Thermal Transfer & Direct Thermal Labels » Flamingo Label
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flamingo label
thermal transfer vs direct thermal

Thermal transfer vs. direct thermal

label Guide

Did You know…

Flamingo Label is your number one choice for custom thermal and direct thermal labels.  We can help with both low volume custom labels for special projects and also with large high volume orders for your large industrial customers.  Some of the custom features we can provide are special tint colors, custom slits or perforations, different core sizes, unique roll sizes and special adhesives.  We also offer blanket orders and stocking programs for ongoing programs. 

Let us quote your thermal or direct thermal project today!

New to selling Thermal and Direct thermal products?   We can help!  Download our quick guide and start selling thermal and direct thermal products today.

What is the Difference?

Thermal transfer printing uses a heated print head and a ribbon to create a high quality printed image. 

Direct Thermal uses a print head to print an image directly on to a chemically treated, heat sensitive label material.  Direct thermal does not use ribbons.

Which is Better?

The battle between Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal labels can often be answered by asking one question: how long does the label need to last?  Thermal Transfer labels use a ribbon that transfers ink to the surface creating an image that crisp and clear and will last a very long time.  Direct Thermal printed labels are best for short term use labels that have a shorter shelf life like shipping labels, pricing labels or inventory labels.

Thermal transfer vs. direct thermal

Quick reference Guide

Thermal Transfer

Direct Thermal

Best For

  • Long term applications
  • Short term applications


  • Indoors or outdoors
  • All temperature conditions
  • Industrial or demanding conditions
  • Indoors only
  • No exposure to heat or sunlight
  • Limited abrasion resistance


  • Superior print quality
  • Durable and long lasting
  • Many different label material options
  • Resistant to heat and moisture
  • Lower cost as no ribbon is needed
  • No need to stop printer to replace ribbons


  • Higher supply expense – ribbons
  • Have to replace ribbons routinely
  • Must be sure to match ribbon type to material
  • Less durable
  • Can fade over time
  • Label may darken if expose to heat or light