If you’ve ever searched through a stack of boxes to get to the one at the bottom—only to find that it didn’t contain what you were looking for—you probably wished the boxes were labeled. But label makers are a great idea for more than just boxes; they’re indispensable for identifying each cord in the indistinguishable tangle behind your PC, for creating place cards for guests, or even for helping determine which family member owns a specific toothbrush or stapler.
With the addition of technology, today’s label makers have come a long way—they feature digital LED readouts, QWERTY keyboards, and even print emoticons, borders, and other symbols on self-stick labels. If you’re looking for the best label maker to help you get organized, check out these top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Brother P-touch PTH110 Portable Label Maker
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: DYMO LetraTag LT-100H Handheld Label Maker
- BEST TECH PICK: Brother P-Touch PC Connectable Label Maker
- MOST VERSATILE: Brother P-Touch Cube Plus PT-P710BT Label Maker
- BEST UPGRADE PICK: Brother P-touch PTD400VP Versatile Label Maker
- BEST CLASSIC PICK: DYMO Embossing Label Maker
- BEST FOR CRAFTERS: DYMO COLORPOP Color Label Maker
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Label Maker
You don’t need a home office to put a label maker to good use—these tag-making tools are a boon for organizing all sorts of around-the-house and in-the-workshop items. If you do have a home office, though, you may find a label maker indispensable for classifying files, documents, and other work-related items. That doesn’t mean this quick-print tool is right for everyone, however. If you rarely need printed labels, you might be better off buying a few sheets of self-stick labels to use with a regular word processing program and home printer to keep from adding yet another item to an already crowded desk. If you do decide to invest in a label maker, you’ll want to consider some of its key features, such as available fonts, keyboard layout, size, and whether or not the unit is portable.
Handheld units are relatively small—just a few inches in width and length—and small enough to stow easily in a purse or a large pocket, while desktop models take up more real estate; some of the larger ones are up to a foot wide and just as deep. If you’re looking for a desktop model but don’t have a lot of spare room, you can find a number of units around 6 inches wide and deep. In addition, some of today’s desktop label makers connect to a PC, and if desk space is severely limited, choose a wireless model that can be placed on a nearby shelf so it won’t crowd out other peripherals, such as a monitor or a keyboard.
Many label makers (both hand-held and desktop models) come with LED screens that range in size from 1/2-inch high and a couple of inches wide—just enough to enter a single line of text—to large-scale screens up to 2 inches high and 4 inches wide on models that feature large fonts and multi-line text. Manual label makers don’t have screens at all; instead, the user chooses numerals and letters by turning a wheel to select each letter in turn. The largest screens are not on the label makers but rather on PC monitors, if the label maker can connect to a computer or tablet. Designing labels on a full-size monitor screen is handy if you’re using a label maker that allows you to select from a wide variety of fonts and images. These “connected” label makers often have no additional screen on the unit itself.
Today’s label makers accept a wide range of batteries, including standard AA or AAA alkaline batteries, 9-volt batteries, and even rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Many come with the option of running the label maker on either batteries or a plug-in power cord. Some models come with internal batteries you charge by plugging the unit into a charger, while others accept batteries you remove from the unit and replace when needed.
Full QWERTY Keyboard
By the time kids reach middle school these days, they’re usually familiar with the standard QWERTY keyboard, which offers the same letter and numeral configuration found on computer and laptop keyboards. For many, this is the preferred layout because it’s the one they use daily for work and correspondence. Keep in mind that label maker keyboards are usually too small to use your fingers in the same way you do when you’re typing. So plan to use a single finger—or stylus—when keying in letters on a label maker, similar to how you enter text on a cellphone. In addition to the standard letters and numbers, label makers feature “function” keys to change fonts or add images and borders to their labels.
All label makers print a single line of text, but many print two lines, and a few print three or four lines. Multiple-line label makers usually accommodate wider labels, up to 2 inches wide. The user can often select to print multiple lines or opt to print a single line with a larger font, depending on the options that come with the unit.
Barcodes are used in retail sales to mark different products for quick identification by a barcode scanner. Not all label makers are capable of printing barcodes, but if you need to create this type of label, you’ll need to select a label maker that either comes with software that creates barcodes or uses a downloadable app that syncs with the label maker. Label makers with this function may not have the additional features found on standard label makers such as the ability to select fonts and include images.
Adjustable Tape Margins
A label’s margin relates to the amount of blank portion of the tape that appears before and after the printed text. Margin size selection is not available on all label makers, but when it is, the user may select from margins as wide as 1 inch on both the right and left sides to margins as narrow as 1/16 inch on both sides. For models without margin adjustments, you can always cut away excess tape with a pair of scissors.
If you’re a crafter, the ability to select from different fonts (typefaces) will allow you to customize your labels to suit various projects, such as scrapbooking or decorating your jars of homemade jellies and jams. Most label makers offer at least three or four font choices, but some offer as many as 20 or more, allowing you to choose from block-style, plain type, and even fancy script fonts. In addition to font type, many label makers offer additional font options, such as italic or bold.
Our Top Picks
To qualify as one of the recommendations for the best label maker, a tool must be easy to use, durable, and work with label tape that has real sticking power.
