High-Quality Thermal Transfer Labels for Long-Lasting Impressions

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April 6, 2023


Label Arts

Thermal transfer labels are trendy, yet we know very little about them. Subtle differences may be apparent to us as a preferred label printer, but it can be confusing for a layperson. When you ask about ‘thermal labels,’ you will get an immediate follow-up question ‘do you want thermal transfer or direct?’ or ‘what type of thermal label do you need?’ Labelarts has a team of professionals who will be happy to explain everything about thermal printers and make suggestions based on your requirements. If you wish to know more about thermal transfer and direct thermal labels, read on. There are two ways to use heat for applying images as well as words to the material.

Choosing the right printing supplies plays a crucial role in keeping unnecessary wear and tear on print heads; this causes higher replacement costs. Compromising consistency for the price can be risky since the unreadability of barcodes requires reprint, canceling out the cost-saving idea. Workers may have to work with some adjustments to the printer for inconsistencies in the media, making more deals with expensive downtime, IT calls and risk damaging productivity. The right printing solutions will help you boost the overall operational cost and efficiency, keep track of your assets and optimize the customer experience in the proper manner. This also helps to ensure brand consistency and maintain regulatory compliance, supporting business growth-not causing damage.

In this post, we will unravel the direct thermal vs. thermal transfer label discussion; learn about each technique’s differences, benefits, and snags.

What are thermal transfer labels?

Thermal labels are printed using one of the two procedures that use heat for applying images and text on a treated surface. Thermal transfer material works as direct thermal materials. They have a matte finish on them that absorbs the ink transferred from the ribbon onto the label surface. The labels are printed via thermal transfer printer, where a ribbon is placed upon the label. The print head elements heat up and transfer ink on the ribbon to the label; this helps create the needed image. Thermal transfer paper labels make an ideal choice where direct thermal doesn’t cut the fit, or the quality ribbon is preferred. Thermal transfer synthetic labels are perfect for labeling and outdoor applications where moisture and scuffing are normal.

Wondering, have I seen it before? Thermal transfer printing is employed in situations where the printed material requires surviving for a long time or for life without fading or losing its readability. Other uses of thermal transfer printing include the following:

– UL certification

– Lab specimen 

– Inventory & product identification

– Circuit board tracking

Thermal transfer printing makes an ideal choice for extreme weather conditions.


Thermal transfer printing is a quick method and more popular than direct thermal printing since it creates high-definition and accurate texts and images. Thermal transfer printing is an excellent solution for barcode printing – thermal transfer printing comes with the added benefit of color and better durability. These two features make them a perfect choice for low-volume and on-demand solutions. Thermal transfer printing offers:

– Creates durable and archival-quality labels.

– They don’t rub off easily

– Damage, moisture, light and heat resistance

– Used for applying to printing media – polypropylene, paper and polyester.


Thermal transfer printers consume more material than direct thermal printing labels; the waxy ribbon must be replaced. While thermal transfer printing ribbons are available in all colors, the technology doesn’t allow for full-procedure color printing. Those wishing for green color can find a green printer ribbon. A few of the downsides of thermal transfer printing are as follows:

– Thermal transfer ribbon cannot be reused or recycled.

– Your ribbon choice must be compliant with your choice of printing surface.

What is Direct Thermal Printing?

Direct thermal printers need special paper or printing material with a leuco dye coating. The exciting thing about leuco dye is that it can switch between chemical forms and one of them has no color. A blank sheet can be covered in leuco dye and appears as nothing but a blank sheet. A direct thermal printer comes with heating features in its print head. When the heat comes in contact with the printing material, the ink changes from no color to dark and texts or pictures.

If you have ever ordered from Amazon, you must have held onto the delivery box with scraped or damaged labels. If a dark line appears upon scratch opening it, you are dealing with a direct thermal printed label. Same with the receipts from retail stores – besides shipping labels, direct thermal printing is used for other joint surfaces where durability isn’t that necessary. Think about tickets or receipts that may not be required later; they need to be printed quickly but don’t have to endure longer than 24 hours. Other use for direct thermal printing includes:

– Parking tickets

– Event passes

– Patient wristband

– Receipts

– Name  


Direct thermal printing is used for barcodes and scannable material since they turn out sharp every time, with high-quality texts and graphics. Following are some of the fantastic advantages of direct thermal labels:

– Direct thermal printing label doesn’t use cartridges or ink, which is chemically treated.

– Minimal supplies mean low maintenance and even lower maintenance expenses.

– Direct thermal printers are quick and mobile.

– They cost less to operate vis-à-vis thermal transfer printing labels.


Direct thermal printers cannot print in color, but your label printer can print ‘blanks’ with your brand logo and colored theme. Direct thermal printing is economical in small quantities; if large amounts are required, the traditional printing method will be more affordable. Another complication you must know is that our world is experiencing leuco dye scarcity; the Chinese government cracked down on emissions from the plants that produce this dye, only to slow down the production.


If you need to print labels at high volume, thermal printing may be the way to go. Thermal labels are one of the many modern label printing options available in the market today. Do you have label printing needs? Connect with our professionals today, whether you just have a question or you wish to stock up; we’re here to help.