How do I choose the correct label printer?

2019-06-28 09:46:52
How do I choose the correct label printer?

Remove the complication around printer selection

You know everything about your product and you should know what kind of labels you want, but how do you decide which label printer works for you? The first thing we will probably ask you is what colour do you need to print or how many? We can ask this question in a few ways such as “do you need to just print shipping labels”, most applications fall into either standard black print for full colour. From this starting point narrowing down the right printer for you splits into two directions.

Thermal (black only / monocolour) label printing

The most common label printing method is using a direct thermal (DT) or thermal transfer (TT) printer. This covers 80% of label applications and is best suited for most labelling requirements. There are thousands of monocolour printers to choose from so time for more questions. How many labels will you be printing per day or per print batch? Further reducing the options, with this information we can decide if you need a desktop, mid-range or industrial printer. As rough rule if your print volumes per day are lower than 1,000 then a desktop printer is ideal, 1,000 – 2,500 a mid-range printer is needed and anything above an industrial printer. This is a rough rule as you can always split the volume over several printers or you may require a printer capable for faster speeds even for lower volume print runs.

Now you may be asking, do I need a direct thermal (DT) or thermal transfer (TT) printer? Direct thermal printers only work with direct thermal media which is heat and UV reactive. DT is great for short term labelling applications such as address and courier labels. Again, as an imprecise rule if you need a durable label or one that lasts longer than a few weeks to a few months you will need a thermal transfer mode printer. If you are unsure, TT printers usually have a DT option also so you can use either method of printing.

This should leave you a good idea of which thermal printer you need, there are other factors such as connection types, programming language, software compatibility and accessory options.

Full colour label printing

The quirky printing method born from a need for variable on demand colour is fairly new to label printing. Similar to thermal printer selection, knowing label volumes gives you the same three printer categories, you can then further refine the selection to dye or pigment inks. This is how durable or how vivid you would like the colouring to be. Pigment ink printers are ideal for resilient print, widely used in chemical, cosmetics (perfumes, oils etc.) and other tough labelling applications. Dye based printers offer brilliant colours at minimal cost. The print width of your labels will also help narrow your options.


TLDR: Here are the questions you need to answer to find your printer match and why they are important to your decision:

Do you need black only or variable full colour print? You will either need a thermal or an inkjet label printer.

What label volumes do you need to print? As a general rule you will need a desktop printer for low volume prints, a mid-range for print batches of 2,000+ depending on the label size and an industrial printer for substantial or non-stop print runs.

How durable do your labels need to be? This lets us know the print method or ink formula you will need.

What label size do you need to print?  Most label printers have a standard 4 inch or 104mm print width, if you need a larger print width this narrows down the printer options substantially making it easier to find your perfect printer match.


Matching up a printer to a requirement can still be complicated, our printer specialists have years of in depth industry knowledge and are constantly immersed in the world of Auto-ID printing and labels. Usually you can just tell us what you need the printer for and we will have a custom solution quoted for you within a day or so.  Our over the phone basic consultations are totally free and our quotations are no obligation. We are here to help so don’t hesitate to get in touch and tap into our expertise if you need some printer advice.