ZD420 Series Desktop Printer Initial Setup

Article ID: 42837309

Issue / Question

How can I communicate with this printer?

How can I print from an app or program?

How can I set up the printer driver?

How can I improve the print quality?

How can I set up this printer to use the labels and ribbons I have?

Applicable To

ZD420 Series Desktop Printer

Resolution / Answer

NOTE Zebra Support Community Site has been updated to replace obsolete industry terms with modern terminology. This article uses the term Central instead of Master, and Peripheral instead of Slave

ZD420 Series Printer Setup Overview 

The in-depth information is provided should you have any questions or problems initially setting up and using your printer. Most applications do not require in-depth knowledge of thermal transfer printing to be correctly set up for proper printer function.

The Zebra Printer can be used in a wide variety of applications and must be properly configured to function with your media (Labels, Tags, etc.) and ribbon (if used). In addition, you are required to set the label size, print darkness, and print speed to optimize printing if using a Zebra driver. The printer is typically configured from your host device using a driver, utility/software, or sending the printer's command language (ZPL Only).  

Test Print without Data 

To test the printer without connecting to a data source (stand-alone mode), you can perform the following actions.

  1. Load Printer with Media.
  2. Loading Ribbon (if used). For more details, watch the Video: ZD420 Changing Ribbon.
  3. Power on the Printer.
  4. Run Smart Calibration. For more information, watch the Video: ZD420 Media Calibration.
  5. Print a Configuration Report. Watch the Video: ZD420 Printing a Configuration Report for more details.

Button Press Setup

The ZD420 printers are different from older Zebra Desktop Model Printers as they do not utilize the feed button flash sequences to modify settings since they use the new Link-OS firmware. In addition, they differ by having a three-button front panel that supports configuration in standard and an Advanced Mode.

You can perform several setup functions in the Advanced Mode, including calibration, print width adjustments, and darkness. For more information, refer to ZD420: Advanced Mode Details.

The Front Panel is described here: Operator Controls.

Watch the Video: Getting Started to view a typical printer installation procedure.

NOTE Any setup configurations performed using the printer buttons can be overwritten by a driver or application that sends configuration commands.

Driver Considerations

IMPORTANT! If you use a USB connection to the printer, install the Zebra Driver (or Zebra Setup Utility) before connecting the USB cable to the printer to ensure Windows detects and installs the printer correctly.

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 label design software from a non-Zebra vendor, check with that vendor to see if they provide their driver before installing and using the Zebra Designer Driver. Also, if you are using an application that directly outputs the printer's command language (ZPL), do not use a Zebra Printer Driver. When direct ZPL code is sent through the ZDesigner driver, it acts as a pass-through tool and simply prints the code sent on the label. Either send the label files directly to the printer or use a Generic Text Driver for these applications.  


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

Media Related Settings and Calibration

The ZD420 Series printer can be configured by your driver, host application, or 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) Suppose you are using a non-Zebra application/driver/label software. In that case, you will need to determine the methods used to set these configurations in that application and be aware that the terminology for each setting in your environment may be different. 

Understanding your media:

The Zebra Printer supports using many types and shapes of label/tags, and knowing your media detail is essential for proper configuration. For more information, refer to Media and Ribbon Identification.

Here are the details for printer media setup and configuration. You can use the ZebraDesigner Driver or Zebra Setup Utility to generate the configuration commands in the examples below (the configurations are sent when printing to the printer using the driver or using the print test page button when setting up the driver for your printer).

Media Related Configurations 

  1. Media Type (Tracking Mode) - Selections - Continuous, Web Sensing (gap), and Mark Sensing (Black Mark). Default is Web Sensing.
ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Advanced Setup - Tracking Mode) 
  • 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. 
  • If you are using media with no break similar to receipt paper, set the Tracking Mode for Continuous.
  • By default, the printer will have the sensor centered under the media and used as a gap/notch sensor while located within the alignment key.  
  • The sensor is adjustable and can be moved off center to change the sensor type used to black mark sensing and allow you to position the sensor wherever the black mark separator may be located on your label/tag:  ZD420C: Using the Movable Sensor.
  1. Print Method (Media Type) - Selections - Thermal Transfer (Using Ribbon) or Direct Thermal (No Ribbon)  
ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Advanced Setup - Media Type)  
  1. Print Mode - Selections-  Tear off, Peel (Dispense Mode), or Cutter
ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Advanced Setup - Operation Mode)  

This is related to the label presentation after printing and is limited to the options you have installed.
The ZD420 Series supports all print modes listed above but must be configured with the proper hardware and media. Again, your drivers and software/application must also match these settings to ensure no errors are encountered when printing.
  1. Media Loading - The media must be properly loaded for the Print Mode you intend to use.

