We don’t know about you, but we’re guessing since you’re here that you’ve got a thing for organization. Label makers are one of the easiest ways to ensure that you’re able to keep everything nice and tidy, especially if you tend to have a lot of stuff around. Finding the best label maker, however, is something of a pain.
We discovered the moderately priced Brother P-touch, PTD210 was probably the best for most people. It readily produces fine labels which will stick to most surfaces and stay stuck. All of that together adds up to a great experience for those who like to keep things labeled well. There’s a ton of them out there though, and some of them are better for specialized purposes. Let’s take a look at five of our favorites and then we’ll look into what seperates a good label maker from the best ones.
For average home or small business use, it’s hard to find something better than the Brother PTD210. It’s one of the best around, as long as it’s limitations don’t bother you.
Top 5 Label Makers
|Name||Max Size||Compatible Label Tape||Price|
|Brother P-touch, PTD210||½”||Brother P-Touch||Check Price|
|Brother P-touch PTD600VP||1”||Brother P-Touch||Check Price|
|Epson LabelWorks LW-300||½”||Epson LabelWorks||Check Price|
|Brother P-Touch Cube Smartphone||½”||Brother P-Touch||Check Price|
|Brother P-touch PTH110||½”||Brother P-Touch||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Label Maker
Brother P-touch PTD210
Brother makes the best label makers around for generalized use, and their P-touch PTD210 is probably the best we’ve found for the average user. Combining great quality, an easy interface, and a variety of tapes it’s a great way to keep things organized around the home.
The interface of Brother machines is what makes them stand out. If you’re not connected to a computer then you’ll find that most other brands are a bit wonky to use until you get used to the interface and who wants to deal with that?
The keys press easily as well, which is something which we found to be integral if you’re the type who likes to pump out their labels quickly. Overall it’s quite a solid machine for home or small business use.
One thing to be aware of, however: it only feeds up to ½”, like most of our favorites. This means it may not be suitable for those who want particularly large labels. Like most Brother machines it also feeds quite a bit of tape out at the end, resulting in some waste, so make sure to plan accordingly if you don’t want to be constantly buying tape.
Pros and Cons
- Great, low price
- Simple to use interface
- Memory to hold up to 30 labels at a time
- Feeds a lot of excess tape in between labels
- Requires six AAA batteries
2. Best Label Maker for Businesses
Brother P-touch PTD600VP
When you need to get some serious labeling done, the PTD600VP is a great option. In addition to having the widest tape of all of our picks, at 1”, it can also attach to a computer in order to let you use it’s software to make sure that you get things exactly how you want them.
Unlike some of the other models we looked at, it functions great as a standalone label printer as well. You don’t need to attach it to a computer in order to use it. On top of that, it comes with a fantastic box to let you keep everything organized without having to leave it loose in a drawer.
It’s definitely the most expensive of our picks, but we feel that it truly is one of the best on the market and when you’re doing high volume printing or need to make labels which are visible from across a larger room the little differences will make up for it quickly.
It can be powered with an AC adaptor or batteries as well, making it a flexible option for those who don’t want to be tied to a computer.
While it’s a bit much for most home use, the P-touch PTD600VP is a great way to ensure that you can handle the labeling needs for your business with flair and ease.
Pros and Cons
- Prints labels up to one inch
- Attaches to a computer for software use
- Flexible powering options
- Can put multiple lines on a label
- Too big for handheld use
3. Best Label Maker for Arts and Crafts
Epson LabelWorks LW-300
This was our favorite of the Epson label makers, and the primary reason that we’re recommending it is the wide variety of different label tapes which Epson has available. There are ribbons in a wide variety of colors, and they’re great for those who are planning on using their label maker for scrapbooks and other artistic impressions.
This little machine actually has quite a few different features built into it, including a ton of fonts and symbols. Once you get used to the less intuitive interface it’s not too bad, but for expediency and simplicity it’s hard to beat Brother’s machines.
One nice thing about Epson’s machines is that they don’t leave as wide of a margin as you’ll find with Brother’s. We’re not sure how much money it saves at the end of the day, since Epson’s ribbons are more expensive as a general rule, but it’s nice to have the ribbon last for a longer period of time.
If arts and crafts are your thing, then you’ll want to check out this Epson label maker. For regular organizational use, however, we still recommend sticking with Brother’s machines for the most part.
