with software to help you print, it can be time-consuming and frustrating trying to get a multi-sided greeting card to print correctly. Be prepared to waste some paper and ink until you get it right.

Picture of print options screen
Many programs with templates for creating greeting cards also help you print them

Here is a website with more information about how to print greeting cards:

Business cards and brochures

Tips for printing business cards and brochures are similar to advice for printing envelopes and labels:

  • Print on high-quality paper. Look for “clean-edge” business cards on thick card stock rather than cards you tear apart on perforated edges.

  • Check to see if the program or printer driver you are using has options for printing business cards and brochures.

Business cards and brochures are unique in one respect: Most people who create them plan to give them to customers or prospective customers, so quality is extra important.

You might decide to have your cards professionally printed rather than print them yourself—no matter how nice a printer you have. You can still design the cards yourself on your computer, if you prefer. Many printing companies have websites that allow you to upload your files for printing.

Photos

With the explosion of inexpensive, high-quality digital cameras and inkjet printers, millions of people now print their own photos at home. Millions more prefer to send their digital photos to a professional printing service, even if they have a good inkjet printer. There are many websites where you can upload photos to be printed. Another option is to take your camera or memory cards into a store to have your photos printed on the spot.

Whichever route you choose depends, in part, on how picky you are about print quality and whether you enjoy printing pictures yourself. One common problem with printing your own photos is that the colors you see on your display might not match the colors that come out of your printer. Each scanner, monitor, and printer has a particular range of colors it is capable of producing. It can be difficult to get colors to match between devices.

The first step is usually to get your monitor to display accurate color. The next challenge is to get your printer output to match what you see on your monitor. For tips on how to do this, go to Print a picture and Color management settings: frequently asked questions.

Here are some websites that can help you learn how to print photos:

Take advantage of the many sites available to help you find the best ways to print, and use software to make the printing process as simple as possible. With a bit of planning and patience, you can print lots of different things—from photos to envelopes to labels and more.