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Joined: Apr 2003
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I've been looking for a reasonably priced inkjet printer that will print on CDs and DVDs (just a printer, not a duplicator), primarily for demos and short-run DVDs. I bought an HP (don't remember what model number now) which, according to the box and the salesperson "prints on discs," but went right back to the store because it would only work with its own software, and would only print text in a text box which was superimposed over whatever I graphic wanted to put on there. In other words, I could put a graphic ("sure, you can put graphics!") BUT would have a whited-out text box that I could NOT get rid of stuck on top of the graphic. We tweaked and tried - the only way to print CDs was with their software, which had the text box. Nooooo.

I prepare the label graphic with the text in it (Photoshop) and want to export the entire thing to the disk label, done deal. No extra text needed because the title etc. is already in the graphic.

When I get into this discussion with salespeople, their first response is "oh, of course it can print graphics!" and then when I start asking more specific questions...they don't know.

So, I figured I'd ask the REAL experts: Ya'll! Any suggestions?

Many thanks!


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I think Epson made one a few years ago. You might Google CD/DVD Printers. They printed right onto the CD and had drawer that was only for CD/DVD'S

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Good timing...I'm just investigating replacing my old paper-label method to do direct-on-disc printing myself.

There are now several ways to go:

1. Lightscribe drives
2. traditional Inkjet
3. Thermal transfer

A lightscribe drive etches directly on the CD (you actually flip the CD over to "print") - no color, and graphics take a long time to "print", but nothing can smear and I've seem some very nice looking CDs etched using this method. External CD burners with Lightscribe features are just over $100 for most.

Inkjet - The most common one now is the Epson Stylus Photo R260, which is under $100 if you shop around. It does come with it's own CD design software, but from what I've seen, it's pretty versatile and doesn't limit you to only the built-in options for graphics. The downside to most inkjet printers is that the ink can smear from sweaty hands or rain or similar. Some of the newer (more expensive) inks are "smear-resistant". I don't know what the heck that means. The upside to inkjet is you can get gorgeous photo-quality graphics.

Thermal Transfer - these have traditionally been very expensive printers ($1000+), or cheaper barcode printers, but recently a batch of less expensive thermal printers have hit the market by companies like Casio, Teac, and U-Print. They use a thermal transfer ink ribbon, so are single-color only. You can usually buy different colored ribbons, though (black, blue, green, etc). These don't smear, but have that monochrome limitation. You'll have to check the manufacturer's web sites for product manuals to see what features the included software would have. There are several of these models well under $200 now.

All of these printers will work better on CD-Rs designed specifically for them. There are inkjet-printable CDRs, for instance. They will usually have a white or colored top. They aren't that much more expensive than the cheapest CDRs (which you shouldn't buy anyways), but they are a little more (50 cents each or so).

I haven't decided on inkjet or thermal transfer myself yet as I also need both PC and Mac compatibility.

It sounds like you're already sold on the inkjet. I know you can choose different backgrounds that get stretched if necessary to cover the whole CD for the Epson R260 using their software. I would bet that as long as you save the photoshop file in a readable format, probably jpg, you could import it into the software that comes with it and set it as the CD background. You can download PDF manuals from the Epson web site.

I hope this helps a little...

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Hi Brenda:

I have the Epson. Yes, you can import an image for the background and then put text over the top of it with just the text (not the box) showing. I have only tried it on the special CDs with white matte surfaces. They cost a little more but are not horrible. Comes with its own software but I have been able to do what I want with it pretty easily. All this just confirming what Larry said.

I have never gotten printed CDs wet so I don't know if they run. They are stable to handling by (dry) hands though.

I've been pretty pleased with it - having used it for 3 different CDs with runs of about 40 each. Yes, it cost about $100.

Only downside is that the ink is VERY expensive. Six or seven (forget which and I'm not home right now) cartridges that cost, as I recall, about 60 some bucks for the set. And it goes through the ink pretty quickly, depending on the background.

Can't help you with the other stuff. My computer has a lightscribe but I've never used it! Don't know what the state of the art is but mine is a couple years old and only does one color.


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Stay away from Epson. I've had nothing but problems with their products.

Also stay away from the systems that involve pressing a full sized label on the CD. They have been known to peel while in use, damaging the drive they were being played in.

Inkjets give good graphic printouts but the inks, even the smear resistant inks (usable only in the more expensive printers) still will eventually smear if they get wet. Inkjets are also expensive to feed. If used only occasionally, the heads have to be cleaned which uses large amounts of expensive ink. Large runs are more economical if farmed out. Inkjets would be best for frequent small runs.

HP recently came out with a monochromatic laser printer and CD that will print on the label side of of special CDs. I've had good luck with HP products so if you don't mind the color limitation, this might be a good route.


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Interesting, Jeannie:

I have printed out 4 different designs (forgot above that I did one for a friend) for a total of about 150 CDs without a single misfire. And that includes not only the CDs but also the jewel case inserts and lyrics booklets.

Might just be I'm lucky.....

And maybe show how luck might play into brand name loyalty more than anything else. I have frinds who swear by Ford but I'll never own another one - not after my new 86 Mustang started shedding its paint within a year of purchase. grin

Certainly agree with you on the stickers - they were the first thing I tried. Never had any tear but they made my CD's skip like an old 45....


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I do use the paper labels. I know Hewlett-Packard makes a print-direct-on-the-CD attachment, but I wasn't aware you had to use H-P's software. Doesn't surprise me, though. I have a friend who has one, but I haven't asked about using it yet.

I design my own labels, and accordingly am not interested in being stuck with someone else's hinky software. I could convert my file, when done, to a *.jpg image and dump it into another program, but there is often a loss in quality when I do that.

