203, 300 or 600 dpi Thermal Label Printer
Which print head should you use / how does resolution affect my label print requirements?

Nothing worse than a fuzzy picture. It's the same with labels. If you buy a cell phone that only takes a 1 meg pictures, that's all you get! Thermal printers use dot-sized heated elements arranged in rows, and just like pixels, the more DPI (dots per inch) the sharper the quality. Print heads are created using dots per mm. 8 dots/mm = a 203 dpi, 12 dots/mm = 300 dpi, and 24 dots/mm = 600 dpi. The type and size of the label you are printing are the two most important factors. The thermal printer you choose must also be able to accommodate your chosen printhead size. Many barcode printers can use a 203 and a 300 dpi printhead interchangeably, however, 600 dpi printheads may require a higher quality printer.

Actual printed samples- Below are samples of  4" x 2" label printed on a Polypro Matte label using a wax-resin combination ribbon on a  Zebra ZT104 Industrial printer. The printer, ribbon and label you use will all have an effect on the labels you print as well as the speed and temperature settings. A PDF sample can be downloaded here and printed at 100% size for a visual reference of type size and barcode sizes.

Printed at 203 dpi- The standard 203 dpi print resolution is fine for standard shipping labels, larger barcodes and text. Small 5pt and 6pt text is not recommended and labels 1" x .25" may not print scannable barcodes. Note text printed in reverse using serif typefaces will appear jagged and thin strokes will fill in.

203 dpi prints well on:

  • Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Labels
  • Shipping Labels with large text and barcodes
  • All standard paper and synthetic stocks
 

Printed at 300 dpi- The most popular printhead for the majority of label sizes is 300 dpi. It is fine for shipping labels, average size barcodes and text. Small 7pt and 6pt text will print easily. Smaller labels will print well using barcodes scannable barcodes. Note text printed in reverse using serif typefaces will appear sharp, however thin strokes will fill in.

300 dpi prints well on:

  • Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Labels
  • Shipping Labels, Asset Labels, Product Labels
  • All standard paper and synthetic stocks
 

Printed at 600 dpi- A 600 dpi print resolution is mandatory for printing labels that are used in the electronics and jewelry industry. This higher resolution printhead is necessary for printing text at 5pt. , all types of barcodes and QR codes. Very often synthetic stocks are necessary for heat dissipation and require a durable resin or wax-resin ribbon.  While more expensive, the lifespan of a 600 dpi printhead is much longer than a 203 or 300 dpi with greater quality print.

600 dpi prints well on:

  • Electronic, Jewelry and Eyeglass Labels.
  • Small Asset Labels
  • Synthetic stocks using Resin Ribbons
 

Printer Recommendations- Let us help you choose the thermal printer and printhead that best suits your needs. Request printed samples here.

For more information or to enroll, please fill out the form or call us at 888-237-8525.

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