CD Labeling Programs

Page last updated: April 2015. I've stopped using CD label software and just resort to a Sharpie Pen. Printing Labels takes a lot of time, and the labels seemed to often affect the disc in certain players. If you have one of the thermal printers that print direct to CD, those may still be a good alternative.

Updates: Deleted Cyberlink's LabelPrint2 (no longer available); deleted Green Point Software (company seems to be gone); deleted HP's Lightscribe website (website gone,  but I think the technology is still supported);

DVD Label Warning! Do NOT use paper labels on a DVD! Experience (as evidenced from many Internet forums) is showing that paper labels on DVDs can cause rotation problems since the label can never be precisely centered. These rotation problems can result in the DVD not being read properly.

Also, there are some discussions on the Internet about the glue from the label interacting with CD's and DVD's, rendering them unreadable. I am not convinced this is true, but if you want to be safe you might want to abandon paper labels altogether and go with one of the alternatives, at least for DVDs, which seem to be more sensitive to the effects of sticky labels. Alternatives include:

1. Using Sharpie or similarly branded permanent markers to manually mark your discs. Sharpie even makes markers specifically writing on CDs and DVDs. (Note I have even heard reports of some of these inks negatively interacting with discs, but I have not substantiated any of these claims and I continue to use Sharpie markers.)
2. Use the LightScribe® or similar technology built into some CD/DVD drives that print a label right on the CD from your PC CD /DVD Burner. (Note: many of the label programs below support Lightscribe)
3. Use one of the CD/DVD printers developed specifically for labeling disks. The disk fits right into the printer, and you either use your computer or a keypad on the printer to enter your data and design your custom label.

I, for the most part, have stopped using labeling programs simply because of the time it takes, but my poor handwriting using a Sharpie sure doesn't look very professional!


Introduction


Now that you've burned that perfect CD, you need something better to label it than scribbling with a Sharpie® pen (though see note above). There are many label programs and kits available that allow you to create your own custom labels and easily apply them to your finished CDs. When I went to purchase one back in 2003, however, none of the salespeople were very helpful at helping me know the differences between the available programs, or even what I should look for in a program. Note that some programs let you label not just the CD, but they also provide tools to make covers for your jewel cases and/or DVD boxes.

Initially, this page provided a quick review of many of the CD Label programs. Since it has been over 6 years since that initial review, however, I've decided to remove the "review" part, and simply provide links to the various sites where you can check out the features for yourself. Most of the developers provide free demos you can download so you can try the program. I do provide a list of things to look for when evaluating a program (below) to help you decide what features you want in a label program.

The basic process for creating a label is simple: import an image to be used for the background, apply text for the title and perhaps the song titles, insert your labels into your printer, print, and apply to your CD! If you store your CDs in Jewel cases, you may also want to print covers and tray lables for the Jewel case.

You can use a general purpose graphics program to create CD labels. Many label manufacturers supply templates you can import into your graphics program, such as Adobe's PhotoShop. Since most of these graphics programs are very powerful, you can achieve excellent results.

For many users, however, these programs may be overkill, or simply too expensive. Also, generic graphics programs may not support direct-to-disc technologies like LightScribe.

Some CD label kits come with everything you need: labels, specialized software, and an applicator to make applying the label to the CD easier. In some cases, however, the software that comes in these kits is limited to using the labels made by that manufacturer. If you want to use labels from a different company, you need to load additional software. Thankfully, there are several programs that are able to handle CD labels from most of the major suppliers.



Label Program Feature Overview:

Since most have downloadable demonstration versions, it is probably best for you to try those that seem good to you. The features you might want to check out in each of the programs include:

Supported Labels: What company/brand labels does the program support? Some programs are designed with only a single brand in mind; these usually come with label kits from that company. A few programs don't support any specific manufacturer, but require you to enter the specific dimensions of your labels, which is certainly not the most convenient approach. Most of the current software supports most of the available labels. They include templates for labels from companies such as Avery, Stomper, Fellowes, Memorex, and others. This approach certainly saves a lot of trial and error, although you may still need to use printer fine tuning the first time you print.

