GX Series Initial Printer Setup Details and Information

Article ID: 02388027

Issue / Question

GX Series Printer Setup Overview 

Applicable To

GX Series printers

Resolution / Answer

GX Series Printer Setup Overview

The Zebra Printer can be used in various applications and must be properly configured to function with your media such as labels, tags, and ribbon (if used). In addition, you will be required to set the label size, print darkness, and print speed to optimize printing. The printer is typically configured from your host device using a driver, utility or software, or sending the printer's command language (EPL or ZPL). For most instances, you will need to connect the printer to your host device to set up and configure the printer. The GX Series printer also allows for a button flash sequence to configure darkness, print width, set defaults, and calibrate the labels. It should be noted that these configurations will be overwritten by any driver or application settings when you send your label request. Refer to:
Feed Button Modes.

Driver Considerations

IMPORTANT! If you are using a USB connection to the printer, install the driver before connecting the USB cable to the printer. 

Do you need the ZebraDesigner Driver? 
The ZebraDesigner Driver is used when a Windows Application requires a driver to print to the printer. (The driver converts the Windows Application output to the printer's language.) If you are using a label design software from a non-Zebra vendor check with that vendor to see if they provide their own driver before installing and using the Zebra Designer Driver.  In addition, if you are using an application that directly outputs the printer's command language (EPL/ZPL) then do not use a Zebra Printer Driver. For these applications either send the label files directly to the printer or use a Generic Text Driver. 

There are 5 sections in this article:


IMPORTANT! All printer settings can be impacted by commands from a mismatched or misconfigured driver or software application. A printer that is functioning correctly after setup but fails or indicates an error after label requests are received is most likely affected by the host side misconfiguration of the driver or printer software settings. The host device that generates the printer commands for printing typically has a setup configuration that sends these as commands to the printer. Make sure all settings match the printer settings to avoid intermittent issues.

Media Related Settings and Calibration 

NOTE Printer Setup and Configuration 

The GX-Series printer can be configured by your driver, host application, or a utility. In these examples, we will use the Zebra Designer Driver to configure the printer. The configurations are sent when printing using the driver or printing the driver test page. If you are using a non-Zebra application or driver or label software determine the methods used to set these configurations and be aware the terminology for each setting in your environment may be different.

Understanding your media
The Zebra Printer supports the use of many types and shapes of labels or tags and knowing your media detail is important for proper configuration.
Here are the details you should know for printer media setup and configuration. For example, we are using the ZebraDesigner Driver to show the configuration selections for each topic discussed below.  

NOTE When using the ZebraDesigner Driver, the configurations are sent to the printer when you request to print a label. (For example, printing the Windows Test page will send the printer configurations).

Media Related Configurations
There are 3 selections for Media Type (Tracking Mode):

  • Default - Web Sensing
  • Continuous - Web Sensing (gap)
  • Mark Sensing (Black Mark)

If you are using media with an inter-label gap or a center hole, set the Tracking Mode for Web Sensing.
If you are using media with a black bar or mark, set the Tracking Mode for Mark Sensing.

There are 2 selections for Print Method (Media Type):

  • Default - Thermal Transfer (Using Ribbon)
  • Direct Thermal (No Ribbon) 
NOTE The Print Method does not apply if your printer is a GX420D Direct Thermal only. There are no ribbon spindles or settings.

There are 3 selections for Print Mode:

  • Default - Tear off
  • Cutter
  • Peel

This is related to the label presentation after printing and limited to the options you have installed. The GX Series Printer supports Tear Off, Peel (Dispense Option Required), and Cutter (Cutter Option Required).
Refer to Print Mode Details for more information.

Media Loading - The media must be properly loaded for the Print Mode you intend to use.


Understanding the Media Sensors
The printer comes with sensors for label tracking based on the Media Type used. There is a reflective and transmissive sensor positioned slightly off-centered in the media path. An optional adjustable black mark sensor is available. The sensor you will use requires configuration of the Tracking Mode (Mark/Web/Continuous) setting to function with the media you are using. A hole or black mark must pass over the media sensor's position to function correctly.

See the GX Series Printer Sensors:

Refer to the User Guide: Moveable Blackline Sensor Option to see the GX Series optional adjustable black mark sensor.

NOTE When using Gap Media the moveable sensor must be positioned with the sawtooth indicators aligned as shown in this picture:


Media feed power up action
The first time you load the media, you should run the 2 flash calibration procedure described in Calibrate the printer for the Media. The Media Feed setting then determines how the media is handled when the printer is powered on or when the printhead is opened and closed.
The printer defaults to feed one label after power-up or when the printhead is opened and closed. This is intended to position an already calibrated label to its resting position to be ready for printing. This can be altered using the Media Feed setting to one of the following:

  • Calibrate 
  • Feed (Default)
  • Length
  • No Motion
  • Short Cal

If you wish to alter the default setting, you can create a file using the ^MF command to change the values. If you do not want to alter the printer defaults, you can use the two flash calibration each time you change label lengths.

Refer to the Calibration below:

  • Setting the Media Feed (Power Up Action) on the printer requires sending the ^MF command to alter the Power Up Head Open value. Refer to the ZebraDesigner Driver and the Send File Feature article on sending a file using the ZebraDesigner Tools feature.

Example of a ZPL Media Feed Command to Measure the Label Length when the head is closed:

^XA^MFN,L^XZ (Power Up = no motion, Head Close = Measure the length)
^XA^JUS^XZ (Saves the value)

For recommendations on these selections, refer to Media Feed (Power Up Action/Head Close Action).


