>May I ask a background question in this thread? Specifically, what's the
>source of the underlying assumption that you shouldn't use labels on CDs?
"But using paper for serious long-term archiving is not recommended by the
ANSI IT9.21 standard because there have not been any controlled tests of
this medium with paper labels over long periods or in accellerated aging
experiments, and paper labels are warned against for other media because of
some of the other dangers cited above, especially concerns over possible
disintegration of the label after an extended time or potential interaction
with the media itself. "
Also, here (quoted below) is the info from the generally excellent CD
Recordable FAQ site at http://www.cdrfaq.org/ . At the bottom of this
quote are some more links on the same topic.
I have seen so many warnings and negative comment on this subject that I
can only suppose that there must be something to it, but I personally have
never seen any authoritative or as I put it "evidence-based" paper on the
Robert and TIm's posts and the some of the FAQ info below support the fear
... it is one of those things that if it is possibly true it seems you have
to adopt the conservative approach, if only because the consequences are so
great, and there is not really any warning of impending problems before it
is too late (unless you check all your disks regularly and re-write them
all as soon as the first one goes 'bad' which is a lot of effort and not
If you are not familiar with the CD FAQ site I refer to, I highly recommend
it - hundreds of points about the sometimes still tricky craft of using CD
Subject: [7-7] Is it okay to write on or stick a label on a disc?
Only if you're careful. The wrong kind of ink or label can damage a disc.
The adhesives on some labels can dissolve the protective lacquer coating if
the adhesive is based on a solvent that the lacquer is susceptible to.
Asymmetric labels can throw the disc out of balance, causing read problems,
and labels not designed for CDs might bubble or peel off when subjected to
long periods of heat inside a CD drive. So long as you use labels that were
meant for CD-R discs, you will *probably* be okay.
For the same reasons, if you want to write directly onto the surface of a
disc, you want to use pens that are approved for use on unlabeled CD-R
media. The ink in some kinds of pens may damage the top coating of the disc.
Specific information can sometimes be found on the back of the jewel case
that the discs come in. Old TDK CDR-74 discs had the following warning:
2. Do not attach labels or protective sheets, or apply any coating fluids
to the disc.
3. When writing titles and other information on the label (gold) side of
the disc, these should be written in the printed area using an oil-based
Other brands say "use a permanent felt-tipped pen" or words to the effect
that the ink shouldn't smudge. The most important part is to use a felt tip
pen and not a ball-point, because the top layer of the disc will gouge
easily on most media.
There are pens recommended specifically for writing on CD-Rs. Examples
include the Dixon Ticonderoga "Redi Sharp Plus", the Sanford "Powermark",
TDK "CD Writer", and Smart and Friendly "CD Speed Marker". Some of these
are relabeled Staedtler Lumocolor transparency markers (#317-9), which are
alcohol-based. Never use a solvent-based "permanent" marker on a CD-R -- it
can eat through the lacquer coat and destroy the disc.
Many people have had no problems with the popular Sanford "Sharpie" pens,
which are alcohol-based. Other people say they've damaged discs by writing
on them with a Sharpie, though those discs may have been particularly
susceptible. The official word from Sanford is:
"Sanford has used Sharpie Markers on CDs for years and we have never
experienced a problem. We do not believe that the Sharpie ink can affect
these CDs, however we have not performed any long-term laboratory testing
to verify this. We have spoken to many major CD manufacturers about this
issue. They use the Sharpie Markers on CDs internally as well, and do not
believe that the Sharpie Ink will cause any harm to their products.
Sanford Consumer Affairs"
In any event, the Ultra Fine Sharpie pen looks almost sharp enough to
scratch, so sticking with the Fine Point pen is recommended.
So long as you use the right kind of pen, it's okay to write directly on
the top surface of the CD, label or no. Use a light touch -- you aren't
filling out a form in triplicate. If the prospect makes you nervous, just
write in the clear plastic area near the hub, or only use discs with a
printable top surface.
Adding an adhesive label to a disc can make it look more "professional",
but you have to be a little careful. If the label and the disc aren't a
good match, the label can start to delaminate after a while.
The best way to feel confident about labeling your discs is to try it
yourself. Buy some labels, put them on some discs, leave them someplace
warm, and see if they peel off. If they do, you'll need a different kind of
media or a different kind of label. Some labels don't adhere very well
unless they're attached to a disc with a plain lacquer surface on top, so
combining labels with "inkjet printable surface" media may be asking for
trouble. One note of caution: this only tells you if the label will peel up
right away. It doesn't tell you if the label will still be nice and flat
two or three years from now, especially if you live in the tropics where
the air is always hot and damp. Using adhesive labels on discs meant for
long-term storage may be unwise.
Whatever you do, don't try to peel a label off once it's on. You will
almost certainly pull part of the recording layer off with the label. If
you're going to label a disc, do it immediately, so you can make another
copy if the label doesn't adhere smoothly. Any air bubbles in the label
that can't be smoothed out immediately are going to cause trouble. Use a
label applicator for best results.
It may not be a good idea to put labels on discs that will be fed into a
"slot in" CD player, such as those popular in dashboard car CD players.
Sometimes the added thickness will cause the disc to get stuck.
A number of companies make labels for CDs. ProSource Sales & Marketing,
Inc. (http://www.prosourcesales.com/) sells labels and an applicator that
are reputed to work well. See also http://www.neato.com/ for information on
the NEATO CD-Label kit, and http://www.labelcd.com/ for the CD Stomper Pro.
If you speak Italian, try http://www.ufocd.com/. Information on The Gizmo
is available from http://www.greatgizmos.com/. http://www.surething.com/
has software that works with a wide variety of labels.
If you want a label that also covers up the clear plastic part at the
center of the disc, search for "hub labels".
You can also buy printers that will write directly onto discs with a
printable surface. One example is http://www.primeratechnology.com/, which
now handles the popular FARGO CD-R label printers.
A wealth of information on CD-R labeling options can be found here:
Sony's http://www.sonydadc.com/ web site has a "Downloads & Templates"
section with artwork that my prove useful. You can find most CD-related
logos on the site (try http://www.sonydadc.com/downloads/, scroll down to
"Logos" for common formats). Some are also available from
Mike Richter's CD-R primer has a very nice page on labeling discs. See
It is important to keep the CD balanced, or high-speed drives may have
trouble reading the disc. According to one report, a disc that had a
silk-screened image on the left side of a CD-R (leaving the right half of
the disc blank) was unreadable on high-speed drives due to excessive
wobbling. Most label kits come with a label-centering device, usually
something trivial like a stick that's the same width as the hole in the
middle of the CD.
Avery's CD-R labels became quietly unavailable in October 1997. The rumor
is that the adhesive caused data corruption problems, so Avery recalled
them. There are indications that the adhesive would fail on some discs and
start to lift off within a short period of time. If you have Avery labels
(#5824) purchased before this date, you should avoid using them. The labels
being produced now don't have this problem.
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