Did you know that many images commonly used on labels are also available as fonts?
The most typical way of putting images into your label design is to save your image as a jpeg or png file so that it can be linked or embedded in your label design. However, many icons and images used across several different industries can be found as TrueType fonts. Many know about the copyright ©, trademark ™, and registered trademark ® symbols. There are many more. For example, did you know that common medical device label images are available in font form too? Using these fonts in your label design CAN have some significant benefits over images.
Manufacture date, lot code, 'do not reuse', and the sterile symbols are examples:
Why Use Fonts Instead of Images?
Using font images can be tricky to setup. But, once the setup is in place, printing labels with them can have the following advantages:
- No need to maintain image files
- Less distortion when image is enlarged or reduced
- Easier and faster for printer
- Smaller design file size
Benefits of Using Fonts
No Need to Maintain Image Files
Depending on the label software, some applications will allow you to embed a link to another image file (e.g. jpg, png, etc.) or embed the image itself. When linking to an image file, the biggest maintenance issue is making sure that the image can be reliably found by the label in the correct location. If the link is to a shared location on a network, care must be taken that:
- The image cannot be accidentally moved, deleted, or renamed
- The link to the image is provided in a way that allows users from different locations to use the same link
- There is no danger of a user not being able to access the linked location (permissions, bad network connection, etc.)
Some labeling applications allow the label design user to embed the image inside the label design. It becomes part of the label design file. No links to an outside file are needed. This eliminates a lot of the issues above. However, if that same image is used across many different label design files, the label design user must make sure all label design files use the exact same image. If the image changes in the future, then ALL label design files need to be changed.
Less Distortion When Image is Enlarged or Reduced
The picture below says it all. TrueType fonts scale very well. Images, however, can get easily distorted and/or pixelated.
Easier and Faster Printing
Using fonts instead of images will lead to faster printing. The size of the print file sent to the printer is generally smaller since the font image is often more compact. This is certainly true for bmp files but can also be true for compressed file types such as jpeg and png. The smaller the print file, theoretically, the faster it can be sent through the network. There should be some speed benefits at the printer as well. The smaller on-board processor and RAM memory on the printer should be able to handle the smaller files more quickly.
Smaller Design File Size
The amount of memory required to save the design file is dramatically less when using fonts instead of images. In a recent test, we found the images made by fonts took about 25% of the disk space to save than did the same images imbedded in the label. This generally means less time in loading and saving the file.
Setting It Up
Correct Fonts MUST Be Installed
The most critical thing to remember is to verify that each workstation printing a label with images as fonts MUST have the correct fonts installed on the PC. If printing through a server based application (e.g. SENTINEL by TEKLYNX or Integration Builder by BarTender), the server MUST also have the correct fonts installed.
Finding and Using the Correct Character/Image
When creating or updating a new label design, another challenge can be finding the correct character within the font-set to produce the image. The correct 'character' is typically considered an 'extended character'. In other words, the ASCII number assigned to that character/image is not typically assigned to a key on a standard keyboard. Therefore, you will either need to find it on another document to copy and paste or visually search the font-set to find the correct ASCII code needed to reproduce it in your label.
Peter Korprapun, EBI Support Coach, created a handy method of doing this using an Excel spreadsheet for our supported clients. An Efficient Business Integrators Online Knowledge Base article describes how to use the spreadsheet to search and then how to embed that character into your label design. Click here to see the article.
Using fonts instead of image files can be an effective and efficient way to insert commonly used images into your label design. There are limitations when using fonts (e.g. must be monochrome, only a few commonly used images are translated into fonts, etc.). You also need to make sure the fonts are installed on any device that is creating label print jobs. However, using extended character font images CAN be a way to make your label design more efficient.