The best label maker

Allen Foster

There are many who believe that organization is the key to a happier, healthier life. One of the easiest ways to keep track of your stuff is to label it. A label maker allows you to organize your belongings so they're on hand and ready to go when you are.

The best label makers are easy to use and offer a variety of labeling options so you can organize in a way that makes sense to you. Our favorite is DYMO's LabelManager 160, an affordable, handheld machine.

Considerations when choosing label makers


The best label maker is able to print not only a wide variety of fonts and text styles, but also symbols and graphics, which can make your labels more easily identifiable. You can benefit from a device that supports several label types, sizes, and colors, so you can create eye-catching labels that stay on in all conditions. A machine that can connect to a computer gives you a nearly unlimited power of design.

Ease of operation

As a user, it doesn't do you any good to have a massive amount of design options at your fingertips if it's overly complicated to access them. A QWERTY keyboard with larger keys is the best type for the average user. Having a display screen that is easy to see, has one-touch functions, and a memory that allows you to quickly call up your most-used labels can be time-saving. Having long-lasting rechargeable batteries lets you go completely mobile, allowing you to create labels anywhere.

Ink type

Although there are some label makers that still use the embossing method you might recall from childhood and others use ink cartridges like your printer does, the way to go is thermal printing. Thermal printing requires no ink or toner cartridge and the ink can be a variety of colors. The three main types are wax, resin, or a combination of both.

Wax: Wax ribbons are durable, but the printed labels only last as long as they stay dry. These are not suitable for labels, which may be subjected to the elements. Other substances, like the oil in your fingers, may also cause these labels to smudge.

Resin: On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can find resin ribbons. These ribbons hold up under all weather conditions. They do not easily fade in direct sunlight, are scratch-resistant, and may even be resistant to some chemicals.

Combination: In the middle is a combination of wax and resin. These ribbons offer higher detail than wax only. They are more durable, but do not last as long as resin-only ribbons.

Label maker prices

For around $20, you can get an old-school embossing label maker. Moving up to $35, you find very basic digital machines that may not be versatile enough for your needs. In the $35 to $75 range is where you can most likely find a suitable label maker. Above $75 are more durable models that are designed for more extreme conditions, such as fluctuating temperatures.


Q. Do I really need all the bells and whistles that higher-end label makers offer?

A. Only you can answer that question. Higher-end models are designed to make life easier for you, but something like an automatic label cutter might not be a feature you use enough for it to be valuable. Be prudent -- think about your needs and purchase a label maker that is best suited to meet them.

Q. Are there any hidden costs when it comes to purchasing a label maker?

A. The two ongoing costs -- though not necessarily "hidden" -- are purchasing batteries if you don't have a rechargeable model and purchasing labels.

Label makers we recommend

Best of the best: DYMO LabelManager 160

Our take: A compact and portable label maker that is manufactured to offer a wide range of flexibility.

What we like: This intuitively designed model has a QWERTY keyboard and one-touch, fast-formatting keys so you can quickly create the exact labels you need. With over 200 symbols and clip art to choose from, you can easily add a little flair to your label designs.

What we dislike: Navigating to locate specific symbols and clip art can be a bit difficult.

Best bang for your buck: Brother P-Touch Label Maker

Our take: A highly versatile and easy-to-use unit that offers a number of features you'd only expect to find on higher-priced models.

What we like: The large keyboard and full color display makes creating label designs effortless. For added versatility, the unit can plug into a PC. With over 50 printer tapes to choose from, there is a wide variety of color options available.

What we dislike: When printing labels, this machine has a tendency to waste precious tape, which can be a bit frustrating and costly over time.

Choice 3: Brady BMP21-PLUS Handheld Label Printer With Rubber Bumpers

Our take: A rugged label maker that is designed to be able to withstand the more extreme conditions that may be found in a construction environment.

What we like: This durable label maker has protective rubber bumpers that allow you to toss it in your toolbox and bring it with you to the job site. This model accepts a variety of labels ranging from outdoor vinyl to heat-shrink wire sleeves.

What we dislike: The layout of the keys can take a little time to get used to as the unit does not feature a QWERTY keyboard.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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