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Preprinted labels vs. custom on-demand printing: your guide to choosing the right option

When it comes to safety, facility, product and wire labeling, you generally have two options: preprinted labels or custom on-demand printing. Preprinted labels are printed in advance with pre-determined information. They are typically printed off-site, and then shipped to your facility, where they are stored until needed. On the other hand, custom on-demand printing allows you to print labels as needed, with the ability to customize the design and information on each label. Preprinting can be cost-effective for large runs, while custom printing on-demand offers more flexibility and customization options, increasing message specificity and impact while reducing waste and storage costs.

A man in a warehouse setting is creating heat shrink labels on Brady M611 label printer.

The pros and cons of preprint and custom on-demand printing

Each option offers a unique set of benefits and drawbacks. Preprinted labels are a cost-effective option for static large orders and provide identical, consistent messaging and graphics. However, they offer minimal flexibility and customization, require storage and inventory, and may result in waste if information changes. Custom print-on-demand, on the other hand, is highly flexible, customizable and ready to print. While it does have a higher cost per label for small runs and the potential for inconsistent branding/messaging for an unfamiliar user, it offers greater reward than its preprint counterpart.

Preprinted labels are consistent but inflexible

  • Cost-effective for large orders
  • Identical/consistent messaging and graphics
  • Ready to use once in stock
  • Order hassle and long lead times
  • Minimal flexibility and customization
  • Greater storage and inventory necessary
  • Risk of waste if information changes

Custom on-demand printing is highly flexible and wastes less

  • Highly flexible and customizable
  • Always on-site and ready to print
  • Ability to print variable information such as barcodes and photos
  • Eliminates the need to store large inventories of preprinted labels
  • Higher cost per label for small runs
  • Potential for inconsistent branding/messaging based on user

A custom on-demand printing solution is worth the investment

Custom on-demand printing offers significant advantages in terms of time, money and materials. By choosing a custom printing solution, you can save on all three, and these savings accumulate over time. Ultimately, custom on-demand printing is the superior choice, thanks to its ability to be:


Walk up and print labels right on the spot, without ordering and waiting for pre-printed materials to arrive. On-demand labeling is quick and easy


With easy-to-use printers and a variety of label materials at your fingertips, you can print what you need, when you need it, for nearly any application


Create labels with multiple languages, unique messaging and instructions your employees will understand. You can also add logos, symbols or other unique elements to make them specific to your workplace

Preprinted labels and signs

  1. Gather information
  2. Place order
  3. Wait
  4. Verify order accuracy
  5. Inventory and store product
  6. Re-order and wait

Custom on-demand printing

  1. Create
  2. Print
  3. Repeat
Half the steps, none of the wait

Built for every space: find the on-demand printer that's right for you

Brady offers a wide range of printers and labelers, each optimized for different jobs, spaces, portability and more. Find what’s right for you.

Three different Brady label printers showcasing safety labels in an office environment.

Brady Benchtop Label Printers

Brady Sign and Label Printers are ideal for all safety and facility identification needs, including pipe marking, lean/5S, hazcom and general identification.

Compare benchtop printers
A worker creates a wire and cable label on an app for a portable label printer in a server room setting.

Brady Portable Label Printers

Brady portable label makers and handheld label printers allow you to create custom safety messages, component ID and wire labels whenever and wherever you need them. They are lightweight and easy-to-use so they can be taken with you in the field, on the job site, or in your toolbox.

Compare portable printers
Two Brady inkjet label printers sit on a concrete floor in a warehouse setting.

Brady Inkjet Label Printers

When you need full-color labels that last, inkjet is your go-to. Different sized models offer you the label size and flexibility you need to handle full-color facility and lab identification.

Compare inkjet printers
A gray notice board filled with a variety of safety signage and label examples.

Complete Labeling Solutions

Explore our complete lineup of labeling options, ranging from durable preprinted labels to a wide range of materials specifically designed for use with Brady printers.

Shop Brady labels

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