Thermal Ribbon Types

Make sure you have the right ribbon

Choosing the Thermal Ribbon that will adhere to your label material and is compatible with your printer can be tricky. The combination of wax and resin make a huge difference in performance and label longevity.

Wax Ribbons

The most common ribbon used on paper labels. The majority of its content is wax with a very small percentage of resin. It provides excellent print quality and is affordable and reliable. (beware of Chinese Economy Ribbons that are not manufactured to OEM specifications, they are capable of damaging your print head).


• Compliance • Shipping • Retail • Shelves/Bins • Hang Tags • Warehousing • WIP (Work In Progress)


• Uncoated/Coated Paper • Most Synthetic Labels •

Wax-Resin Ribbons

Wax/Resin ribbons are unique in formulation and function. They are able to print on a wide variety of label substrates from glossy paper to low-end synthetic labels. The chemical reaction between ribbon and label material can often require testing to achieve desired results. When your label requires longevity, a wax-resin ribbon is your best choice.


• Industrial • Outdoor • Horticultural • Lumber • Chemical Drum • Shipping • Pharmaceutical • Shelf/Bins • Pallets


• Coated Paper • Synthetic Paper • Polypropylene • Polyethylene • Polyolefin • Matte Polyester

Resin Ribbons

A resin ribbon is required to print on polypropylene label stock. It will produce razor sharp images and is often used with a 300 or 600 dpi printhead. These ribbons offer extreme durability against solvents and abrasions.


• Compliance • Shipping • Retail • Automotive • Electronics • Medical • Pharmaceutical • Life Science • Garments


• Polyester • Vinyl • Polyamide • Polypropylene

Near-Edge Ribbons

The term "Near-Edge" is taken from the printer technology that allows the ribbon to be printed from edge to edge. Near Edge Ribbons will only work in a Near Edge printer. Their specific formulation is designed to create crisp, clean and sharp looking barcodes on a variety of substrates. These resin ribbons are often used in high-speed packaging applications to time stamp snack food packaging.


• Snacks • Dairy • Frozen • Produce • Medical • Health & Beauty • Retail • Hang Tags • Compliance • Shipping


• OPP/ Metalized PET • PET/Metalized PET • PET/LDPE • Polyethylene • Uncoated & Coated Paper • Polypropylene • Polyethylene • Polyolefin

Color Ribbons

These ribbons will print a wide range of vivid and bold color or metallic images. Most of these ribbons are wax or wax/resin formulas. They can be printed on white or color labels. Testing is required when printing white or other light colors on dark-colored labels or tags.


• Snacks • Dairy • Produce • Medical • Pharmaceutical • Health & Beauty • Life Science • Automotive • Outdoor


• Uncoated Paper • Coated Paper • Polyethylene • Polypropylene • Polyethylene • Vinyl • Polyamide

Ribbon Features

Your specific label size, material, size text and longevity will determine which thermal ribbon will work for you. Below are the differences between Standard and Premium thermal ribbons. In general, if your label is simple with larger text and barcodes, Standard Ribbons will be fine. If your label has smaller barcodes, QR codes, text or if any print information is printing sideways, you will need a Premium Ribbon. (The label material also makes a big difference).

Questions to ask before buying your ribbon
  1. What is the application? Carton label, Compliance label, Asset label, Product label
  2. What is the format? Text size, Barcode type and size, Rotated barcodes or text, small thin lines, logos or images.
  3. What is the media? Uncoated paper, Coated paper, Any type Synthetic label, Vinyl, or Polypropylene.
  4. What level of durability? Permanent, Temporary, Scratch resistant, Light resistant, Water-resistant.
  5. How many labels are printed daily? Using cheaper ribbon in a mission critical printer with high volumes, will shorten the lifespan of the print head.

Ribbon Manufacturers

Two of the major USA Ribbon manufacturers are iiMak and DNP. These companies sell only to certified Distributors such as Barcode Factory and other OEM printer manufacturers. All ribbons are manufactured to OEM specifications, so shopping the best price makes perfect sense. BarcodeFactory not only has the lowest prices but offers FREE Samples and will help you choose the best combination of thermal ribbon and label. Call us for more information 888-237-8525.