When printing white on back labels (i.e. black label background with white lettering, images, and barcodes), there are three general approaches or methods available. Of the three, the most efficient is to create the label design as normal (black on white) and then use the printer driver to reverse all the images. This article explains why this is a preferred approach and how it is used.

Why Use the Printer Driver?

Using the printer driver to reverse the label images has many benefits over the other approaches:

  • Lower cost of label and ribbon stock – unlike the 'Use Black Stock' approach, converting your label using the printer driver allows you to keep using the standard white label stock and black ribbon used almost universally with thermal printers.  The cost of the standard white label stock and black ribbon is generally less.  You also avoid the holding costs of keeping the extra consumables. Although more of the ribbon ink is used, the AMOUNT of ribbon used is actually the same since the ribbon is used as the label stock travels over the print head regardless of how much ink is transferred to the label.
  • Faster label development – using the other two methods, the design user needs to anticipate the problems associated with creating a label design in software developed primarily for black on white printing.  If using black label stock, the design user needs to imagine how the entire label design will look inverted since black text will be white and the white background will be black. If the design user creates the label inverted from the ground up (i.e. they set the background to black, character font color to white, etc.), thinking 'in reverse' is a bit easier since many errors in reversing will be obvious on the screen before printing. However, consideration of issues such properly formatting the barcode still require some careful thinking and planning. The additional complexity requires not only more thinking, but also more testing and troubleshooting to ensure the label design renders correctly with a readable barcode.
  • Fewer errors – additional complexity for the label design user also leads to greater opportunity for error.  Printing inverted barcode is particularly complex.  Rules about maintaining line and space widths, using a black quiet zone, and checking human readable fonts can lead to an unreadable barcode. Other mistakes such as forgetting to change the font color from black to white may lead to 'hidden' text fields that may not be noticed until well after labels have been printed and applied.

Setting Up the Print Driver Correctly

Using the print driver to invert the label design is easy in most cases. Labeling software will either use the Windows print drivers provided by the manufacturer or, in some cases, specially designed print drivers created by the label design software developers. In both cases, there is often a check box somewhere in the settings to use this feature.

Once checked, the printer driver takes care of all the complexity and problems associated with reversing the colors. This typically includes the more troublesome aspects of reversing colors on the label including label graphic images and rendering barcode. Neither the design user nor the print user need to worry about, or even understand, these concepts.

Make sure to save the printer driver setting from within the label, and save the label design immediately after activating the setting . Your industrial design software should be able save this setting preference PER LABEL. In other words, the setting is embedded in the label design so the print user does not need to change the printer driver setting when switching between labels that use and do not use the reverse feature. The setting will change automatically based on how it was last saved with the particular label design.


Using the printer driver to create reverse or inverted labels offers many advantages over other approaches. Once you settle on the best method for your organization, it is recommended you stick to it and use it consistently for white on black labels.

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Printing Black Labels (with White Lettering) Efficiently

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EBI Online Knowledge Base Article: Printing Labels in Reverse, Negative, or White on Black – Reference Article

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