ShipStation Printing Basics

Describes ShipStation's printing terminology and process, as well as lists popular printers and types of labels.

Printing labels is, undeniably, the most important reason you use ShipStation! Configuring ShipStation to print to a specific printer on a specific workstation requires your printer hardware, printer software, and ShipStation to all work together. 

The articles in the Print Settings & ShipStation Connect section provide details on label and other document settings, as well as how to install, launch, and print with the ShipStation Connect printing app.

Printing in ShipStation requires both your ShipStation settings and your printer preferences to be set correctly. How you set your printer preferences will differ by which operating system you use and what printer hardware you have connected. To ensure your printer preferences are configured correctly, please review our Set Up Printers in MacOS or Set Up Printers in Windows help article in the Getting Started section.

To help you quickly become a ShipStation printing pro, we've included some helpful printing basics below, like printing terminology, a list of supported printers and recommended labels, and an overview of how the printing process works.

Printing Terminology

The following terminology used in this section is defined below for your convenience.

Printer Workstation

The term printer workstation in this guide specifically refers to the computer your printers are connected to via USB. Your printer workstation may be the same computer you use to access ShipStation, a computer that is dedicated only to printing labels in your warehouse, or a multi-use computer. 

You may also have more than one printer workstation. If you print using ShipStation Connect, you only need to install it on your printer workstations.

Label Printer

Your label printer is whatever printer you use to print your labels. This could be a thermal label printer like a Zebra or DYMO, or it could be a standard desktop printer like an inkjet or laser printer. You may even use your label printer to print other documents (like packing slips and customs forms) from ShipStation

Thermal Label Printer

A thermal label printer is a printer specifically designed to print labels onto specially designed paper that is typically self-adhesive. These printers use thermal transfer instead of ink or other methods, greatly increasing their speed and reducing your material cost over time.

Standard Printer

The term Standard Printer simply refers to desktop-style printers like inkjet or laser printers. These printers print on letter size (8.5" x 11") or A4 size paper. You may use a standard printer to print labels on plain paper, or special integrated label paper. Or you may use standard printers only for other document types, like packing slips, pick lists, and customs forms. 

Printer Drivers

Printer drivers are how your operating systems (Windows or macOS) communicate data to your connected printer hardware. Some printers will require you to install specific drivers before you can print, some printers won't. The Set Up Printers in MacOS and Set Up Printers in Windows articles will help guide you through the options available, and link to specific drivers when possible. 

Document Options

This term refers specifically to the options available for different document types in ShipStation. These settings include label format, print sequence, label messages and logo, and more. 

To view and set document options, go to Settings > Printing > Printing Setup and click Document Options next to the document type you wish to modify. 

Printer Preferences or Properties

These terms refer to the printer settings that you set in either the Windows Control Panel or the macOS System Preferences. Preferences and Properties are where you set options like paper size, darkness, dpi, and print speed. These settings are independent of the settings within ShipStation.

CUPS

CUPS stands for Common Unix Printing System and is how you access and modify printing preferences in macOS. The Set Up Printers in MacOS article provides details on how to access CUPS and modify printer preferences there. 

ShipStation Connect

ShipStation Connect is the app that routes print jobs from your ShipStation account to the printers connected to your printer workstation. ShipStation Connect allows you to print to any Connect-enabled workstation from any computer or mobile device you use to access ShipStation. It also allows you to share the printers from your printer workstations with all users on your account and pull shipment weights from a connected USB scale. 

The printer workstation is the computer your printers are physically attached to via USB. ShipStation Connect must be installed and running on the printer workstation (but not on non-printer workstations) in order to print documents via ShipStation Connect.

Labels that print with the label and packing slip on the same sheet.

CUPS stands for Common Unix Printing System. It is the Mac OS method for managing print jobs and printing preferences.

Printers & Labels

ShipStation prints 4" x 6" labels and is compatible with thermal label printers that will print 100mm x 150mm and A6 (105mm x 148mm) labels, as well as standard desktop printers.

Unsupported Printers With ShipStation Connect

Certain printers and configurations are not currently supported when printing via ShipStation Connect.

ShipStation Support cannot troubleshoot issues that occur when using these printers with ShipStation Connect:

  • Wireless and network printers. Printers should be connected to the printer workstation(s) via USB, though some wireless or network printers may work.

