An Intro to Thermal Labels and Its Types


People think a label is a mere small paper with few details. In actuality, it’s not just that. Thermal printer labels come in several options and are made with numerous materials. If you own a business that sells products like food, you must know about food label printing, as it may make your product look branded and elevate your business’s marketing purposes. 

Today’s blog post is about thermal labels, their types, and their differences. Let’s begin with,

What is a Thermal Label?

Labels are essential to the operation of prosperous enterprises. A wide range of labelling requirements, such as those for storage, inventory, and product information, are handled by this labelling at every stage of a business’s operations. Companies that invest in high-quality thermal labelling should anticipate long-lasting, robust labels that hold up over time and maintain their integrity regardless of exposure to tough conditions and weather.

What are the Types of Thermal Labels?

1. Direct Thermal Label

The experts generally use thermal print heads to heat particular areas of coated, thermochromatic paper to create cost-effective labels. The intended picture is created when the sheet passes over the thermal print head and turns black where it is heated. By applying heat at different temperatures, two-colour label printing, like food label printing, may produce both red and black pictures. The use of ribbon, toner, or ink gets eliminated in this label printing.

The fact that labels are not scratch-proof and will probably lose colour contrast when exposed to light or high temperatures makes them more challenging to read. Using label stock other than white or pastels is not advisable because the image must get dragged through the label. They work best for labels that need to be used briefly, such as shipping labels, and for businesses that wish to print without ribbons, including those in the healthcare sector.

Meat, poultry, and dairy products have historically employed direct thermal labelling. As thermal papers and direct thermal printers have advanced, more items in almost every market can now benefit from the technology. Barcodes, coupons, GHS-compliant labels, and event tickets are now its typical applications.

2. Thermal Transfer Label

Similar to direct thermal materials, thermal transfer materials operate similarly. They have a coating (often matte) that allows the ink from a ribbon to transfer to the label. The labels are printed using a thermal transfer printer, where the label gets covered with a ribbon at the print head’s tip. The required image is produced on the label because ink transfers from the ribbon to the print head elements.

Labels made of thermal transfer paper are the best when direct thermal is not an option or when ribbon printing is preferred. Synthetic thermal transfer labels are a fantastic option for outdoor labelling and applications where visibility needs to be perfect.

How to Determine the Difference Between Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Labels?

It is simple to tell whether a label is a thermal transfer or direct thermal. By rubbing your fingernail across the labels, you may quickly determine whether they are thermal transfer labels or not. Direct thermal is used if the label turns black. If not, a thermal transfer label can get used. Direct thermal printer labels are not very resistant to heat and light. The image deteriorates, and the label darkens over time. Direct thermal printer labels often only remain scannable for around six months after printing, even if they are stored away from a harsh environment. But for many uses, including printing shipping labels, visitor ID cards, receipts, and tickets, this lifespan is adequate.

How To Select The Right Label?

As a business owner, you should confirm that you are specifying the appropriate thermal barcode label type if you need to use barcodes in any form for your business. Direct thermal printer labels and thermal transfer labels, the two primary types used in barcode printing, differ in their composition – the way that barcodes and other information get printed and their applicability for various applications.

You can be sure that the barcode labels you purchased will help your business succeed by selecting the appropriate label type and consulting well-known authorities in thermal labelling on your barcode labelling needs. In contrast, choosing the incorrect label type or ordering it from a subpar labelling supplier exposes you to unwarranted risks and prevents you from receiving the pricing, quality, and service you are entitled to.

Which label type, thermal transfer or direct thermal, is ideal for your particular barcode application? Let’s understand through the following information.

  • The application of direct thermal printer labels has the benefit of having inexpensive, compact printing equipment. Additionally, it is portable and does not require ribbon purchases.
  • These labels have a limited shelf life and are extremely heat- and light-sensitive.

Uses – Event tickets, shipping, bakery, and delivery labels are a few examples of temporary solutions which direct thermal printer labels are ideal for.

  • The benefit of utilising thermal transfer labels is that they can withstand chemicals, grease, solvents, heat, and moisture since they are made using a method that makes them resistant to those things. Additionally, they can survive the rigours of handling, transportation, and lengthy storage.
  • Labels and ribbons must be purchased when using thermal transfer printing, and that’s a drawback.

Uses – Thermal transfer labels can be utilised for more demanding tasks, including warehouse tags and labels, shrink wrap labelling, and certification tags.

Contact a Professional Thermal Label Printer

We hope this guide was helpful, and now you can select the best option between the direct thermal label and the thermal transfer label. To ensure getting the best labels, consider contacting a professional and experienced label manufacturer who can have your back to provide the best labels. 


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