Users can take this handheld label maker wherever they need a little extra organization—into the office, up the stairs to the attic, in the car for work appointments, or to the garden or storage shed. The label maker brings the usual important features to each task, such as a QWERTY keyboard, five quick-function keys, and a choice of three fonts, 250 symbols, and 14 frames for creating a variety of custom labels. At 1 pound, it’s lightweight and is 8 by 4.3 by 2.2 inches.
The label maker accepts P-Touch tape (sample included) and runs on six AAA batteries, which are not included. An optional AC adapter is available separately so users can plug the label maker into a household electrical outlet. For home offices, hobby rooms, workshops, or on the go, a portable label maker can come in handy in more ways than one.
There’s no need to spend a fortune to get organized. The DYMO LetraTag LT-100H Handheld Label Maker offers five different fonts, seven print styles, a date stamp, and the ability to save nine labels in its memory for easy recall—all at an affordable price point. This handheld label maker prints on LetraTag LT tape, and it comes with a sample spool of white tape.
The DYMO label maker runs on four AA batteries (not included), and it turns off automatically when not in use to save battery life. Users can preview what their labels will look like before printing using the LED screen. The keyboard design lays the letters out in alphabetical order so even young children can find the right letter easily, and it features eight frames to give labels a custom look. At only 10.2 ounces, this handheld label maker’s dimensions are 3 by 3 by 9 inches.
Some people prefer to design labels on their PC and need look no further than the Brother P-Touch PC Connectable Label Maker (model PT-P700). It connects to a computer via USB to create intricate labels using stock photos and templates downloaded from the cloud. It weighs 1.56 pounds and its dimensions are 6 by 3.1 by 5.6 inches.
The connectable label maker is a great option for budding graphic artists and small business owners selling produce at farmers markets or artwork at hobby shows because it can create barcode labels. It accepts P-Touch tape (a sample spool is included) and works with the P-Touch Editor Label software app (a free download). The label maker is compatible with Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista, in addition to Mac v10.6x, 10.7x, and 10.8x. Users can take label making to a new level with this PC-connected wonder.
Connectivity reaches new heights with the Brother P-Touch Cube Plus Label Maker model PT-P710BT. Users can wirelessly download the software with a Bluetooth-compatible computer, smartphone, or tablet, then simply design the labels on their device and print them from the stylish P-Touch Cube. The software includes a wide variety of creative templates, fonts, symbols, and frames to create the ultimate in custom labels. It weighs 1.41 pounds and is 2.6 by 5 by 5 inches.
The Bluetooth label maker accepts P-Touch tape and comes with two sample tape spools. It’s compatible with Apple and Android mobile devices and desktop computers. Users can also connect the Cube directly via an included USB cord. The P-Touch Cube runs on a built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and it plugs into a household electrical outlet.
Designing labels with up to five lines of text—even creating barcodes—is easy with this label maker that features a QWERTY keyboard and large-character printing. For use with P-Touch tape, this label maker offers a diverse range of options, including 14 fonts, 10 print styles, more than 600 symbols, and 99 frames from which to choose. It also comes with five quick-function keys for easy label configuration. Its dimensions are 7 by 7.4 by 2.8 inches, and it weighs 1.6 pounds.
The unit features an LED display and an angled keyboard for comfortable typing. It runs on six AAA batteries or can plug into an outlet via an included AC adapter. The label maker can travel nearly anywhere in its included protective case that holds the label maker, extra spools of tape (sold separately), and the AC adapter.
Break free from outlets and never worry about battery life again with the DYMO Embossing Label Maker, which creates labels without the need for an outside source of energy. The DYMO is fully manual, making it a great choice for younger family members who want to label their possessions and other items. It is super lightweight (only 8.3 ounces) and features dimensions of 8.38 by 6.25 by 3.75 inches.
Simply turn the wheel on the label maker to the desired letter, number, or symbol that aligns with the arrow and squeeze the trigger to emboss the words right on the plastic DYMO tape. The classic model makes it easy to create a sharp cut line to give the label a uniform edge.
Crafters and hobbyists can choose from among 20 fonts and more than 150 symbols with the DYMO COLORPOP Label Maker. It features an LED screen and a QWERTY keyboard for easy letter and number keying. At 1.15 pounds, it’s lightweight, portable, and operates on six AAA batteries so users can take it along from room to room or attach it to an optional AC adapter (not included) and power it via a household outlet. The dimensions are 2.56 by 6.3 by 10.43 inches.
The label maker comes with a bright purple body and accepts DYMO COLORPOP label tape, which provides some creative color combinations, such as black-on-green-glitter and white-on-purple-glitter, sealing this label maker’s spot for crafters and hobbyists who want to create colorful labels.
FAQs About Label Makers
If you’ve just purchased a label maker and you’re ready to get organized, you probably have some questions.
Q. How does a label maker work?
Most label makers feature a small screen and a keyboard that allow you to key in lines of text, which are then printed on self-adhesive tape that comes with a peel-off backing.
Q. How do you laminate labels?
Applying a glossy clear label on top of a printed label from a label maker will keep it from smearing if you need to use it outdoors or in a workshop setting where it might get wet.
Q. What can you use a label maker for?
The most common use is for organizing items around the house and office, such as labeling boxes and bins as to their contents.