What is a Direct Thermal Label?

What is a Direct Thermal Label?

Affordable and efficient, direct thermal labels are an unsung hero of the business world. Their unique printing process is ideal for producing a high volume of labels with variable information, such as shipping labels, barcodes, or expiration dates. That flexibility makes direct thermal labels indispensable in environments where speed, cost efficiency, and accuracy are crucial. Let’s learn a bit more about the benefits of these blank labels, as well as how you can apply them to your business. 


What is a Direct Thermal Label?

Direct thermal labels are made from heat-sensitive materials that blacken when passed under a thermal print head. This process eliminates the need for ink, toner, or ribbons, making it a renewable and cost-effective printing method. It also creates clear, high-definition images, which are ideal for printing barcodes and other detailed graphics.


How Are Direct Thermal Labels Made?

The production of direct thermal labels involves applying a chemical layer to a substrate — typically paper or a synthetic base — that reacts to heat. When the label passes through a thermal printer, the print head heats up specific areas, causing the chemical layer to blacken to form images or text. Direct thermal labels are usually sold in rolls that can be fed into a printer unit.


handing cashier coupons


What Are Direct Thermal Labels Used For?

Direct thermal labels are versatile, supporting a range of applications across various industries:


Need to label an item with a barcode? Direct thermal labels are a flexible option due to their quick printing process and excellent image quality. Whether you’re stocking shelves in a store or organizing products in a warehouse, direct thermal labels can help keep items organized.

Shipping Labels

Direct thermal labels are perfect for printing shipping labels quickly and efficiently. They ensure that addresses and tracking numbers are clear and readable, which is crucial for ensuring packages reach their destination without any hiccups.

Name Tags

Direct thermal labels are extra handy at conferences and other large events where the ability to print name tags quickly on-site is invaluable. Providing printed instead of handwritten name tags adds a professional touch and helps ensure that identifying information for all your attendees is legible.

Event Tickets

Direct thermal labels are perfect for printing event tickets quickly. That’s especially handy for venues that need to hand out tickets right at the gate or deal with last-minute sales. This means less waiting around for customers and more ticket sales, keeping everyone happy!


side profile of person holding two tickets


Restaurant Order Labels

Quick-service restaurants can get a big boost from using direct thermal labels to print order details. By providing clear, smudge-proof instructions to kitchen staff, restaurants can cut down on mistakes, speed up food preparation, and get piping-hot plates to customers faster.

Food Labels

Used to print date labels and list ingredients, direct thermal labels are indispensable in the food and beverage industry. They play a big role in making sure everything is up to food safety standards and that consumers get all the crucial info they need about what they're eating.


Retailers can make the most of direct thermal labels by printing promotional coupons right at the point of sale. This smart strategy ramps up customer engagement with instant perks, sparking on-the-spot sales. Plus, it enhances the shopping experience with personalized offers that make customers feel special.


thermal label printing from printer


What Are the Different Types of Direct Thermal Labels?

There are a few kinds of direct thermal labels, each suited for a specific business context. Let’s explore each of the different types as well as their use cases. 

White Direct Thermal Labels

These blank labels are the staple of the direct thermal label family, offering a clean and classic appearance that makes them suitable for a broad range of applications. The simplicity of white labels provides a professional look that enhances the presentation of products or documentation. They are widely used in industries such as retail, logistics, and healthcare where readability and clarity are paramount.

Flood-Coated Direct Thermal Labels

For those who require more than just the standard black-and-white imagery, flood-coated direct thermal labels are available in a spectrum of vibrant colors. These colorful labels are particularly useful for color-coding, which can help streamline processes and enhance organizational efficiency. For example, in a warehouse setting, different color labels can designate specific shipping routes or product types, making it easier for staff to quickly identify the right items. 

What is the Difference Between Direct Thermal vs. Thermal Transfer Labels?

When choosing between direct thermal and thermal transfer labels, it's crucial to assess the durability and environmental conditions they'll face. Because of their printing process, direct thermal labels are not ideal for prolonged exposure to harsh conditions such as sunlight or high temperatures. Thermal labels may darken or turn completely black when placed in direct sunlight or near heat sources. 

Thermal transfer labels, in contrast, offer greater durability. They utilize a thermal print head to melt wax or a resin-based ribbon onto the label, creating a permanent print that withstands extreme environments, including outdoor exposure, moisture, and chemicals. This makes them perfect for long-term applications in industrial settings, outdoor labeling, and durable product tags. 


thermal label printer and boxes with thermal labels


What Are the Benefits of Direct Thermal Labels?

Direct thermal labels offer a number of advantages that cater to a variety of business needs, making them a popular choice across many industries. Some of the more valuable benefits include:

Cost Effective

Direct thermal labels are especially budget-friendly because they cut down on the materials you need to use. Unlike other label-making methods that need ink, toner, or ribbons, direct thermal printing just uses heat-activated paper. This means you spend less on supplies right off the bat and keep your running costs low.


Ease of use is another big advantage of direct thermal labels. These labels are designed to be straightforward to load and operate within a wide array of printers, including portable, desktop, and industrial models. This makes setup faster and minimizes the time you have to spend on troubleshooting printing issues.


Direct thermal labels are the Swiss army knives of label types. You can use them for just about anything—shipping labels, warehouse labels, receipts, medical records, you name it. Plus, they come in all sorts of sizes and configurations, so they can adapt to whatever you need.

How Long do Direct Thermal Labels Last?

Direct thermal labels work best for short-term applications. They generally last about six to nine months before the print begins to fade, especially if they’re exposed to direct sunlight, high temperatures, or other harsh conditions.

Print Your Thermal Labels with Stomp

Direct thermal labels are fast, efficient, and budget-friendly. Whether you're keeping tabs on inventory with barcodes, sticking labels on food products, or organizing events with tickets and name tags, these labels are ready to fit your business needs.

Looking to make direct thermal labels that are uniquely yours? Stomp Stickers offers a toolbox of design features perfect for any industry. Ready to streamline your labeling process? Get your direct thermal labels today! 

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  • Nashira Edmiston