  • Rollo label printers.

These limitations are specific to printing with ShipStation Connect. You may still use the Download PDF or Browser Print method to print documents to these printers from your ShipStation account. The label layout, printer preferences, and document options still apply regardless of your print method.

Popular Label Printers

Common thermal label printers we've found to work well with ShipStation include DYMO, Zebra, and Brother label printers.

Each offers different advantages, and while any supported USB model that prints 4"x6" (approx. 101mm x 152mm) labels will work with ShipStation, it's important to find the best option for your business needs.

DYMO LabelWriter

The DYMO LabelWriter 4XL or 5XL printer is an economical printer with a simple setup process. DYMOs self-calibrate, but do require DYMO-approved label rolls, otherwise, they will not print properly.

Zebra

Zebra is arguably the leader in label printing, and they provide many models to suit different business needs.

The Zebra ZD420Zebra GC420d, ZSB Series, and Zebra GK420d (discontinued) are great for small-to-medium volume printing needs, while the Zebra ZT410 is a great fit for higher volume shippers.

While Zebra printers have a more involved setup process and carry a slightly higher price tag than some other thermal label printer options, they more than make up for it in a high level of customization and powerful, precise printing. Zebra printers also support both fanfold and rolled labels.

Brother

The Brother QL-1100 is a new model thermal label printer with a fast print speed and high dpi.

Currently, this model is only supported on Windows when used with ShipStation. We will update this information when support for macOS is available.

CITIZEN

Compatible with Windows/PC and macOS, CITIZEN printers combine performance and reliability designed to offer easy media loading, simple setup, and cost-effective printing.

The small footprint of the CL-E300 makes it a perfect printer for tight spaces.

The CL-S700II is more suitable for high-volume shippers. Citizen recommends this ShopPOSPortal page for ordering details, and we have attached spec sheets for both printers at the bottom of this page.

Thermal printers are worth the investment, especially as your volume increases, since thermal printers do not require ink.

Check out our blog post for a more in-depth comparison of three of these brands!

Types of Labels

ShipStation prints 4" x 6" labels. This is approximately 101mm x 152mm. If you are using a thermal label printer, ShipStation can print labels from 100mm x 150mm up to A6-sized sheets.

Incompatible with Tabbed Labels

Labels must be a single continuous sheet to work properly with ShipStation. Because part of the postage label will print on the detachable portion, paper labels that include detachable tabs will not print correctly.

If you print using a standard desktop printer, you can print the labels using plain paper. However, you also have options for self-adhesive labels and integrated labels. 

Self-Adhesive Labels

Use Avery Half Sheet Self-Adhesive shipping labels shipping labels or similar to print two labels per letter- or A4-sized sheet. Set your label document options to the 8.5" x 11" (2 per page) option.

Integrated Labels

Use All-in-One Shipping Labels from Burris Computer Forms to print a label and its corresponding packing slip on the same sheet. You can then peel off the label, attach it to the package, and include the packing slip inside the box.

Print a Document

ShipStation provides access to the print function in multiple locations to make printing labels (or any other documents) as convenient as possible. 

Click the Print menu anywhere in ShipStation to select which document you wish to print for your selected orders or shipments. If an option in the drop-down menu is grey, that means the document doesn't exist for that order or shipment record.

Print Menus in ShipStation

The Orders Tab Action bar:

Orders tab with an arrow pointing to print menu with drop-down options revealed

The Shipping Sidebar:

Orders tab shipping sidebar. A box highlights the Print menu with its dropdown options.

The Order Details screen:

A box surrounds Order Details Print button, drop-down options are visible: Packing Slip, Label, Pick List, Customs Forms, Order Summary

The Order Details Shipments section (available after a shipment has been created for the order only):

ODET_Shipments_PrintMenus_MRK.png

The Shipments Tab Action bar:

Shipped tab, Print menu is expanded and the menu options shown in the drop-down are marked

The Shipment Details screen:

Shipment Details page that shows an arrow pointing to the Print menu, with drop-down options. The options include Packing Slip, Label, and Pick List.

The Create + Print Label Button

The Create + Print Label button combines the Create Label and Print Label action into one button. It is the most common way to print labels in ShipStation.

