Printing Labels on CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray Discs

How and why to print labels on your optical media

CD labeling with Canon's Pixma Pro-1
Out of all the consumer-grade CD labeling options, using a printer designed to print labels is the most reliable. Canon

Over the past couple of years, most of the major printer makers, i.e. Brother, Canon, HP, and Epson, have added CD labelling hardware and software to each company’s higher-end printers. Several of Canon’s top-drawer consumer-grade photo printers, such as the Pixma MG7520 All-in-One and even the company’s ultra-high-end Pixma Pro-100 professional photo printer, for example, support CD labelling via a small tray that you load through a slot just above the output tray, as shown in the image above.

Nowadays, this CD caddy loading discs one at a time for printing is the most common method for printing CDs on an inkjet printer. But, as you’ll see as you read on, there are other methods, too. However, so far the stationary caddy method is, in my opinion, by far superior for printing one-up CD labels. Here, we’ll take a brief look at it and another method designed for users of printers that don’t have a CD disc labeler built-in.

Method 1: the disc caddy

Each of the printers mentioned so far, as well as Epson’s Expression Photo XP-860 Small-in-One Printer and several Brother models (each company typically hawks several models that support disc printing these days) provide a plastic caddy about half the width of the paper path. This method uses a preconditioned disc with a paper-like coating on the non-recordable side of the disc. In addition to the caddy, the printer maker also usually bundles disc layout software that definitely makes creating attractive designs and positioning them on the discs easier.

Depending on the printer you buy (more specifically, what company makes it), the disc layout software is usually not only very simple to use, but also fairly robust. In addition, with a little care, it’s easy to create decent-looking labels.

In addition to helping you design and print labels on the CDs themselves, the CD labelling application usually also helps you design and print jewel case inserts, which are, of course, the paper inserts that slip in to the clear plastic covers (“jewel cases”) that close over the disc.

If, however, you create and print great-looking disc labels (and use choose the right jewel cases), you often don’t need the inserts—unless of course you have additional info want included on the insert, or perhaps you require additional labelling on the back of the case and the spine.

Method 2: disc labelling kits

I’ve seen some rather ridiculous approaches (and corresponding apparatus) to labelling optical discs over the years, but I can truthfully say that none of them have compared to using pre-labelled discs and the caddy described in the previous section. At one time that method, buying the printable discs, was costly, but competition has driven the cost down to as low as $18 per hundred. To use them, of course, you need a printer that can print on CDs. If your printer doesn’t support disc labelling, you’re certainly not out of luck.

Avery and other label form makers, for instance, sell blank CD labels that you print on just as you would any other sheet of paper, except that the only place that prints is the area inside the label. Like any other self-sticking labels of this size, though, the CD labels are a bit unruly; getting them positioned properly and avoiding wrinkles and air bubbles requires great care.

Then, too, there are CD labeling kits that contain devices for ensuring (or at least helping to ensure) that the label adheres to the disc’s surface evenly. These kits, I’ve found, often do make centering the label and successfully transferring it to the CD’s surface easier, but none of them have ever made the process foolproof, not for me anyway.

The end

If all of your optical discs hold is personal data, than perhaps you think that going to all this trouble to label them is superfluous. Perhaps. You have to label them somehow, and using printable disc makes the task much easier, and neater, especially if you’ll be sharing or providing data discs to potential clients or customers, you should choose the labelling method that would make you more likely to succeed.