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Printing to CD and DVD Media

Last week we looked at the different technologies available when recording data on to removable media such as a writable DVD and I briefly touched on the subject of printing on to the top surface of the disc. Whilst many use a simple glass marker pen, there are of course several other options available should you want give your discs a more professional looking finish.

Disc Labels

The easiest solution, involves the use of simple disc labels to which you just print directly to on a A4 sheet with 2 discs shapes pre-cut. Once done just peel the label back and stick it to the now finished disc.

Unfortunately this technique suffers a number of drawbacks; it looks unprofessional, it is tricky to apply the label to the disc, and unless positioned perfectly the label can physically unbalance the disc, resulting in read errors when spun inside the drive. The only real advantage is that of cost; you don’t require a special type of disc, the labels are relatively cheap and you won’t need anything more than a bog standard printer to print them.

Printable Discs

To print directly to the surface of a disc, you will need a specifically designed disc printer and some printable CDs/DVDs; the for the most these discs have a white matt surface on the but different colours and finishes do exist. They aren’t even a great deal more expensive than regular non printable discs! Unless you happen to have a printer capable of printing to discs already, simply make sure your next printer has the functionality upon purchase.

The disc is mounted in a special caddy that is then usually fed in to either the front or the back of the printer (unlike paper which is usually fed in to the top) and then the user simply prints on to it like it were a sheet of blank paper. Special software is provided to ensure that everything lines up and if done correctly the results can be very impressive especially if you look out for full face printable discs – these allow you to print right to the very centre of the disc rather to where the clear plastic ring in the centre usually begins.


This is a specialist type of disc that is covered in a reactive dye that can change colour when exposed light from an infrared laser specific to dedicated Lightscribe drives. This technology is dependant yon you owning one of these Lightcribe drives, aside from this you just have to ensure you purchase Lightscribe compatible media, which whilst readily available, although a lot more expensive than normal discs.

The finished product can look rather impressive even though they will be in greyscale and not a full colour design, and it would take many years in a room under normal lighting conditions before the image begins to fade. If you want to find out if your drive already supports Lightscribe then simply download a trial edition of DVD info (

Chris Holgate writes a weekly article of all things tech related. He is a director and copyrighter of the online computer consumables business Refresh Cartridges who sell cheap ink cartridges, toner cartridges, computer hardware and other computer consumables online. An archive of his work can be found at