Helpful Information:

Understanding the Media Sensors

The printer comes with sensors for label tracking based on the Media Type used. There is both a reflective and transmissive built into the printer. Both are located within the same assembly (reflective is used for media with a black mark separator, and transmissive is used for media with a gap or hole/notch as the separator). Either positioning of this module or drivers/utilities/software can be used to set the sensor properly for the media installed.

The sensor you will use requires configuration of the Tracking Mode (Mark/Web/Continuous) setting to function properly with the media you are using.

A gap/hole or black mark must pass over the media sensor's position for the printer to properly detect and calibrate to the installed media.

For more information, refer to ZD420 Sensors.

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. 

If the printer is properly calibrated, it should feed one label properly each time the feed button is pressed.


Ribbon Setup

This is referred to as Thermal Transfer printing, where an inked ribbon is used to produce the image on the label.

  • Ribbon Basics Information explains the ribbon types and typical darkness and speeds selections. 
  • Ribbon Loading Information explains how to insert ribbon cartridges. 
  • Ribbon Configuration - Select Thermal Transfer if you are using Ribbon, Direct Thermal if you are not using Ribbon.

Make sure to set this in the ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Advanced Setup - Media Type) or your printing application.  


Print Quality

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

  1. 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 darkness settings can impact your printer’s printhead life.  

It is possible to receive poor-quality print due to a mismatch of ribbon and media (certain ribbon matches certain media better than other media), but adjusting settings and checking all other variables is recommended before reaching that conclusion.
  1. Print Speed 
The printer is capable of printing at multiple print speeds.
The speed selection considers the media compatibility and works in tandem with your darkness setting (lower print speeds typically require lower darkness settings and vice versa).
If your application requires the highest print speeds available, be sure your media supplier has recommended the correct media for your application. 
  • ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Options - Print Speed) 
  1. 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. 
Setting the darkness using the
  • ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Options - Darkness) 

Helpful Information:

NOTE The Driver or Software will overwrite the Printer Darkness setting, so assure you match the values set with Advanced Mode to prevent unwanted changes.

There is an additional Darkness Setting Information that is additive to the printer setting. 


Communications Setup

USB - A Zebra compatible driver must be installed before connecting the printer. USB Details.

Serial - RS232 Null Modem, all parameters must be matched on the printer and host Serial Details.
Wired/Wireless Network - Printers that include a ZebraNet Print Server option can be connected to an Ethernet Network.

If your network supports DHCP the printer should be assigned an IP Address when the cable is connected. 
If a DHCP address is acquired, you can use the ZebraNet Web Interface to configure your network settings using the path of typing the DHCP assigned IP address into a browser and then clicking Print Server Settings > Print Server (Username: admin  Password: 1234) > TCP/IP Configuration > and modify your settings, and click submit so you can reset the network card to apply settings. This is the easiest way of configuring the network settings of the printer.  

If this is not an option or does not properly apply your settings, you can move to the procedures below for configuring your printer for your network.
Using the ZebraNet Print Server Web Page to configure the printer

Unlike a Wired network connection, a wireless setup has to be done using one of our utilities. The printer can't discover a wireless network on its own. You will have to apply the appropriate settings to the printer for the network you are attempting to connect to. You can use one of the following Utilities to set specific parameters or set a permanent IP address for your printer queue.  

Setting up and Troubleshooting a Printer for a Wireless Network


The ZD400 Series Printers have the option of having Bluetooth installed (factory only). This can be configured with other Bluetooth devices and acts as a 'peripheral' device in the connection. For more information, refer to ZD410D: Bluetooth Option Configuration.

For Zebra Setup Utilities Bluetooth configuration, refer to Bluetooth Setup using the Zebra Setup Utility.

The printer support a Bluetooth Low Energy feature included with Bluetooth 4.0.
There are no known applications for this, and given its limited data length capabilities, it is not used for printing. 


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 (ZPL).

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 Label Format Creation Information.

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 printer setup and configuration details.

Application or Utility


Zebra Setup Utility 

Zebra Setup Utilities - Downloading ZSU & Configuring Printer Settings

This free Windows-based utility features a printer setup wizard for a simple printer or network setup.  

ZebraNet Bridge

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

Using the ZebraNet Print Server Web Page to configure the printer

The ZebraNet Print Server has a web page accessed from a browser when you enter the printer's IP Address. As a result, printer configurations can be viewed and altered.

ZebraDesigner Driver 

Configure or Modify Basic ZebraDesigner Driver Settings Information

If you are using the ZebraDesigner Driver, a Printing Preferences section allows you to configure your printer.

Helpful Information:

+ Product Codes

  • ZD420 Series
  • ZD420-HC
  • ZD420C