Support for LightScribe, other Direct-to-Disc Technology: Several companies now produce products that allow you to print CD  and DVD labels directly on the disc, rather than on a label. This is a great advantage over paper labels since you don't have to worry about the label glue destroying your CD or a mis-applied label throwing your disc off balance. The brand of direct-to-disc printer or CD/DVD burner you own will drive the software you need.

Label Types: Some programs are limited to CD labels and cover sheets for the CD Jewel Cases. Others include templates for DVD's, cassette tapes, video tapes, and more.

Wizard: Some programs include a "wizard" routine to help you make a label very quickly. They guide you step-by-step through the process of selecting a template, entering a text, and so forth. A couple of programs are so simple that a wizard isn't necessary. Also, note that some "wizards" are better than others!

Editor: Most editors are "free form", in that they present an image of a blank CD label. You can insert a background picture or texture, add clipart, text, and apply special effects as you desire, much like a regular graphics program. A few programs, however, provide a more rigid editor in that you are limited in how many graphics and text areas you can add. Another important editing feature is the ability to "undo" an action. 

Text Tools: All the programs let you select the text font and basic attributes of the font, such as bold or italic. One nice feature is the ability to rotate text, so it can appear sideways. A few programs even let you adjust text to any angle, not just 90 degree increments. Circular text is also a desirable feature, and really adds a professional touch to the program. Some programs provide only limited cirlcular text functions, such as limiting to two pre-defined positions on the label (top and bottom). Also, the method of applying circular text varies from program to program. Some programs automatically adjust the circle radius so that the text appears perfectly aligned with the curvature of the CD. Other programs provide quite extensive adjustment ability, such that you could even make a small circle of text in just one portion of the CD.

Draw Tools: Some programs provide the ability to draw lines and shapes, such as circles, squares, and rectangles, and they may include "fill colors" as well.

Background tools: Some programs automatically adjust an imported background image to the size of the CD label. Others allow you to (or make you!) adjust the size of the graphic as desired. The first is much simpler, but the 2nd would allow you to perhaps move an image to one side in case you didn't really want it centered, or to leave an unwanted portion of an image off the disc. On importing a background, it helps if you can see a thumbnail of what the picture looks like rather than relying on the file name. Some programs show a single preview image of the selected filename, while others show a scrollable list of thumbnails (which I prefer, for scrolling through many images). Some programs provide some limited editing capabilities on the imported background, such as allowing you to rotate and flip images. A couple of programs include a "texture" tool to allow you to create custom texturized backgrounds using the colors you choose.

Graphics Effects: Some programs allow you to import other graphics and clipart as well. They may or may not provide graphics editing tools. For those that do, you can often change the brightness of a graphic, flip it, and add special effects such as Polarizing, Solarizing, Stretching, and other effects as are often found in regular graphics programs.

Available Graphics: One of the primary features of a good CD label program is the availability of quality graphics that you would actually want to use as background material. There is at least one shareware program that didn't come with any graphics, while Broderbund's Print Shop CD Labeler comes with over 10,000 graphics on CD! Note that the number of available graphics isn't as important as the quality of the graphics. For example, a TDK label program that I reviewed back in 2003 included over 1,000 images, but I found most of them not to my liking.

Audio CD Track Support: Since many of the CDs you will be burning will likely be audio CDs, you may want to add a list of tracks to either the CD label or to the Jewel Case label. Rather than making you type in the artist and song title for every entry, some programs offer alternatives. There are Internet sites such as freedb.org that will automatically look up the track names for a CD inserted into the computer's CD player. Some label programs can use this feature to automatcially populate the CD label with track titles. Some programs support iTunes so that CDs burned from your iTunes library can have the information automatically imported.  Other features are the ability to import MP3 id tags, or to read a directory from the hard drive (usually the directory you burned the audio CD from).

User Interface: Plain and simple, do you enjoy using the program? How much you like a specific interface can vary from person to person, and some interfaces grow on you as you use them more and perhaps learn to appreciate features that didn't make sense at first.

Cost: Most label programs range in price from $15 to $25, though a few cost more. Some come only in kits with labels and a label applicator that may cost more. A couple, such as Roxio and Nero are part of total Video/Audio editing and CD/DVD Burning programs, and thus cost quite a bit more.