V3 Button to Create and Print Label. Color is green. Drop-down menu arrow at right.

When you click this button, ShipStation will request the label from the selected carrier and then immediately open the Print Label pop-up screen so you can preview the label and select your print method.

If you wish to create the label but not print it immediately, click the down arrow next to the button and choose Create Label instead.

ORD_CreateLabel-dropdown_BTN.png

When you are ready to print the label, click the Print menu from anywhere in ShipStation and select Label.

The Print Pop-up Screen

The print pop-up screen will appear when you choose to print any document in ShipStation and you have not set a default print method in the Print Settings.

You'll see the following options in the Print Pop-up screen:

  • Browser Print

    Label Print pop-up with the printer icon highlighted.

    This option prints the document via your browser's print feature.

    Once you click the print icon, your browser will open the browser's print dialog box, giving you all the available options to print through your browser.

  • Download

    V3_PRT_PU_Download_MRK.png

    This option downloads the document PDF to your browser's download location. You can then open the PDF in your preferred PDF viewer and print it from there.

  • Print through ShipStation Connect

    V3_PRT_PU_SSCPrint_MRK.png

    This option sends your document directly from ShipStation to the selected printer and requires ShipStation Connect to be installed and running on the printer workstation.

Smart Document Tracking

If you select Download or Print through ShipStation Connect, Smart Document Tracking will show the label or packing slip as printed.

When using the browser print method, ShipStation will not update the Smart Document Tracking to indicate the label or packing slip has been printed.

Whether you print one document at a time or multiple, the process to print or download is the same.

The printer workstation is the computer your printers are physically attached to via USB. ShipStation Connect must be installed and running on the printer workstation (but not on non-printer workstations) in order to print documents via ShipStation Connect.

Smart Document Tracking

The printer workstation is the computer your printers are physically attached to via USB. ShipStation Connect must be installed and running on the printer workstation (but not on non-printer workstations) in order to print documents via ShipStation Connect.

Smart Document Tracking

ShipStation's Printing Process

You can print from ShipStation in two ways: Using ShipStation Connect or using a PDF viewer.

ShipStation Connect

The most efficient way to print is with ShipStation Connect. This requires ShipStation Connect to be installed and running on the printer workstation (the computer your printer is directly connected to).

When you tell ShipStation to print, ShipStation sends the document from our database through the cloud to ShipStation Connect on the printer workstation, which passes it on to the printer driver, which in turn passes it on to the printer hardware.

Flowchart of arrows going from ShipStation Cloud, to ShipStation Connect, to Printer Driver, to Printer.

This entire process happens behind the scenes when you click print and takes only a few moments. ShipStation Connect also allows you to share the workstation printers with any other user on your ShipStation account.

Sharing printers allows other users to print to that workstation from wherever they are signed in, whether that's from a warehouse, an office, or a remote location across the country. As long as your printer workstation is awake and Connect is running, ShipStation can pass documents to your printer workstation via ShipStation Connect.

PDF Viewer

Alternately, you can download and print your documents using a PDF viewer like Acrobat or Preview, or print the PDF directly from your browser. In this instance, the printing process happens outside of ShipStation, and ShipStation Connect is not involved. 

While printing using the PDF method is not as versatile or efficient as using ShipStation Connect, it's useful to have a backup print method should you need it, and it's a good troubleshooting step to help identify where in the printing process an issue may be.

The printer workstation is the computer your printers are physically attached to via USB. ShipStation Connect must be installed and running on the printer workstation (but not on non-printer workstations) in order to print documents via ShipStation Connect.

The printer workstation is the computer your printers are physically attached to via USB. ShipStation Connect must be installed and running on the printer workstation (but not on non-printer workstations) in order to print documents via ShipStation Connect.

Labels that print with the label and packing slip on the same sheet.

CUPS stands for Common Unix Printing System. It is the Mac OS method for managing print jobs and printing preferences.

The printer workstation is the computer your printers are physically attached to via USB. ShipStation Connect must be installed and running on the printer workstation (but not on non-printer workstations) in order to print documents via ShipStation Connect.

Smart Document Tracking

The printer workstation is the computer your printers are physically attached to via USB. ShipStation Connect must be installed and running on the printer workstation (but not on non-printer workstations) in order to print documents via ShipStation Connect.