Direct thermal labels

Date Posted:30 May, 2024

Direct thermal labels

Direct thermal labels

What are they for?

In the world of self-adhesive labels, direct thermal label materials are a popular choice due to their efficiency and simplicity. These labels are widely used across various industries, from retail and logistics to healthcare and food services. We provide direct thermal labels in both economy and top coat materials, we manufacture both plain and printed direct thermal labels with print ranging from a colour wash to full colour branded labels ready to be customised by you at the point of requirement.

What are direct thermal labels?

No ribbons, ink or toner required

Direct thermal labels are a type of label that uses a thermal print head to produce images directly on the material. These labels do not require ink, toner, or ribbons, making them a cost-effective and low-maintenance option. The printing process involves heat-sensitive paper that darkens when exposed to the print head, creating the desired text or image.

Top coat direct thermal labels

The more robust option

Top coat direct thermal labels are enhanced with a protective coating on the surface. This coating serves several important functions:

1. Durability: The top coat provides additional durability, making the labels more resistant to environmental factors such as moisture, oils, and chemicals. This is particularly beneficial in harsh conditions or where labels are exposed to handling and abrasion.

2. Longevity: Labels with a top coat have a longer lifespan. They are less likely to fade or degrade over time, making them ideal for applications where the label needs to remain legible for extended periods.

3. Print Quality: The top coating helps achieve higher print quality by providing a smoother surface for the thermal print head. This results in sharper and clearer images and text.

Economy direct thermal labels

When price is key

Economy direct thermal labels, on the other hand, do not have the additional protective coating found on top coat labels. While they are more cost-effective, they come with certain trade-offs:

1. Limited Durability: Without the protective coating, economy labels are more susceptible to environmental factors. They can be easily damaged by moisture, oils, and abrasion, making them less suitable for harsh conditions.

2. Shorter Lifespan: Economy labels tend to have a shorter lifespan. They may fade or degrade faster, which can be a drawback if the labels need to remain legible for longer periods.

3. Adequate Print Quality: While still providing adequate print quality, economy labels may not achieve the same level of sharpness and clarity as top coat labels. This might be a consideration if high print quality is essential for your application.

Choosing the right label

Both have their strengths

When deciding between top coat and economy direct thermal labels, consider the following factors:

1. Application Environment: If your labels will be exposed to harsh conditions, such as extreme temperatures, moisture, or chemicals, top coat labels are the better choice due to their enhanced durability.

2. Lifespan Requirements: For applications where labels need to remain legible for extended periods, top coat labels are more suitable. Economy labels can suffice for short-term use or where the label’s longevity is not critical.

3. Budget Constraints: Economy labels are more cost-effective and may be the right choice if budget constraints are a primary concern and the labels are used in less demanding environments.

4. Print Quality: If high print quality is crucial, top coat labels provide better results. For standard applications where moderate print quality is acceptable, economy labels can be a viable option.

A range of adhesives to choose from

Options to suit all industries

Adhesive Options for Direct Thermal Labels

Selecting the right adhesive is crucial for ensuring that direct thermal labels perform well in their intended applications. Here’s a brief overview of the main adhesive types available:

1. Permanent Adhesive


Permanent adhesive provides a strong, lasting bond suitable for a variety of surfaces.


Retail and Logistics: Shipping labels, product labeling, barcodes.

Food and Beverage: Labels for packages and containers.

Healthcare: Patient ID bands, prescription labels.


• Strong, versatile bond.

• Adheres well to cardboard, plastics, metals.

• Performs in both refrigerated and ambient conditions.

2. Removable Adhesive


Removable adhesive allows labels to be easily removed without residue.


Retail: Price tags, promotional labels.

Library and Archiving: Book and document labels.

Manufacturing: Temporary parts and inventory labels.


• Clean removal with no residue.

• Moderate bond for temporary use.

3. Freezer Grade Adhesive


Freezer grade adhesive is designed for extremely low temperatures.


Food Industry: Frozen food packaging.

Pharmaceuticals: Labels for freezer-stored medical supplies.

Logistics: Cold chain tracking.


• Maintains adhesive properties at sub-zero temperatures.

• Moisture resistant.

4. High-Tack Adhesive


High-tack adhesive offers an extra strong bond for difficult surfaces.


Industrial Use: Rough or textured surfaces like tires.

Automotive: Parts labeling.

Chemical Drums: Labels for chemical containers.


• Extra strength and durability.

• Resistant to moisture, chemicals, extreme temperatures.

5. Ultra-Removable Adhesive


Ultra-removable adhesive allows for repositioning without losing adhesion.


Office Supplies: Temporary organization labels.

Event Management: Badges, easily replaceable labels.

Glass and Glazing Industry: Labels for glass surfaces that need to peel off cleanly leaving no residue.


• Low tack for easy repositioning.

• Non-damaging, ideal for delicate surfaces and removal without leaving residue.

Printing on direct thermal labels

We're here to help

Printing on Direct Thermal Labels

Printing on direct thermal labels is straightforward and efficient. The process involves using a direct thermal printer, which applies heat to the label’s surface, causing it to darken and create the desired image or text. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Printer Compatibility: Ensure that your printer is compatible with direct thermal labels. These printers are designed specifically for thermal printing and do not require additional supplies such as ink or toner. If you have a thermal transfer printer already, this will be able to print on direct thermal labels by removing the ribbon. Speak to a member of our team for assistance with printer models and which may suit your needs best.

2. Maintenance: Regular maintenance of the thermal print head is essential to ensure optimal print quality and longevity. Cleaning the print head periodically can prevent debris buildup and maintain sharp printing. This is best done with an alcohol swab or wipe.

3. Print Settings: Adjusting the print settings, such as heat intensity and print speed, can help achieve the best results. Different label materials may require different settings, so it’s important to test and calibrate accordingly. If you're not sure on these settings we can assist.

In summary

Get in touch and we will be happy to assist you

Direct thermal labels are a cost effective and efficient way of labelling products and processes throughout your business. Choosing between top coat and economy direct thermal labels depends on your specific needs and application requirements. Understanding the differences in durability, lifespan, and print quality will help you make an informed decision, ensuring that your labels perform optimally in their intended environment.

We’ll solve your printing requirements

Give us a call or complete our online quote form to get started. Our team will then guide you through the process, from artwork approval to printing and delivery.