Plant labels (also known as plant markers, garden markers or plant name tags) are useful accessoires for any gardener. They let you identify your plants and make it easier to keep track of and organize your garden.

As someone who does some occasional gardening, I too found myself looking for plant labels. I couldn’t find anything I liked however.

This is why I decided to design and 3D print plant labels myself. What I ended up with was a set of unique multicolor 3D printed garden markers. I wrote the script to generate the labels in OpenSCAD, so that anyone can create custom labels for their own plants.

In this article I will show you exactly how to make the DIY plant tags yourself at home.

Let’s get started!

A pile of 3D printed multicolor plant labels.

Design goals

When I set out to design the labels, I had the following goals in mind:

  • Colorful and unique plant labels. I wanted to make something that really stands out from the generic plant tags that you can find elsewhere.
  • Durable and weather-resistant. Ideally the labels would be durable, weatherproof and not lose their information over time.
  • Plant care instructions. Because I don’t have the greenest thumbs, I thought it would be useful to also have the care instructions for the plants on the markers. I wanted them to be easy to read and not take up too much space, so I settled on icons for this.
  • Easy to build for others. I wanted you to be able to easily design and 3D print your own labels too, which is why I settled on using OpenSCAD (a free and open source modelling tool) for the project.

The end result

In the end that is exactly what I ended up with. Plant labels designed for multicolor 3D printing with a single extruder, that can be fully and easily customized.

Close-up of two cacti and two worm plants in a pot next to 3D printed garden markers.

The OpenSCAD script lets you choose fonts, icons, adjust the label dimensions, add/remove the border on the label, and even set preview colors for multicolor printing, so that you know what the end result will look like.

A screenshot of an OpenSCAD Customizer window with a variety of settings for generating a garden marker.

Further down the page I have included a link to the script and full step-by-step instructions on how to use it.

Plant label examples

Here are a couple of examples of labels that can be generated with the script.

Top view of two coloured DIY plant markers with text and plant care instructions.
Labels with text + icons.
Top view of two coloured DIY plant tags with text.
Text only.
Top view of two coloured DIY garden markers with plant care instruction icons.
Icons only.

A 3D printed plant label with glow-in-the-dark filament.

A two-color label with glow-in-the-dark filament.

How does the multicolor aspect work?

Labels are printed with various colors of filament, each up to specific heights. If the surface of an element (e.g. the sun icon) needs to be printed with a specific color (yellow), then it is only printed up to the layer with that color filament.

In practice this means that during printing you need to swap out the filament every couple of layers. In the end you end up with bunch of different elements on the labels, all with different heights and corresponding colors.

Close-up of a 3D printed DIY garden marker with plant care icons.

Making the plant labels without multicolor printing

Another way to create multicolor labels is to print the labels in white, at home or through a print service, and use quality acrylic paints to paint them by hand.

Read on to learn how to create your own DIY plant markers.

Materials

Tools

Files

The OpenSCAD script and associated icon files are available for download on Thingiverse.

How to design and 3D print your own DIY plant labels

Unfortunately I couldn’t integrate the script with the Thingiverse Customizer (which has a nice web interface for customizing settings) because Thingiverse doesn’t allow for the import of the icon files. The next best way to use the script is in OpenSCAD itself, but we need to install and set it up first.

Setting up OpenSCAD

Download and install OpenSCAD. Make sure to use version 2019.05 or later, because it comes with a built-in customizer to edit the label settings. That way you don’t need to fiddle with the code itself.

An arrow pointing to the 'Hide Customizer' option in the View menu of OpenSCAD.
After installing OpenSCAD, make sure that ‘Hide Customizer’ is deselected in the View menu.

Generating the labels

Make sure that the .scad file, .dxf icons and the .json presets file are all in the same folder, and then open the .scad file with OpenSCAD.

An arrow pointing to the 'Text Settings' section of a plant label generating script in OpenSCAD.
Configure the text, font and font size under Text settings. If you want the label to only have icons and no text, you can leave the textbox empty.
An arrow pointing to the 'Label Settings' section of a plant label generating script in OpenSCAD.
Set the correct label width under Label settings. This is useful for when a plant/herb/flower has a long name that would otherwise not fit on the label.
An arrow pointing to the 'Icon Settings' section of a plant label generating script in OpenSCAD.
Pick the right plant care icons under Icon settings. If you want to omit the icons altogether, you can scale them to 0 under Other settings.
Top view of a 3D printed white panel with a variety of colored icons on it.
A quick overview of the available icons.
Sun iconsFull sunIndirect SunPartial ShadeFull Shade
Water icons – Triple drops:No waterLowMediumHigh
Water icons – Single drop:No waterLowMediumHigh
Edibility iconsEdibleNon-edibleToxic
An arrow pointing to the 'Color Settings' section of a plant label generating script in OpenSCAD.
Set the colors under Color settings. This is only useful for previewing what the label would look like when multicolor 3D printing, or when painting the labels by hand. No color data is included in the .STL file for the label when it is generated by OpenSCAD.
An arrow pointing to the 'Height Settings' section of a plant label generating script in OpenSCAD.
Configure the heights of the elements under Height settings. This gives the text and icons a unique height, so that their surfaces are printed in their own color when multicolor printing with a single extruder. The default settings create a 0.4mm offset (2 layers of 200 micron) between the elements, which I have found to work well. Any less and the colors from the previous layers might bleed through.
Info icon
If you want to only print with two colors (one or the label and one for the toppings), or with a single color (if you want to paint things by hand), you can still leave the height settings at default for some relief. Alternatively, you can set everything to the same height (e.g. 2 mm.) to have all surfaces flush.
An arrow pointing to the 'Render' button in OpenSCAD.
Click Render (or press F6) to render the STL file. Make sure that the editor is not hidden in the View menu.
An arrow pointing to the 'Export as STL' button in OpenSCAD.
Click Export as STL (or Press F7) to export the STL file.

After you have saved the STL file, you can print it with your 3D printer or through a print service.

A screenshot of an OpenSCAD window with an arrow pointing to the presets in the Customizer.
You can find the exact settings for all labels featured in this article in the presets section of the OpenSCAD customizer. These are saved in the PlantLabels_v1.json file, so make sure to keep it in the same folder as the script itself if you want to access them.

Printing the labels

To print the labels in multiple colors, you will need to swap filaments at the right layers. For more information on this process you can check out this article on multicolor 3D printing.

I printed the labels with a 0.4mm nozzle and 0.2mm layer height. This worked well with the default settings in the script (font size 11, icons scaled to 0.75).

If you want to print smaller labels/text/icons it is best to go with a smaller nozzle, that way the smaller details can still be printed.

Conclusion

I am very happy with how the labels came out. I am thinking about maybe adding several more icons, for example an icon indicating that only the fruit of a plant is edible. If you have any more ideas or suggestions please let me know in the comments!

Last update on 2020-08-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Affiliate Disclosure

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