Calibrate the printer for the media
The printer does not measure the label length unless the default Power Up or Head Close values are altered to either Length or Calibrate.

There are two calibration methods to consider if the labels fail to calibrate properly:

  • The 2 Flash sequence will find the label gap and measure the label.
  • The 7 button flash will perform a deeper analysis of the gap or mark and will produce a media sensor profile. 


Ribbon Setup
This applies to the GX420t and GX430t when using applications where the use of ribbon is required. This is referred to as Thermal Transfer printing where an inked ribbon is used to produce the image on the label.

Ribbon Basics - This explains the ribbon types and typical darkness and speed selections. Refer to: Ribbon Basics.

Ribbon Loading - The ribbon must be on a core that has notches to assure the ribbon spindle hubs will move with the ribbon rotation. The printer uses a sensor to detect the Ribbon Out condition and depends on the reflective chrome trailer to sense the end of the ribbon.

See the ribbon sensor:

Failure to see this reflective trailer will result in the printer continuing to attempt to print. Refer to: User Guide: Loading Transfer Ribbon.

Ribbon Configuration - Selecting Thermal Transfer if you are using Ribbon, Direct Thermal if you are not using Ribbon.


Print Quality
Print quality is a product of proper printer setup and the use of compatible media for the application. The four impacting factors to consider are:

  • The Media and Ribbon (if used) capabilities.
Not all media is the same when it comes to being compatible with your application or needs. Printing speed, the durability of the image/media, environment are just a few factors to consider when determining the printer setup for the application. Trying to compensate for poor media compatibility by using high printhead pressure and/or darkness settings can impact your printer’s printhead life.


  • Printhead Pressure
There are no printhead pressure adjustments on the GX Series printer. Assure the printhead properly latches and the platen is not worn as these are the impacting items when printhead pressure may be an issue. 


  • Print Speed
The printer is capable of printing at multiple print speeds. The speed selection takes the media/ribbon (if used) compatibilities into consideration since if high Darkness settings are required to achieve acceptable print then slower rates should be used. If your application requires the highest print speeds available be sure your media supplier has recommended the correct media for your application. 


  • Print Darkness
Print Darkness (also may be referred to as Density or Burn Temperature) is a user-adjustable setting. Avoid overheating the ribbon as it can melt if set too high. Vary the darkness to produce the best print quality.


Communications Setup

  • USB
A Zebra-compatible driver must be installed before connecting the printer. Refer to USB Communications for more details.


  • Serial
RS232 Null Modem is required and all parameters must be matched on the printer and host. Refer to: User Guide: Serial Port Interface.


  • Parallel
If the printer has a parallel port, use an IEEE1284.4 compatible cable. Refer to: User Guide: Connecting your Printer to a Computer.


  • Wired Ethernet Network
Printers that include a ZebraNet Print Server option can be connected to an Ethernet Network. If your network supports DHCP, the printer can obtain an IP Address when the cable is connected. Configuring a printer with the ZebraNet Option, refer to ZebraNet Print Server - Install, Setup, Configure, and Troubleshoot on a Wired Network.

You can use one of the following Utilities to set specific parameters or set a permanent IP address for your printer queue:

  • ZebraNet Bridge
Can be used to discover and assign the desired network settings. Refer to Discover and Configure TCP/IP Settings Using ZebraNet Bridge for more details.


  • The Zebra Setup Utility
Has a network setup wizard that can be used to configure your printer for a wired or wireless network. Refer to Configuring Connectivity for Wired or Wireless Networks using the Zebra Setup Utility for more details.


  • Wireless 802.11 Network
Printers that include a ZebraNet Wireless Option can be configured to connect to the wireless network but must be locally connected (USB, Serial, or Parallel) and configured using the Zebra Setup Utility or ZebraNet Bridge. Refer to Configuring Connectivity for Wired or Wireless Networks using the Zebra Setup Utility for more information.


Printing App, Driver, or Program
Zebra printers are command interpretation engines using printer commands to define the printed images. The printer must receive the commands in the supported printer language such as ZPL, EPL, CPCL. The printer will not respond if the label format received does not contain the required programming commands for label printing. Programming commands can be entered into a file and communicated to the printer, received as an output through a driver from an application, or created using one of many Zebra Label Software packages on the market.

For a general overview of this information, refer to Label Format Creation.


Utilities and Drivers
If you are not using the ZebraDesigner Driver for your printing application you can use one of the following utilities for printer configuration. If you are using a non-Zebra application or driver consult with the vendor for details on printer setup and configuration.

Application or Utility Comment
Zebra Setup Utility
Refer to: Zebra Setup Utilities: Downloading ZSU and Configuring Printer Settings
This is a free Windows-based utility that features a printer setup wizard for simple printer or network setup.  
ZebraNet Bridge
Refer to: Setup or Modifying a Zebra Printer Configuration Using ZebraNet Bridge
This is an enterprise application for network printer management but is free to use for configuring a network or locally connected printer.
ZebraNet Print Server Webpage
Refer to: Using the ZebraNet Print Server Web Page to Configure the Printer
The ZebraNet Print Server has a Webpage that is accessed from a browser when you enter the printer's IP Address. Printer configurations can be viewed and altered.
ZebraDesigner Driver
Refer to: Configure or Modify Basic ZebraDesigner Driver Settings Information
If you are using the ZebraDesigner Driver there is a Printing Preferences section that allows you to configure your printer.


Helpful Information: 


+ Product Codes

  • G-Series GX Desktop Printers
  • GX420Rx Desktop Printer
  • GX420d Desktop Printer
  • GX420t Desktop Printer
  • GX430d Desktop Printer
  • GX430t Desktop Printer