I’m Liking LightScribe

Benefits make LightScribe a no-brainer for disc labeling

LightScribe is an interesting technology.  LightScribe is currently available on CD-R and DVD recordable media.  One side of the disc is the side for recording data – just as any other recordable optical medium.  The other side (the label side) is a special medium with an optical dye that reacts to certain frequencies of light.  When the medium is activated by the laser beam in a LightScribe drive, it darkens, creating a dark area where the laser beam hit it.  With enough darkened areas, text can be ‘printed’, photographs can be ‘printed’, and fancy borders for the text can be ‘printed.’  Although the actual print technology is referred to as Laser Etching, I’m saying ‘printed’ to describe the process of Laser Etching onto a LightScribe label.  From here on, I’ll use the word without the apostrophes around it.

Printing is done in concentric circles, beginning near the hub of the disc, and running to the outer edges of the disc.  Printing is an absolute process – once a darkened area is created, it can’t be erased.  Conversely, however, any unprinted area of the label can be made dark by directing the laser beam to it (and this allows you to print to the disc many times, adding data or images as you need them).

LightScribe Quality

I’ve tested the current version of LightScribe media, referred to as Version 1.2, using an Aleratec DVD/CD Copy Cruiser Pro HLS and found it to produce images that are excellent — sharp, clear, and easy to read.  The quality of image should be acceptable to any organization.

Modifying the contrast settings in the LightScribe Control Panel, I was able to print very dark areas of text and graphics onto the LightScribe media.  Where, in the past, some users would burn a label twice in order to get a dark enough image, by modifying the contrast setting, only one pass is required to make a very acceptable image.

Append is Amazing

One of the capabilities of LightScribe that few people realize is that the label’s surface can be written to multiple times.  Because of the way a LightScribe drive and LightScribe media work, the LightScribe recorder finds the EXACT starting point on the disc EVERY time the label side of the disc is inserted into the drive.

If you think about this a bit, you may wind up as excited about this capability as I was when I learned about it.  What this means is that an organization can create a master label, burn dozens or perhaps hundreds or thousands, and have a standard, company approved disc for creating distributable data, presentations, music, or other materials. Anything going out on CD or DVD from a company, or particular division or department, could be printed onto a disc with the same standard label design as any other coming from that organization – this may actually help to differentiate a disc legitimately produced by the organization from a fake.

Using one of Aleratec’s DVD/CD Tower Publishers with LightScribe, you would be able to produce a large number of labeled discs in a relatively short time.  I’m really excited by the Append capability and see a day when companies will make their own master discs or, possibly, when third party companies will sell their services creating disc ‘letterheads’ for client companies and organizations.

The beauty of having a pre-printed LightScribe label is that, using labeling software, an organization could print a title or other specific information about the disc alongside the information already recorded on the disc.  This is an amazing concept and provides great possibilities.  (One other thing the Append capability enables is permanently overwriting the text on an already recorded blank.  If you find a typo on a label, or have another reason to never want anyone else to see what was on that area of the label, you can completely overwrite the offending area, making it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to read the contents of that spot on the disc).

Now It’s Colorful

When I first started working with LightScribe, the media was available in one color—a lightish tan color.   Now, users also have the option to use colored discs.  This media, which Aleratec offers as a Rainbow Pack, contains discs in a variety of colors.  Although they are still LightScribe discs, the look of a red, orange, blue, green or yellow colored CD or DVD helps separate them from all the other media, and makes it relatively easy to pick such a disc out of a pile of discs.

PhotoPrinting?   Really?

LightScribe media can be used as a target for photographs.  Using a Label Design program, a photograph can be imported into the program.  The image is usually placed into the design area of the software.  It may be resized, text may be put on top of the image, and the image burned onto the media.

LightScribe media does best when the source images used are monochrome.  Converting a photo or other image from color to gray scale or monochrome (using photo imaging software), the image improves.  With enough attention to the fact that color images are printed in varying shades of gray, converting a color image into an acceptable image for printing onto the media is fairly easy, and should give good results.


I’m really liking what I see in LightScribe.  The append feature offers tremendous capabilities for an organization to create ‘organization standard’ label designs.

The media, and modifying the contrast setting for printing, can produce very acceptable labels.  With the availability of colored background LightScribe media, LightScribe duplicators offered by Aleratec, and  much improved contrast settings, it’s hard to argue against LightScribe as a great solution for disc labeling.

A future blog will explore such things as label design format and design software packages.  I’ll also address time-related issues and provide some clever (I think) ways work around time concerns.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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