Print Amazing Labels with a Thermal Transfer Printer

print on clear labels with a thermal transfer printer

Here’s a few ideas of what’s possible using a thermal transfer printer

You don’t always need a commercial label printer to be able to print great looking labels.

Using a thermal transfer printer, you can create some amazing effects.

With a bit of creativity and a few tips, you’ll be printing eye-catching labels in no time.

Thermal transfer printers have been around for a long time, but many people only think of thermal printing as black print on a white label.

Using different colours and combinations of ribbons and labels creates a variety of effects.

White print on clear labels

White print on clear label

Great for dark coloured bottles and jars such as craft beer, aromatherapy, essential & homeopathy labels.

The white ink creates a crisp contrast with the amber/dark background.


  • Clear polypropylene (PP) is a good label option to use for this technique.
  • A black mark/eye-mark should be printed between the labels. Thermal printers use a transmissive sensor to identify the gaps between opaque labels (and hence where each label starts/stops). A gap sensor won’t detect the clear labels; hence many thermal printers also have a black-mark sensor which is used to detect these eye marks.
  • If using with oils e.g., aromatherapy, it’s best to use a pure resin ribbon, as a wax-resin ribbon will rub off. You may need to test a few different grades until you find one that works well.

Gold/Silver print on coloured labels

Printed label using silver thermal transfer ribbon

Works well on darker backgrounds like black, where the metallic ribbon can provide depth.


  • It can be difficult to source resin grade metallic ribbons. If not available, this option may not be suitable when resistance & durability is needed. Wax-resin silver/gold ribbon will be fine for cosmetic and retail label applications.

Black print on a gold/silver metalized label

Gold foil labels with black thermal transfer print

Adding gold foil labels to your products is an excellent way to attract attention and make them look more professional.

Metalized foils are generally silver or gold, but these blank labels can be tinted to a variety of colours by Accurate Labelling or any other quality printing company.


  • Black ribbon is common with a range of properties, so ensure you have a high-quality grade that won’t smudge and will adhere well to your labels.

Pre-printed labels

Label with white print

A common challenge is the need for high-quality colour labels with consistency of branding and logos, while still having the flexibility to print specific details in-house.

This is best solved using pre-printed labels supplied by a professional label printer (e.g. Accurate Labelling), then overprinting the details using a thermal transfer printer.


  • Make sure you tell the printing company that you will be overprinting. Often labels are coated with a coating/varnish that prevents thermal transfer ribbon adhering well.

General Thermal Transfer Printing Tips

Software: Thermal label printers use specific programming languages to interpret and print labels. This means that the instructions sent to the printer should be in the correct format for the labels to be printed properly. Label design software such as BarTender helps by making it easy to design and print labels. The label software then uses a printer driver to convert the information into a format that the label printer can read. Using a good label software program helps to ensure a high-quality print.

Printer dpi: the printer resolution will determine the quality of the print, and how detailed it will be. The standard resolution is 203 dpi which will be enough for large text and shapes. If printing more detailed and finer text, logos, or symbols then a 300 dpi or a 600-dpi printer is recommended.

Ensure printhead is clean: over time dust, adhesive and other residue accumulates on the printhead. This affects the quality of the print and can also result in damage to the printhead. Regular cleaning is highly recommended using isopropyl alcohol 99% or higher. Cleaning can be done with Iso-wipes, a soft lint-free cloth, cleaning pens or cleaning cards. Manufacturers recommend cleaning when label rolls are replenished.

Printer settings: adjusting the printers heat (darkness) and speed settings is crucial. This can often be the difference between a good quality print and a poor-quality print. A slower speed will generally result in a better print. Ribbons with a wax component need a lower heat, while thermal ribbons with a resin component need a higher heat. As a rough guide if the print is blotchy, then it is likely that the heat is too high and too much ink is being transferred on to the label. If the print is sparce then it could be that there’s not enough heat to allow the ink to stick to the label.

Print Stunning Thermal Transfer Labels

There are a range of fantastic looking print effects that you can achieve using your thermal transfer label printer.

Get in touch with Accurate Labelling to see how we can help with your labels.

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