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Direct Thermal Labels

Shop our extensive line of sizes, materials, adhesives and colors. It's easy to find the perfect labeling solution for your application. (Thermal Transfer Ribbons Not Required)

520 Products

Enhance your direct thermal label printing process, shop our extensive line of label sizes, materials, adhesives and colors. With our elite team of consultants, premium materials, competitive pricing, and quality USA manufacturing, it's easy to find the perfect labeling solution for your application.

Direct Thermal | The Technology

Direct thermal printing uses virtually the same process as thermal transfer printing - with one exception. Direct thermal printers do not use ribbon. In direct thermal printing, the thermal process occurs on the paper substrate itself - requiring a specially coated paper for optimal performance. The heat generated from the printhead causes a chemical reaction with the top layer of the coated paper that essentially burns the transmitted image onto the paper.

  • Advantages - Images produced by direct thermal printing are clear and defined; and direct thermal printers are cheap, simple to operate and easy to maintain. Direct thermal printing for barcode labeling is certainly an improvement over inkjet and laser technology, especially when it comes to speed and resolution.
  • Disadvantages - Direct thermal images are far less durable than thermal transfer printed images; and direct thermal technology is also constrained by substrate restrictions. The coated paper required by direct thermal printing is very sensitive to light, heat, and abrasion - limiting the range of applications for direct thermal printing to short-term projects. Direct thermal images have no chemical resistance, and very short life spans. Primary uses for direct thermal printing are "Point-A-to-Point-B" applications, such as baggage checking in airports, or parcel delivery. Barcoding projects requiring durable images and substrate flexibility are not well served by direct thermal printing technology.

Direct Thermal | Scratch Test

If you’re not sure if a label is a direct thermal or thermal transfer, try the “scratch test”. First, lay the label on a hard surface such as a desktop. Next, run your fingernail or a pen cap quickly back and forth across the label. If it turns black, it’s a direct thermal label. If not, it will be a thermal transfer label.

Why do direct thermal labels turn black when you scratch them? The answer lies in the specially formulated paper stock used by direct thermal printers. This stock is coated with a material that contains microscopic capsules of ink. When exposed to heat, these capsules burst, creating an image on the label.

  • The advantage of using direct thermal labels is that the printing equipment is inexpensive and takes up very little space.
  • Direct thermal printers are also portable and do not require the purchase of ribbons.
  • The disadvantages of these labels include a short lifespan and extreme vulnerability to heat and light.
  • Uses direct thermal labels are perfect for temporary solutions, such as event tickets, shipping, bakery, and deli labels.

Direct Thermal | Storage Recommendations

The following storage procedures will promote the quality and usability of your label and card products.

  • Keep materials out of direct sunlight and excessive (freezing or hot) temperatures.
  • Store materials in a climate­ controlled facility at 72° F and 52% relative humidity.
  • Use materials within a 365 ­day timeframe.

Our Statement:

Labels Direct, Inc. does not sell branded products of Afinia®, Brady®, Brother™, Citizen®, Cognitive®, Datamax®, DYMO®, Epson®, Honeywell®, Intermec®, Primera®, SATO®, Seiko®, TEC®, TSC® and Zebra®. All of these companies mentioned sell their own brand name OEM label products. Their specific product names SKU numbers are all trademarks of each individual company and solely owned by each individual company. These companies DO NOT endorse nor sponsor any products manufactured or sold by Labels Direct, Inc. Product numbers, SKU numbers, printer makes and printer models are noted on our website solely for the purpose of comparison.


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