Troubleshooting printing problems

Overview

Before working through this article you should refer to Common printing issues, which will direct you to specific areas of this article according to your problem.  If you are unsure where your problem is, or just want to be sure you are following "best practice methods", then we recommend working through the entire article.

The concept is that you methodically work through your print system verifying that each individual part is working correctly before moving on to the next part.

This guide is organized into three major sections:

  1. Check your printer
  2. Check your printer driver
  3. Check your printing application (BarTender)

 

Check your printer

If you run into any hardware issues while checking your printer, you will need to consult your printer manual or contact the printer manufacturer for assistance.

Ready mode

Verify the printer is powered on and ready to print.  

Depending on your printer model it may display "Ready" on the LED panel, or a green light if there is no LED panel.  You may need to power off, and then power the printer back on to return to the ready state.  If your printer boots directly into an error message, then consult your printer manual or contact the printer manufacturer for assistance removing the error before continuing with this article.

Printer dump mode

Disable printer dump mode

This issues only occurs when receiving print code.  When printers are printing gibberish, or random characters it may be that the printer is in dump mode, which means instead of executing the print commands it is printing the actual print commands it receives.

Dump mode is commonly exited by powering off the printer for 10+ seconds, however, you may need to consult your printer manual or contact the printer manufacturer for assistance.

Calibration

Verify the printer feeds only one label to the correct position.  

Press the feed button on the printer  and note how many labels feed out, and where the label stops each time.  Repeat the process 3-5 times (feeding one label may not accurately display whether it is properly calibrated).  If one label does not feed out to the correct position each time, then consult your printer manual or contact the printer manufacturer for assistance on how to calibrate your printer.

Tip: You may be able to perform a calibration from your Seagull printer driver (depending on printer model).  

  1. Open Devices and Printers.
  2. Open Printer Properties in the context menu. (Printer Properties is a separate option from Properties).
  3. Select the Tools tab
  4. Under the Actions menu, select Run Calibration.

Configuration page

Verify the printer can print to your stock.

Printers can commonly print a configuration page by using the LED panel.  A configuration page will also provide useful information about your printer, such as current printer language (if it supports multiple languages) and the printer DPI (dots per inch, or resolution). Consult your printer manual or contact the printer manufacturer for assistance.

Printer cables

Verify the printer cables are correctly plugged into the printer and PC.

Rather than just confirming the plugs are connected, it is best practice to unplug and re-plug the printer cables to make sure they are deeply seated in the correct ports.

Up to date firmware

Verify you have the latest firmware installed for your printer.

You can commonly check the printer manufacturer's website for information on the firmware for your printer, and instructions on how to upgrade the firmware (if necessary).  You may need to contact them for assistance.

 

Check your printer driver

The printer driver controls the connection settings, and works with the printing application to generate print commands that are sent to the printer. 

Up to date printer driver

Verify you have the latest printer driver installed for your printer(s).  If your printer shows up as an Unknown Device, then you will need to reinstall your printer.  If multiple printers of the same model are installed, make sure they are all using the same driver.

Seagull Scientific offers many printer drivers for thermal and card printers that have been optimized to work with BarTender.  We strongly recommend using our printer drivers with BarTender, and if possible, do not install printer drivers from other manufacturers alongside Seagull printer drivers as they may conflict.  

If Seagull does not make a printer driver for your printer, then install the latest printer driver provided by the manufacturer.

Tip: Consult the configuration page you just printed and verify the current printer language and the DPI of the printer.  Installing the wrong printer language may cause the printer to error or become unresponsive, and installing the wrong DPI will cause the printout to be shrunk or enlarged.

Refer to the following articles for assistance installing a Seagull driver:

Printer port

Verify the printer port set in the printer properties matches the printer cable connecting the printer to the computer  

The computer communicates with the printer across the port set in the printer driver.  If the type of printer cable is changed then the port needs to be correctly adjusted to match the new cable.

