In the olden days of recordable disc labeling, the Sharpie was king. Not only was it cheaper and easier to use than stick-on labels, but it provided a method of labeling without the risk of a disc shattering from a trapped bubble under the adhesive paper. Today’s methods of disc labeling have advanced considerably, however, and now users have the option of making professional-looking CD-Rs and DVD-Rs at an affordable price from the comfort of their homes.
LightScribe, the latest in disc labeling technology, uses a compatible CD or DVD drive to burn labels directly onto the disc just as it does with data. The software requires special discs coated with a reactive dye to etch a chosen design picked from either a variety of templates included with the program or imported from digital photos and Photoshop creations. The result is a beautiful grayscale image that can be set against a plain or colored background.
Even though LightScribe offers a more advanced alternative to the trusty Sharpie, what makes it a better choice for users? For one thing, LightScribe images look professional, which is important for entrepreneurs wishing to sell their recorded media as well as for those who want to make a stylish gift for friends and family. A disc hastily scribbled on with a Sharpie simply looks ugly.
LightScribe also enables users to record text more easily. Anyone who has ever tried to write song tracks on a CD with a Sharpie knows how difficult it is to make the print small enough for everything to fit, but a laser can easily burn tiny fonts.
Another advantage to LightScribe is that the design is burned into the disc itself without the use of chemicals, making it a more permanent and safer method of labeling. Sharpies, while smear-resistant, can be scratched off non-porous surfaces, and there is some debate as to whether or not the chemicals in Sharpies can cause damage to the disc.
Sharpies do have one advantage in that they are the cheapest way to label a disc, but LightScribe is not as expensive as other professional labeling methods. One major criticism is that LightScribe compatible discs cost too much. A price comparison between Verbatim DVD-R and Verbatim DVD-R with LightScribe, for example, shows that the standard discs are about half the cost. Critics, however, do not factor in all the costs used by similar labeling methods.
Direct-to-disc inkjet labeling, LightScribe’s main competitor, requires more expensive printers than a typical inkjet unless users want simple black-and-white labels. Discs with a water-resistant printing surface are also recommended because the ink will smear when exposed to moisture, and even then some users will add a CD laminate to the surface just to be safe. Lastly, inkjet cartridges cost about $30 online, which can get expensive when printing photo-quality images that quickly burn through ink reserves.
While the Sharpie is still the best way to label a CD for casual purposes, users who want a professional look to their discs should choose LightScribe as an affordable way to meet their needs.
Brandi Tolleson is a freelance writer covering topics like media, gadgets and technology.