Poor Quality or Misaligned Labels

Steps to try if your labels are printing with a poor quality that prevents successful scanning or if they are not aligned properly on the label paper.

Follow the troubleshooting steps below when the print quality of your shipping labels is poor or misaligned. You may or may not need to perform all of the steps to improve the printing quality.

Resolving label quality issues may be a matter of simply changing a few settings on your printer or in your printer preferences. In most cases, ShipStation receives labels and other documents in a PDF format. The quality of the final printed product is determined by the printer settings or preferences that interpret the PDF data it receives.

Check ShipStation Label Layout Settings

  1. Go to Settings > Printing > Printing Setup.

    Settings, Printing, Printing Settings path is highlighted in ShipStation.
  2. Click Document Options for document type Label.

    Printing Setup page showing the Document Options marked for the Labels Document type.
  3. Verify that the following settings are correct:

    • Shipping Label Format:

      • Thermal Printers (Zebra, DYMO, etc.): Set to one of the 4" x 6" options.

      • Standard Desktop Printers (laser, inkjet, etc.): Set to one of the 8.5" x 11" options.

    • Label DPI: Select the correct DPI setting, 203 DPI or 300 DPI, for your printer. If you are unsure which DPI you should choose, check your printer documentation.

      In most cases, you can leave the setting at 300 DPI. However, some printers (such as the Zebra 2844 thermal printer) require the setting to be set at 203 DPI.

    Shipping Label Format and Label DPI settings highlighted in Label Printing Setup pop-up window.
  4. Click the Save Changes button to save any changes you may have made.

Next, check to verify that the printer preferences on your computer match the ShipStation label layout settings. Please do not skip this step.

Verify Your Computer's Printer Settings

The paper size and DPI settings in Windows or macOS must match the settings configured in ShipStation.

In Windows

  1. Type Control Panel into the Windows Type here to search field and press Enter on your keyboard or click on Control Panel.

    Control Panel app opened from Windows desktop search bar results.
  2. Click on Devices and Printers.

    Devices and Printers settings highlighted in Windows Control Panel menu.
  3. Right-click on your printer and select Printing Preferences.

    Printing Preferences highlighted in the Windows right-click menu.
  4. Configure the paper size and print resolution (DPI setting) to match the settings in ShipStation's printer setup.

    The Printer Preferences screen will be different depending upon the type of printer and printer manufacturer. You may have to search a bit to locate the correct settings. For example, the resolution/DPI setting may be located on the Graphics tab for some thermal printers. Below is an example of the printer preferences for a Zebra thermal printer and a Brother standard laser printer.

    Windows Printing Preferences Page Setup tab open with page size set to 4 by 6 inches.
    Windows Printing Preferences settings open to Graphics tab, with Resolution set to 203x203 dpi and Dithering set to None.

    Zebra Thermal printer preferences

    Windows Printing Preferences settings open to Basic tab, with Page Size set to Letter and Resolution set to 300 dpi.

    Brother laser printer preferences

  5. Save your changes.

In macOS

  1. Open CUPS in your web browser.

    • Type http://localhost:631/printers into the address bar and press Return.

    • If CUPS does not open and/or you receive an error, please see the Enable CUPS section below.

  2. Open the printer settings by clicking on the link for your printer from the list of available printers.

  3. Click on the Administration drop-down menu and select Set Default Options.

    CUPS Administration dropdown menu with Set Default Options selected.
  4. Verify that the paper/media size and printer resolution are correct and match the settings configured in ShipStation.

    The options available will be different depending upon the type of printer and printer manufacturer. You may have to search a bit to locate the correct settings. For example, the images below show configuring the media size to 4" x 6" for a Zebra thermal printer and the resolution to 203 DPI for a Citizen printer. The options may look different for other printer models.

    CUPS Media Size menu with 4x6 option selected. After selection, click Printer Settings tab. Do not click Set Default Options.
    General tab in CUPS Set Printer Options screen shows default settings for Citizen CL S700Z printer.

    Configuring the media size for a Thermal printer and the resolution for a Citizen printer

  5. Click the Set Default Options button to save your changes.

Enable CUPS

  1. Open the Terminal application in Applications > Utilities or by using the Spotlight Search.

    Mac desktop search icon highlighted with "terminal" typed in search bar. Terminal application highlighted in search results.
  2. Enter the following command into the Terminal window:

    cupsctl WebInterface=yes
  3. Press Return on your keyboard.

    As long as the next line that appears in your Terminal is another blank prompt, you are good to go! Quit Terminal and launch CUPS.

    Mac Terminal open to blank prompt.

Calibrate Printer

Make sure to keep your printer calibrated!

  • Zebra printers will require calibrating periodically, and different models will have slightly different procedures. Look up your Zebra model + calibrate on YouTube for instructions specific to your model, or visit the Zebra support site.

  • DYMO printers are self-calibrating, but you must use official DYMO labels.

Zebra Printers PDF and ZPL Label Formats

Zebra printers have the option to receive a document format called ZPL, instead of the default PDF. ZPL labels print with a crisper image than PDF, but they require some configuration in ShipStation and they come with a few limitations.

ZPL labels:

  • Cannot be viewed prior to being printed (in other words, no PDF preview).

  • Cannot be customized (no store logos, no label messages).

  • Are not supported by certain services, like UPS Mail Innovations.

If you’d like to use ZPL formatted labels and you use a Zebra printer, contact ShipStation support .  We will configure your ShipStation account to accept ZPL labels.

If you change to ZPL, all labels on your account will be ZPL going forward. They cannot be customized per store or per carrier. Once ShipStation has made the change on your account, you’ll need to change the selected driver on your system. For Mac users, this can be done in CUPS. For Windows users, you’ll need to install a new Zebra driver.

Click plus sign in Mac Printers and Scanners. Select Zebra printer, select driver from Use menu, and click Add button.

Configuring a Zebra printer to use ZPL on macOS