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Choose the correct Barcode ribbons, labels, and ink cartridges

Choose the correct Barcode ribbons, labels, and ink cartridges

Posted by Admin on 14th Mar 2021

Selection of both the barcode printer and the media for printing relies on the type of items you would tag with a barcode. Exposure to environmental elements and durability of the barcode tag depends on the use-case of the tag, which would specify the type of barcode printer, labels, tag or media to be chosen.

There are typically only four types of most commonly used Barcode printers in the market: Two of them which are based on thermal technologies (i.e., the Direct Thermal printers or the Thermal transfer printer) for black and white printing, while the other two are based on traditional color printing technologies (i.e., inkjet printer, or the laser printer.)

Thermal Technologies:

Thermal printers are preferred when your barcode labels or tags only need to be in black and white and need to be withstanding environmental conditions, UV rays, temperature variation, or your required print capacity is of high-volume.

Thermal printers are also recommended if you only need to print black and white, since these will provide the most economical way of printing barcode labels and tags in small or large quantity.

Types of Thermal Technologies Based Barcode Printer:

Thermal Transfer:

These printers use heat and a wax-based ribbon to print barcodes on the media. This makes the media more durable as they are not heat-sensitive. They are slightly less cost-effective than Direct-Thermal as both media and the ribbon are used to print, but these barcode tags and labels are much more durable in the long run. When extreme durability is required, you can use Resin based ribbon for the most durable environments.

Direct Thermal:

These printers use heat-sensitive media, which darkens on heating. They are mostly recommended for places that are not exposed to the environment and are generally need for a short life span of the label or tag.

Media Types:

The media type is the most crucial factor in barcode printing. Every decision regarding printing printers, or ribbons, is dependent upon it. There are several media types like paper based or synthetic films. Synthetic films like polyester provide the greatest durability and water and chemical resistance when compared to standard paper based labels and tags.


Mostly used on shipping boxes and has to be resilient to environmental factors. Labels generally have a permanent adhesive, which adheres the label to the surface of the product, carton or packaging. Different type of adhesvies are available for different type of surfaces.


Mostly used on smaller-sized products (like t-shirt, sunglasses, etc.). Tags do not have any adhesive. Tags can be produced from paper based material to synthetic films like polyester for more durable environments. Labels are apply by using the stickly adhesive to the product or the carton. Since tags do not have any adhesive, they will generally have a hole in them which allows you to put a string or wire through it to attach to the product.


Mostly used to track people in hospitals, concerts, etc.) Has to be resilient to environmental factors.

Ribbon types:

Wax Ribbon:

Mostly used on paper labels/tags.
Best for indoor use.
Most inexpensive since it consist 100% wax inks.

Wax/Resin Ribbon:

Mostly used on plastic labels/tags for increased durability and weather-resistance.

Suitable for outdoor use too.

More expensive than wax ribbon and paper media applications since it has 50% wax and 50% resin ink in the formulation

Resin Ribbon:

Mostly used on Polyester labels/tags, which can withstand both environmental elements and exposure to chemicals.
Most durable and can be used in most use-cases.

Very expensive compared to Wax and Wax-Resin Ribbons. These ribbons are formulated with 1005 resin inks.

We sell Thermal-transfer Barcode ribbons for all the Barcode Printers on our OptiMediaLabs stores.

Traditional Technologies:

Types of Traditional Technologies Based Barcode Printer:

Inkjet and Laser Printers (Color Label Printers):

These printers usually can only print low volumes of barcodes and are highly inefficient compared to Thermal-transfer barcode printers. Color label printers allow you to print full color label with the barcode. The cost of color adds additional cost to the label cost, however allows you to do everything in a single process. Therefore, automating your label printing process.
However, these offer the cheapest way to introduce barcodes into your business.

OptiMediaLabs recommends Primera Ink cartridges for Primera color label printers.

Why dedicated Thermal Printers are preferred for barcode printing:

Traditional Inkjet or Laser printers print barcodes in sheets or rolls which can be complex to organize.

Mobility is not even optional in these types of printers. In comparison, dedicated thermal printers can be portable or even handheld in certain cases.