On printers: I have had Epsons. None of them ever seemed to last very long, and service and parts always seemed to be a problem. Patronizing H-P always felt like supporting the Evil Empire--and the smear problems with their inks are kinda legendary. Citizen (they're British) makes a printer that uses thermal ribbons, and it's quite good; I don't know if they make a CD printing attachment. Main problem I ran into with the Citizen is if one of the 4 thermal ribbons runs out, the other 3 won't work until you replace the one. And sometimes it takes a long time for the Royal Mail to deliver those replacement ribbons.

The Lexmarks that I bought myself and my daughter, on the other hand, are built like tanks. Current one I've had about 3 years; its predecessor I had for 7, and it was still working when I replaced it. I will accoridngly probably be stuck with paper labels for a while.

Oh, and it's the CD players with *side* insert slots (like the ones in cars) that have problems with paper labels. If you have a top loader (I finally got one for the car), your paper-label CD is likely to remainn functional for a very long time.

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I have the Epson too.
The ink replacement costs more that the printer.GRR!
There are six inks that cost $14.99-17.99 each.
Other than that the thing works well.
I buy my printable discs from discmakers and I have not had any trouble with them either.



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I wish Lexmark made an appropriate printer. I've have my little Z52 for about five years and it just keeps on printing.

I've never owned an Epson, so can't comment there.

My initial reaction to a laserjet printing on CDs is concern over the heat involved. How would they deal with that and would that shorten the life of the CDR since heat is the enemy of CDs?

I couldn't find a reference on the HP site to the printer. Can you provide a link, Jeannie?

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Thanks, everyone, for the input. I'm still looking - Discmakers has the Hydroshield discs: http://www.discmakers.com/shop/ItemDetails.aspx?ItemID=CD-032-00008

--anyone use them? They are pricier, but there is something to be said for having that option.

I listen to a lot of CDs in my car, and I know I'm not alone. If having a printed label means my demo will be heard quicker, I'm all for it. I also produce DVDs, and would rather give a client a printed disc than one with a paper label.

Like Joe, I don't want to be saddled with someone else's "hinky software!"

Thanks again. I might give the Epson a try and keep my fingers crossed -- Jeannie's is the only negative review I've heard on them; I suppose everyone produces a lemon sometimes. I used to feel like HP had good quality, but I have their 1600 color laser printer and it is a nightmare.

Inks for all of 'em are expensive. OUCH! They practically give you the printer and getcha on the inks.


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"...so make sure you misbehave and have Big Ovaries" -- Blue Merlot


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Never purchased from Discmakers, but $0.65 each is about the going rate for the newer smudge-proof CDRs. Those you listed are also Taiyo Yuden, which is a quality brand name.

I've used www.cd-dvd-supplies.com a lot. Never had a problem with them. Their equivalent (smudge-proof) CDRs were $0.69 each.

Also, someone else just today mentioned they purchased an HP inkjet that prints on CDs. Maybe that's what Jeannie meant?

I also talked to someone else today with an Epson R200 series and they really liked it - no problems for them.

I'll see if I can find the model number of the HP inkjet.

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Good post, very informative. I'll soon be in the need.

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I have an Epson R220 that I print directly to disk with. Havn't had any problems and I like the quality. I have not done "major" print jobs as I do just a couple here and there as the demos get done, so can't comment on how fast the ink goes. Ron

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I use an Epson R320. probably has more features than you need but it prints directly to the cd. It also works as a regular printer. I have never had a single problem with it or any of the other 4 Epson printers I have.
I can do art work in paint shop pro, photoshop or what ever. You have to use the Epson software to lay out the cd but importing is not a problem. But, I believe you have to do the graphics work in photoshop or whatever software you have. Then import that picture. You can then put in text anywhere you want.Print quality seems good to me. Professionals look a little better. I think I paid a couple hundred for it but really can't remember.
You can buy Waterproof printable CD's from Discmakers. They are high gloss but Matte is supposed to be coming.

this is my current CD, Not fancy but it works for me.

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I have an Epson Photo R320. It prints directly to disc. However, you need special media and it is signifacantly more costly. It does a great job! It also has 6 ink cartriges. Spendy to run.


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Ok, so now I'm thinking. Could I send out , say 100 blanks, to get printed first? Before burning them?? I'll probably end up giving most of them away so I would want to keep the cost down. My extended family would probably eat all those up anyway.

Bill, I think that that disk looks great. I've got a lot of store bought CD's that look a hell of a lot worse.

I've got lightscribe but it is time consuming. Does a beautiful job though.

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Saw several notes about the price of epson inks. check out shop4tech.com - I get my epson compatible ink from them for about 1/5 the cost. The ink-jet printable disks are only a few cents more than the non-printables also.

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Originally Posted by lionheart
Ok, so now I'm thinking. Could I send out , say 100 blanks, to get printed first? Before burning them??...

Well... I know Disc Makers will do that for you, but it's almost as expensive as letting them manufacture the whole thing.

Maybe there's a local printer in your neck of the woods that'll do it?????????

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Thanks Pat, that makes perfect sense, to do it locally.

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Disc Makers actually sells printers. Check out their line of them as another option.


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I have used an all in one epson stylus cx3600 for some considerable time. I use the "pressit" paper label system and have never had any problems burning and labelling thousands of discs. It comes with its own software but I use "nero" to burn discs and "nero" cover designer to set up and print my own labels. It is easy to use and only takes a few seconds to set up and print. Various templates are available and you can make and store your own. It also automatically stores and will print track list from the files it burns plus many many other great features. Re cost of ink and labels etc. I use generic ink carts and blank labels they are just as good at a fraction of the cash. Check out Amazon for such products the savings can be huge. I seldom pay more than £10 for a set of cartridges that would cost well over £50 for the rip off epson originals. JIM

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