Direct Thermal vs Thermal Transfer Label Printing:

If you’re looking for a proven and reliable way to print important information on demand, then thermal labels are a good bet. By investing in quality thermal labelling, your business will print durable labels that produce results. But it’s not that easy. There are two different options to
consider when printing thermal labels, direct thermal and thermal transfer. This blog will give you the rundown on both methods and help you with making the decision.

Direct Thermal Labels:

This method uses heat sensitive materials and applies heat to the label face to print images. The heat then causes a colour change to form the desired image. It uses a more expensive base stock; however, it is the cheaper option because it doesn’t use ribbons when printing. Not only is this more cost efficient, but it also increases productivity due to no ribbon changeovers.
While direct thermal labels are suitable for some requirements, they aren’t ideal for labels that receive a high exposure to heat and sunlight or need to last long. This will result in the label fading over time. Therefore, it is suitable if your business is selling short to medium life products and applications.

Thermal Transfer Labels:

Unlike direct thermal labels, thermal transfer labels require a ribbon for printing which is the main point of difference. A thermal label printer will apply heat to the thermal print head, which causes the compounds on the ribbon to transfer onto the label to form the desired image. While there are ongoing costs associated with ribbons, the quality is of a much higher standard and the labels are more durable when compared to direct thermals.

They are also more resistant to light and heat and are more protected from foreign objects because of a small protective buffer between the ribbon and the head. Therefore, if you are requiring labels with a higher life expectancy or need excellent print definition, this is the option for you.


In summary, your choice between the two comes down the life expectancy of your labels, the amount of exposure they’ll have to heat and light and the quality of images used. If you’re still unsure, then feel free to contact us to discuss.

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