  1. Open Devices and Printers from the Windows Control Panel
  2. Right click on your printer > Select Printer Properties (Note that Printer Properties is a separate option from Properties)
  3. Select the Ports tab
  4. Check the port that matches your printer cable
    • Serial cable: Com1, Com2, etc

    • Parallel cable: LPT1, LPT2, etc

    • USB cable: USB1, USB2, etc

    • Ethernet cable: TCP/ IP address, RAW port (default ports are 8000 and 9100), LPR

  5. Click Apply

Note: Hybrid cables, such as a USB to serial cable, commonly need additional drivers installed for the cable to work correctly.  Refer to the cable manual or contact the cable manufacturer for assistance.

Test page

Verify you can print a test from the printer driver

Printing a test page directly from the printer driver verifies the printer driver and printer are able to communicate effectively by printing a basic page.  If your printer prints gibberish or strange characters then you may need to disable dump mode.

  1. Open Devices and Printers from the Windows Control Panel
  2. Right click on your printer > Select Printer Properties (Note that Printer Properties is a separate option from Properties)
  3. Select the General tab
  4. Click Print Test Page

Printer queue ready mode

Verify your print queue status is Ready.

Your print queue may be preventing print jobs from being sent to the printer.

  1. Open Devices and Printers
  2. Select See Whats Printing from the printer context menu (right-click the printer).
  3. The printer status should be Ready.
  4. If the status says Paused, then uncheck Pause from the File menu. (you may need admin privileges to control this setting).
  5. If there is a print job in the print queue that is errored, you will need to clear it.  
    • Right click the errored print job and select Cancel.
    • Turn off the printer, and restart the Print Spooler located in Windows Services.  You may need admin privileges to access and control the Print Spooler.  Wait for the Print Spooler to restart, and then turn on your printer and check the print queue status.
    • Turn off the printer, and then restart the computer.  Wait for the computer to finish launching Windows, and then turn on the printer and check the status of the print queue.
  1. If the print queue will not clear the status, or immediately errors, then you may need to double check all the setting of your printer driver, and potentially reinstall the printer.

 

Check your printing application (BarTender)

The printing application, in this case BarTender, controls many of the print settings.

New simple document

Verify a new simple document prints correctly.

You may have an issue caused by a specific label rather than with your entire BarTender application.  If the issue does not reproduce when printing a new simple document, then you can now use this document as a baseline to compare settings against your problematic document.

  1. Create a new document in BarTender
  2. Use the new document wizard to correctly set your page size.
  1. Add a Single-Line Text object to the center of the document > Set font to Arial
  2. Add a Code-128 Barcode object directly below the text object
  3. Save the document
  4. Print the document

Page setup settings

Verify your page setup settings match your stock.

Open the new simple document you created in the previous step and the problematic document, and then compare the Page Setup settings.  Change any settings in the problematic document to match the settings in the new simple document.  

If you skipped creating a new simple document, then you can use the following steps to check your page setup. We recommend measuring your stock with a ruler as opposed to using the dimensions listed on the labeling package. If the backing of the stock is of a greater width or height than the items, then measure the size of the backing (ie. edge to edge and perforation to perforation).

For more information refer to the help documentation Page Setup Dialog.

  1. Open your document in BarTender
  2. Click File > Page Setup
  3. Select the Page tab
  4. Select your Orientation
    1. Portrait: This setting is used if you are looking directly at your printer and the printout will not be rotated.
    2. Landscape: This setting is used if you are looking directly at your printer and the printout will be rotated 90* clockwise.
  5. Set Page Size
    1. Custom/ User defined page size: If your stock size is not a predefined option then you should enter the height and width measure in step one into the height and width fields.
  6. Select the Layout tab
  7. Set the Rows and Columns
  8. Set the Margins.  Note that the gap in between labels on a roll of stock is handled by the driver and does not need to be entered as a margin.
  9. Use the preview on the right to verify your BarTender settings match what your stock looks like
  10. Click OK to keep your changes
  11. Save your document
  12. Print your document

Printer driver configurations

Verify your printer driver configurations match your desired printout.

BarTender sends printer driver configurations with each print job, so it is usually best to set the configurations directly from BarTender than in the driver itself.

The media and driver settings set in the BarTender label document are saved per BarTender label document (.btw file) and will generally overtake any settings set through Windows or the printer. The settings set through the printers/faxes or devices/printers are usually default settings applied to future documents created in BarTender.

