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Difference Between Thermal Transfer Labels and Direct Thermal Labels

Thermal Transfer Labels:-

The thermal transfer labels are labels that require a ribbon while printing. Both the ribbon and label goes through the printer where wax and resin is transferred onto the label with the help of heat (hence the name – thermal transfer labels). The ribbon’s function is similar to that of ink in inkjet printers. The wax and resin have replaced ink here. The ribbons used in thermal transfer labels are available in colors other than black, letting you have a multi-colored print. Thermal transfer labels are scratch-resistant and durable too – ideal to be used for various applications.

Labels available at Packaging Supplies By Mail Labels

Direct Thermal Labels:-

Unlike the thermal transfer labels, the direct thermal labels do not use ribbons to print. In direct thermal label printing, the labels feed directly into the printer and as the print head runs over the label, a chemical reaction takes place due to which the heated portions darken causing the printed label. When compared to the thermal transfer printing, the direct thermal label printing is convenient and cost saving as it does not require ribbon. However, there is a downside of using these labels – they are not tough enough to resist scratches or heat and are susceptible to fading when exposed to direct sunlight or stored in warm places.

Here are the pros and cons of both the label types for you to decide on which suits better to your requirements:

Thermal Transfer Labels



  • No waiting time for letting the ink dry
  • Low operational costs
  • Swift, reliable printing
  • Not resistant to humidity, temperature, or chemicals
  • Discoloration over time
  • Print can be damaged due to friction/abrasion

Direct Thermal Labels



  • Ink dries quickly
  • Long lasting prints
  • Ability to withstand liquids and chemicals
  • Excellent temperature resistance (freezing to boiling)
  • Can smudge under heavy abrasion
  • Only wax can be used with materials like paper

Packaging Supplies By Mail are leading suppliers of shipping labels – both the direct thermal labels and thermal transfer labels. The Direct Thermal labels are usually put to use for short-term barcode labels, pallet labels, and address labels while Thermal Transfer labels are used for wire marking, asset tags, high-density barcode labels, or indoor/outdoor signage. We stock varied size options in different pack quantities for making appropriate product available to your business’s specific requirements. For more details, visit https://www.packagingsuppliesbymail.com/labels or call us at 1-800-456-2467.

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