Personal Summary:

Back in 2003 I tried demos of all the products I could find, and also had picked up a couple of commercial products. At that time, I ended up liking (and buying) the SureThing CD Labler, although the Acoustica CD Label Maker came in a close second. I was somewhat disappointed in the backgrounds provided with the SureThing labeler at the time, but the program does have a good feature set and is relatively easy to use. (Please note that SureThing has been updated since then and likely the set of background images has as well!)

If I was going to purchase a program today, I would first invest in a Lightscribe burner or perhaps a direct-to-disc printer, because the use of paper labels is so problematic. My list of potential products would then be limited to software that supports my selected technology.

For the Windows based PC, I would probably lean toward a product from Acoustica, Cyberlink, Droppix or SureThing.

For the MAC, the BeLight program looks nice.

If you were already going to buy Roxio or Nero for your editing and burning needs, then the labeling programs in these packages might be all you need.

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The Programs: Note - I removed pricing info (unless free!) since the prices are fairly close to each other,
often changing, and inexpensive. Most range from $15-$40.

A quick Internet search revealed several other labeling programs that are not listed here. The few I looked at did not support
direct-to-disc technology and did not seem to offer capabilities that any of the following programs don't, so I have not (yet) bothered to list them.

Acoustica
Acoustica CD/DVD Label Maker
I really liked this program when I demo'd it some time ago - it was a toss up between this one and SureThing's.
Acoustica supports Lightscribe technology for printing right to the label.Also, great background images.
http://www.acoustica.com
Avery
Avery Design Pro
Avery provides the Design Pro software as a free download. It is designed to support their wide range of mailing labels, business cards, an so forth, and includes a template for CD labels. Looks good if you use Avery brand labels. I don't think it supports Lightscribe.
http://www.avery.com
BeLight Software
Disc Cover
This program runs on the Apple MAC (no Windows) and looks pretty nice from the web-site (sorry, I'm not a MAC user).
In addition to standard labels, it also supports Lightscribe, Labelflash, and DiscT@2 direct to disc labeling technologies
http://www.belightsoft.com
Broderbund Encore Software Ltd.
The Print Shop Elements Label
Creator & Business Cards; The Print Shop Deluxe
Broderbund makes a few multi-purpose labeling programs. The Print Shop Elements program is very low cost (around $10 as of Oct 2009). Print Shop Deluxe is a layout program for brochures, letterhead, signs and more, including CD & DVD labels. No demos available. I don't believe that Lightscribe is supported.
http://www.broderbund.com
Droppix SARL
Droppix Recorder
French Company Droppix makes Droppix Recorder, which includes a LightScribe™ compatible label maker.
Downloadable demo available.
http://www.droppix.com
Memorex
Memorex CD & DVD LabelMaker
Commercial kit comes with a full CD & DVD Label Maker Kit and applicator.  You can download the software from the main Memorex website - go to Support and Downloads section. Note this software is from 2006; an upgrade page points to the SureThing CD Labeler.
http://www.memorex.com
Neato
MediaFACE
Offers MediaFace software for purchase, and also provides an On-line Design Software for CD/DVD labels
http://www.neato.com
Nero Ltd.
Nero
While not a stand-alone CD label editor, the Nero Audio/Video editor tools include functions for CD/DVD burning as well as labeling for media and the boxes. Nero 9 provides support for Lightscribe, Labelflash, and DiscT@2 direct to disc labeling technologies http://www.nero.com
Pressit (Medea International Ltd)
exPressit
Win/MAC support. I'm not sure of the relationship with Memorex, but the software names are quite similar. exPressit 3.x is JAVA software that supports Lightscribe printing. Available as a free download. A large gallery of art is available for free online, but you have to select images one by one...
http://www.pressit.com
Roxio Sonic Solutions
Roxio
The Roxio Audio/Video editor tools include tools for CD/DVD burning as well as labeling for media and the boxes. It is not clear if Lightscribe support is available.
http://www.roxio.com
SureThing
CD/DVD Labeler Deluxe
Mult-vendor label support, including Lightscribe and various direct-to-disc printers. I have an older version of this program, and liked it the best back when I had to choose (back in 2003). Well done, good support.
http://www.surething.com




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