Note: The follow options are available when using Drivers by Seagull.  Other drivers may have similar options but the interface will differ.

To set the driver media configurations through BarTender:

  1. Open your document in BarTender
  2. Go to File > Print
  3. Verify the correct printer is set
  4. Click Document Properties
  5. There should be a Stock and Options tab where you can set the following:

Media/Sensor type: Set whether the sensor is looking for gaps, marks on the back of the stock, or nothing if it is continuous stock.

Print Method: Direct Thermal (no ribbon) or Thermal Transfer (ribbon).

Media Handling: These options involve pausing, pausing for tear off, cutting the stock, or backfeeding between labels.

Speed: Slower speeds may produce a clearer printout. Higher speeds may cause labels to skip because the stock is moving too quickly for the sensor to read the stock correctly.

Darkness: A high darkness setting may break your stock by applying too much heat. Generally recommended to increase darkness in small increments until the desired printout is produced.

Tip: For more information on printer driver media settings, Click Help in the lower right corner of the Document Properties window.

Performance optimizations and object print methods

Adjust your performance optimizations and print methods.

BarTender offers a number of options to optimize the print job for efficiency when using a Seagull driver.  Optimizations options are limited when a Seagull driver is not in use.

Although having the Performance settings within the BarTender Print dialog turned on is typically optimal, they may cause issues if they are not supported by the printer’s current firmware or the printer memory is not working correctly.  When troubleshooting BarTender it is beneficial to disable all the Performance settings.  With all these settings unchecked, BarTender will generate the printer code in a simpler manner. 

Note: When setting performance optimizations and object print methods you may choose which documents the changes affect:

  • Use Settings For All Documents
  • Use Settings For This Document Only
  1. Open your document in BarTender
  2. Go to File > Print
  3. Select the Performance tab
  4. Uncheck all options
  5. Select the Object Print Method tab
  6. Set the available dropdown menus to Raster Graphics
  7. Save the document
  8. Print the document

If removing the performance settings resolves your issue, you may want to re-enable each performance setting one at a time to see if it's only a specific performance setting causing the issue.

Barcodes have an additional performance setting within the barcode properties.  BarTender can send an image of the barcode rather then tell the printer to generate the barcode.

  1. Open the barcode properties (right click barcode object > Properties)
  2. Select Symbology and Size tab
  3. Click the Print Method button
  4. Select Barcodes and human readable text controlled by BarTender
  5. Click Ok
  6. Close Barcode Properties
  7. Save the document
  8. Print the document

Fonts and font substitutions

Verify your fonts in use.

There are two types of fonts: Printer and Windows fonts. Printer fonts are natively stored on the printer and geared for performance, while Windows fonts are stored in the Windows fonts folder (C:\Windows\Fonts). 

If you are using Windows fonts in BarTender, then a warning may come up when a print job is initiated asking if you want to continue using this font or if you want to substitute it for a printer font. It is common for users to click through this step without realizing they just enabled font substitution, which means a different font will now print.

  1. Open your document in BarTender
  2. For each Barcode or Text object, do the following:
    1. Open the object's Properties (right click object > Properties)
    2. Select the Font tab
    3. Select the Advanced sub-tab
    4. Uncheck Substitute Best Matching Printer Font
    5. Close Properties
  3. Click File > Print
  4. Select the Performance tab
  5. Uncheck Warn when using True Type Fonts
  6. Close Print window
  7. Save the document
  8. Print the document

Note: Your text may print as a barcode if the font selected is a barcode font.  Change the font to a text font (ie. Arial) to correct this issue.

Copy incapable printer

Set alternative method to control copies.

If you find that the wrong number of copies is printing when you have the number of copies set to a data source, then you may have a printer that is incompatible with how BarTender handles the number of copies.  

To resolve this issue you need to change a setting that tells BarTender how to interact with the printer:

  1. Open BarTender > Administer menu > Advanced printer and driver setup
  2. Select the incompatible printer
  3. Check Override default settings
  4. Uncheck Use alternative method to control data sourced copies

 

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