Pros and Cons
- A ton of different ribbons available
- Lots of font and symbol options built-in
- Great “feel” for a cheap label maker
- Awesome low price
- A bit bulky overall
- Buttons are a bit stiff until broken in
4. Best Smart Label Maker
Brother P-Touch Cube Smartphone Label Maker
Not all of us have our computers around all the time, but most of us have a phone married to one of our pockets throughout the day. If you’re good with your phone, then this small label maker might be what you’ve been looking for.
Unlike most of our picks, which all have integrated keyboards, this one works solely off the software which is installed on your phone. We found the whole process to be quick and easy, allowing you to ensure that you can get done whatever you might need in short order.
It performs quite well, although the software doesn’t allow as much customization as we would like. You’re limited to only a couple of lines and some presets and you’re not going to be printing our emoki-laden labels or anything.
On the other hand, this is an excellent, portable label printer with a rechargeable battery and Bluetooth capabilities so there’s a lot to like here. It’s also smaller than virtually any other printer on the market.
Pros and Cons
- Bluetooth capabilities
- Rechargeable battery
- Easy-to-use software included
- Same high quality labels as other Brother products
- Not as customizable as we’d hoped
- Bluetooth must be resynced whenever the label maker is turned off and on
5. Best Handheld Label Maker
Brother P-touch PTH110
If you’re using your label maker for relatively light duty and want something which is small enough to easily fit in one hand then the PTH110 is a great option. For those who don’t need the portability, however, keep in mind it’s around the same cost as our favorite and has lesser capabilities.
This model is streamlined, with even simpler controls than the average Brother label printer and it works great for simple labels. The keys press easily and the interface is mostly the same as any other Brother maker.
The simplified controls don’t lend it well to more complex tasks, however. You’re not going to save any money going with this one so it really depends on how and where you’re planning on using your label maker in the end.
If you need a highly portable label maker then take a closer look at the PTH110, for around the house or office we still feel you should go with something a little bit bigger however.
Pros and Cons
- Lightweight for easy portability
- Comes with a few different fonts
- Easy to use interface
- 15 label memory
- Comparable cost to our favorite with less capabilities
- Still burns off excessive amount of tape with margins reduced
Who Needs a Label Maker?
One of our reviewers immediately noted that they use an industrial Sharpie to label things around the home and it’s served them well for years. It’s also a permanent solution, and many people want something which can be removed when the time comes.
The thing about label makers is that those who need them… well, need them. Most of you already know who you are, but we found that the usage for them varied quite a bit from person to person:
- Labeling the dates of preserves and other food items was a big one for many people, particularly if the stuff was home made. Those who keep a good amount of food on hand will appreciate being able to remove a label and replace it when they replace the food as well.
- Crafters also found them handy. While some are suitable for crafts, many more people simply used them to label opaque containers within their workshop to make things easier. We all know someone who has a dozen coffee cans filled with odds and ends, but this way the container can be easily reused once the materials inside are used up.
- People who like to keep things organized also preferred them. Once again, the reuse factor is huge for many people.
- Gardeners were a demographic that we really didn’t consider in the beginning, but many amateurs want to be able to identify their plants and labeling pots works much better than trying to keep track of rapidly degrading cardboard tabs that come with most of them.
- Labeling cables also comes to mind, since most of the tapes can be wrapped around a cord quite easily and allow you to ensure that you know which cord goes to which device in the horrendous ratking that seems to always end up living behind televisions and desktop computers.
- The uses in the kitchen, apart from dating, are pretty much endless. We never fail to be surprised at how innovative those who spend a great deal of time cooking get with their labeling schemes.
- Labeling shelves in linen cabinets and other places that tend to end up a mess is a good way to keep you from just stuffing whatever, wherever.
Truth is that most people will find a way to benefit from a good label maker. They’re handy to have around and you might be surprised at just how life altering a good one can be.
Types of Label Makers
We didn’t find that good electric label makers were prohibitively expensive for the most part. For that reason we recommend sticking with electronic models, particularly if you’re trying to make your life easier.
Manual models are cheap, but they take much longer to use and frequently just aren’t as handy as a good handheld electric model. We excluded them from our list entirely, feeling that the extra couple of dollars spent is worth much more than the hassle associated with the old-fashioned style.
These are usually called hand embossers and pretty much any individual one will do if that’s your plan since they’re such simple devices. They operate simply by “punching” a letter in the back of the tape, with the raised tape being white in color.
We also preferred those which operated as their own unit, rather than needing to be hooked up to a computer. There was one exception however: a label maker which can hook up to a phone with Bluetooth is a handy thing to have around for the tech-savvy.
