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March 19, 2012

How to Choose a Label Maker

Poke around simplify 101 just a tiny bit, and you’ll quickly pick up on the fact that I’m a huge fan of labels. I even have labels in my fridge. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but it does make me happy and helps keep my refrigerator organized. 


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Before I had a label maker (years ago, as you can imagine) I wondered if it was really worth the investment. The label maker itself doesn’t have to break the bank, but the cost of label tape can add up quickly. I can tell you this—for me, the finished look a label maker label gives a space is well worth the investment. It gives your space a polished feel, which gives you an extra bit of motivation to keep your space organized going forward.


I’m often asked in my online workshops for my opinions on label makers. Which ones are the best? Which ones are most worth the investment? While I haven’t tried every label maker on the market, I have been using two models for years. The first is the DYMO Letra Tag 2000. This is an older model (they have newer ones on the market right now) but I like it. I have two of these—one I keep in my organizer bag that I take to clients and the other one is just inches away from where I sit at my desk so I can easily label file folders anytime I need one. 



This label maker has just one font (it looks like Arial) but you can print in a few different sizes. This means you can print small labels for binder tabs, and larger, bolder labels for storage bins or your refrigerator doors and shelves. The label tape is relatively inexpensive and available at office supply stores, Target and Wal-Mart. You can often find these label makers on sale during (or right after) back-to-school time. I love the portability of this labeler. It is small, lightweight and easy to use. 


My other labeler is a Brother P-touch PT-1230PC. This cute, little labeler plugs right into the USB port in your computer and instantly a screen pops up where you can type in your labels. It’s that simple. You plug it in. You type. You click print. And out comes your label! This labeler allows you to use any font on your computer to make your labels—which is super fun. And you can also add small graphics, wing dings or swirls, if that makes you happy. (Which if it does, believe me, I get it. I have labels in my fridge, remember?) One downside is that this labeler leaves a long trail of blank label tape before and after each label (which can make you a bit nutty), but you can solve that by printing several labels back to back, and then use scissors to separate them and save label tape. 



So, the Brother labeler offers more font and design options, but the DYMO is more portable and uses less expensive label tape. I love them both, and use them for different things. I use the Brother for labels I will see a lot (like the ones in my fridge) and where I want to use fun fonts. For file folders and client projects, I use the DYMO due to its portability and the affordability of the label tape.


There are many good label makers on the market today. Simply choose one that offers the functions you care most about at a price point that fits your budget. 


I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you use a labeler or are you on the fence about getting one? And tell me about your refrigerator—labels or no labels? I’m dying to know. Thanks for sharing!



P.S. Quick + Simple Clutter Control begins tomorrow! Learn more today. :)


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Some people don't have a label maker?? Wow. lol. I have one and LOVE it. I label a lot of things but I haven't done the fridge yet (but you have made me think...maybe the butter would go back to its spot if I did!).


Thank you! This was very helpful!

Teresa K

I have the DYMO, also an older version. Love it. I use it all the time. I've had it for years. Highly recommend.


I have an older DYMO that I've used for years and I love it. When I moved into my house I even labeled my light switches! (there were groups of 5 switches at a time!)

Marcie Lovett

When clients say that want to buy a label maker, I recommend the least expensive P-touch, which you can use with M tapes (less expensive than TZ tapes). Nobody really needs all the different fonts and doo-dads that make the other models more expensive. The whole idea is to just get that label on so you can identify what it is. On sale, you can get one for less than $20, sometimes a lot less.

Kimberley Morris

Lol, there are no labels in my fridge. My family thinks my labeling is "adorable" but it's like labels are invisible to them after they see them once. You might get a kick out of this, dad was a labeling freak (must have been where I got it) and he put labels on everything, including all his light switches. He even put a label on his computer monitor with its exact latitude and longitude. I guess that was his equivalent of the mall directory's "You are Here" sticker. ;-)


thanks for your comments everyone!

@Marcie - great to know about the lower price point label tape for the Brother.

@Kimberly, I think I got my love of labeling from my Dad, too. He had one of those old label makers with the wheel that would punch emboss the letter and the colored tape would turn white. Fun memory. :)

~ Aby

Theresa Finnigin

Great explanation. I too use the DYMO LetraTag. It's affordable and very user-friendly. When I teach organizing workshops I always recommend it when asked. Great blog!


GREAT POST! I have the LetraTag but was wondering about getting one so that I can have more font choices--SO important to those of us who LOVE design. I also have 2 of the old embosser types too (love the vintage look for some things!) I wonder if that Brother works with an iMac?


I'm pro-"labels in the fridge". If it makes your life happier, go for it! I want to copy you. :) I'm definitely on the fence about getting a labeler. Can't think of any really good objections, and I can think of a lot of positive uses.


I prefer the "desktop" to "handheld" models because the layout QWERTY and much faster for a touch-typer like me!


@kybarb, the Brother model that I have is for the PC only. I'm not sure if Brother makes one that is compatible with a Mac. ~ Aby

Kelly Simon

Aby, I just received in the mail the P-touch labeler that you like. I have played with a few fonts but am finding that some fonts don't work as well on labels as they do on other things.

Can you suggest a few of your favorite fonts for using with labeling?

Thanks! Love your posts.


The one I use the most is CK journaling. You have to make it pretty big, but it's a cute handwriting font. :)


Thanks for the tips! I've been planning to buy a label maker and wondered which one was best to get. Very helpful comments from everyone else too... thanks!

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Thanks for this useful information. I want to add some tips for readers. Smaller label makers may have limited features, but they are also easier to carry. Larger units have more features but may be less portable.

Compare power sources. Many label makers are battery-operated, though some may be more efficient than others. If you plan to use your label maker fairly often, look for units with rechargeable battery packs or optional power cords.

Keep refill cartridges in mind. Each type of label maker may require a different brand of refill cartridge of labels or ink. A thermal label printer won't require printer ink, but you will need thermal paper labels to print with. Also, some printers may only accept a specific label size.

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