What are Direct Thermal Labels?

Direct thermal labels are an economical type of label that are imprinted using a direct thermal printer. During the direct thermal printing process, a thermal print head is used to heat specific areas of the thermal paper. The paper runs over the thermal print head and turns black where it is heated, producing the desired image, font, text, etc. It is possible to produce two colors with a direct thermal printer. Two-color direct thermal printing can create both red and black images. Heat is applied to the paper at different temperatures, producing the two different colors. The direct thermal printing process uses no ink, toner, or ribbon. The chemically treated, heat-sensitive materials is what produces the color during the print process.

How are Direct Thermal Labels Used?

Direct thermal labels have long been used in the food and dietary industry, mainly for beverages, meat, poultry, and dairy products. Because of improvements to direct thermal printers and paper, these labels are now well suited for many other markets and products today. Some common applications include:

  • Barcodes for numerous products, such as shipping labels, patient and visitor identification, receipts, and ticket printing
  • Perfect for beer bottles and beer cans - check out our custom beer label solutions
  • Coupons
  • Event Tickets
  • Name Tags and Visitor Passes
  • Economically printing GHS-compliant labels

Advantages of Direct Thermal Labels

Direct thermal labels print on continuous sheets and are highly cost-effective for creating large quantities of simple labels. Because no thermal ribbons are used, they’re also more environmentally friendly than thermal transfer labels. Direct thermal printers usually cost less to operate than an inkjet, laser, or thermal transfer printer. Other benefits of direct thermal printing include:

  • Time savings – no need to monitor or reload ribbons
  • Elimination of wrinkling due to ribbons
  • Reduction in physical inventory
  • Variety of label sizes
Direct thermal label printer

Direct Thermal vs Thermal Transfer Labels

While direct thermal labels offer many advantages, there are some things you should keep in mind when using direct thermal labels. Direct thermal labels are not ideal if the label must remain legible for a long period of time, or will be exposed to harsh environments (rain, sun, etc). Direct thermal materials are very sensitive to light, heat, and heavy contact. This makes them very susceptible to fading, especially in the long term. If you are looking to print a label that needs to last a long time, you should be considering thermal transfer printing processes as your label type.

A Few Of Our Many Happy Customers

“If I could reach through the computer and give you a huge hug and a kiss, I would! Ha, ha, ha. Thank you for always being so amazing to work with.”

- Jones Creek Beef

“I just wanted to let you know that the labels have just been received here at Goodwill - On behalf of all of us thank you so much for the quick turnaround to help us resolve this issue - Great Job . Thanks!”

- Goodwill & SCJ Team

“I have been meaning to write for sometime now to thank you, and express our gratitude, for all the help you gave us in producing such high quality labels for our new Tahini Dressing products. I think the labels look terrific--virtual pieces of art.”

- Open Seasame Foods, LLC

“As our work on the Holiday campaign comes full circle, those of us from the Saran Team are more than appreciative of all the work you and your colleagues have done at Red Oak Label to help us with the Saran Cling Plus Holiday program this year. Without the diligent work of colleagues like you, the Holiday effort would have been unable to meet our enormous rework hurdles. Unfortunately, those of us in Racine have not been able to shake your hand personally, but we hope that in due time, such a meeting will come to pass. Best wishes to your team in the months to come, and you can count on SCJ ‘s continued business when future label needs arise.”

- SC Johnson & Son, Inc.

Custom Direct Thermal Labels at Red Oak Label, LLC

Red Oak Label provides many labeling solutions for the direct thermal printing process including Dymo and Zebra compatible labels. Contact us today at 262-780-9797 or [email protected] and we can help you build your perfect direct thermal labeling solution for your specific printer type.

Custom printed visitor sticker labels