What is the Difference Between Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Labels?

Difference Between Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Labels

Do you know the difference between direct thermal and thermal transfer labels? More importantly, do you know which one your company needs? Each method uses a thermal printhead that applies heat to the surface being marked, however their are some big differences.

It really comes down to what type of label you need and what do you need it to do. Do you need barcodes that will last a long time and endure the elements, or do you need to labels such as  shipping labels, receipts, or tickets that have a shorter shelf life?

Direct Thermal Labels

Direct thermal labels do not use a thermal transfer ribbon.  The ink in the paper is activated by heat.  This is a popular type of label for the food industry because the labels typically have a short shelf life, six months or less.

A direct thermal printer uses thermal paper which is contains a special type of dye which that starts off colorless. When heat is applied to the dye, it changes color. It’s almost like magic!  Black is the most common color. The ongoing maintenance costs are lower than those for thermal transfer printing.

See our new direct thermal color product call RevealPrint!

These labels can be produced as blanks or in color using a flexographic or digital printing process.  We will work with you to produce the type of image you want on your products.

Direct Thermal Labels Fun Facts

  • Does not use ink, toner, or ribbons
  • Black and white printing only
  • May fade over time
  • Costs less than thermal transfer printers
  • Requires very little maintenance or replacement of supplies
  • Perfect for barcodes, shipping labels,  receipts, etc.

Thermal Transfer Labels 

Thermal transfer labels are similar to a traditional impact printer and uses a wax or resin ribbon. Heat is applied to the ribbon to produce durable, long-lasting images on a wide variety of materials. This process transfers ink to the label creating a clear, high quality image. Thermal transfer printing is perfect for applications that require durable, long-lasting labels.

We have over 250 thermal transfer stock sizes and adhesive combinations to choose from. We work with nearly every bar code label application imaginable. If you are not sure that a certain label material will work for your application, you can try our sample label roll program to test at your facility.

Thermal Transfer Labels Fun Facts

  • Uses a ribbon for printing
  • Can print in color with the addition of a colored ribbon
  • Doesn’t fade over time
  • Stands up to chemicals and extreme temperatures
  • Great for printing logos, graphics, inventory labels, product identification
  • Compatible with a wide variety of materials

Which one do you need?

If you still aren’t sure we’d be happy to talk to you and learn more about your business environment and labeling needs. Together, we can come with a printing solution that works with your facility and budget.

Send us an Email or give us a call at 888.972.5234 for more information.

For more information on PaladinID


Get Help With Your Next Label Project

We have over 35 years of providing exceptional service and labeling products to the world.  Take the first step to an easy, stress-free solution for your label needs by contacting us.

Schedule a call below or email dritchie@paladinid.com

Make Your Mark

“Making companies more competitive by offering the correct label printing solution, on time, within budget, while creating unmatched value”.

About PaladinID, LLC
PaladinID develops and supports high-performance barcode labeling applications. We work with our clients to “Make Your Mark” by providing the expertise and tools necessary to create an entire product label printing solution. Located in central New Hampshire, PaladinID has been serving Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New England, and beyond for over 30 years, and in 2017, became an RFID-certified company. We look forward to working with you.

You may be interested in our other services:

Product Labels

Product Labels

Labels for every type of application: Blank, Pre-printed, Variable data

Label Printers

Label Printers

We sell and support: Direct/thermal transfer, Inkjet, Laser

Printer Ribbons

Printer Ribbons

We sell ribbons for ALL barcode printers including: Zebra, Datamax, Sato, Intermec

Flexible Packaging

Flexible Packaging

We offer a wide variety of packaging containers for your products.

Label Software

Label Software

Software for all barcode printing and product labeling.

Label applicators

Label Applicators

Wide selection of applicators: Desktop/Mobile, Applicator only, Print & apply