These models can save on space, as well as being quite easy to operate for those who are stuck to their phone all day anyways.
For most people, a standalone electric model is the way to go however. They’re simple devices and with a good interface blow away most of the competition since you don’t have to mess around with any extraneous technology in order to get the most out of them.
What To Look for in Your Label Maker
There are always going to be some trade-offs with these devices, so you’ll want to spend some time figuring out what you’re primarily going to be using your labeler for before you make the final decision.
The interface of a label maker is a make-or-break feature.
The interfaces within a single brand tend to be remarkably similar between models, with only some small additions in between distinguishing them.
Brother did the best in this regard, with a QWERTY style keyboard that most of us are familiar with and an actual “Shift” key instead of simply a toggle for capital letters or non-capital letters which dominates the rest of them.
Epson comes in a close second, but the interface is much less intuitive than Brother’s and has a steeper learning curve which may turn some users off.
The others are fairly difficult to get the hang of, but if you’re willing to learn them and absolutely must have them they’re still viable options.
Most of the units we reviewed didn’t come with batteries, and some didn’t even come with an AC adaptor which can be an expensive accessory for something aftermarket.
All of the models we looked at were usable with fairly easy to find batteries, rather than the watch batteries and other specialized ones which sometimes dominate niche electronics.
Much to our displeasure, we found that most of the models which came with rechargeable batteries fell far short of our expectations in nearly every other regard. A bummer, to be sure, but they are out there if you really don’t want to be bothered with changing batteries once in awhile.
Label Types and Sizes
The types of labels out there are pretty simple: most are just thermoplastics which change color and print out. Brother was the best for basic labels, with easily removable labels that also managed to make it through the dishwasher and multiple uses without any serious issues.
Their iron-on options left a lot to be desired, however, coming off with just a couple of washes according to most of the people who used them.
In that case, Epson delivers the best option for crafters. Their iron-ons are quite good and they also have a variety of different ribbon and fabric types which can be fed through their machines.
The size of the labels can also be a pretty big concern: you may want to be able to read things from across the room after all. In that case, you may need to spend more to ensure that you can print out one inch labels rather than the half-inch which the majority of machines accept as their maximum size.
For general label use we found the Brother label makers to be the way to go, but for more specialized applications we recommend taking a look at Epson’s models.
The other big thing is the pricing of the label tape and the availability. We found that Brother cartridges were the easiest to buy in person, which means it’s easier to keep a stash on hand. Pretty much any office supply store will have them in all sizes.
Finally, you have to keep in mind where your labels are going to be placed. If they’re going to be in the sun or removed frequently we found that Brother labels tend to hold up better than their competition for the most part.
Being able to reuse your labels and have them stand up to various conditions is important, and there are several different grades of label available to make sure that you have what you need for each application, whether commercial, residential, or even industrial.
For commercial use, we took a look at the build-quality of different units. While it’s not as much of a concern if you’re keeping things on a table, when you’re bouncing around a workshop or kitchen with a labeler it should be able to take a drop or two.
All of the ones that we picked out were pretty solidly built. They probably won’t survive a spike to the floor, but for your average “oops” incident they’ll hold up quite well.
Of course none of them are indestructible, so your best bet is just to avoid dropping them in the first place.
Getting The Most Out of Your Label Tape
When we did some deeper research, and found that some types of label maker, Brother in particular, are prone to wasting a lot of tape.
At ~$19 a roll for the branded labeling tape that adds up in a hurry, since the waste usually seems to sit around ⅞”-1”.
The easiest way to keep your waste down is to make sure that you feed multiple labels consecutively instead of doing them one at a time, and don’t allow the machine to feed in between labels.
There are also a host of cheaper brands of tape which are compatible with the various types of label maker. We recommend going with those for most applications, although in harsh conditions you’ll most likely want to pick up the brand name stuff in the right grade for the additional difficulties.
Label makers may not be the first thing that most of us think of when we’re going for essential home organization, but they’re extremely handy to have around no matter what you’re doing. Remember that most of the cost comes from the tape you’ll be using in all but the lightest of usages, so it’s important to make sure you do your best to conserve the tape.
We still like the Brother P-touch, PTD210 for most people, finding it to be a solid machine for any kind of non-artistic labeling purpose while remaining cheap enough for the average person to barely notice the dent in their budget.
It’s time to get organized, so why not pick up the best label maker possible and make sure that you get there with ease?