Labels are an important part of any business. They communicate the most basic information about your products, but they can also be used for marketing and branding purposes. Learn about different types of labels and their differences, so you know which ones will work best for your needs.
The Most Common Types of Labels
The world of label printing offers many choices. There are so many types of blank labels to choose from, and each one has a different purpose:
- Direct Thermal Labels — Direct thermal printers do not require a ribbon. Rather, the “ink” is embedded in the thermal label material. Direct thermal labels are generally available in paper and synthetic materials and are ideal for quick printing and short-term label applications. These labels are popular for printing logistics labels and shipping labels for UPS and FedEx.
- Thermal Transfer Labels — Thermal transfer printers do require a ribbon, but they can be worth the added cost because of their ability to print crisp, durable barcodes on product packaging. Thermal transfer labels come in paper, polypropylene, and polyester materials. Paper thermal transfer labels are commonly used with a standard wax ribbon, which is an affordable choice for general purpose applications. However, if you need a more durable label, then use either a wax-resin or resin ribbon.
Note that direct thermal and thermal transfer printers only produce black and white labels, which can be a problem when you need color. Luckily, here’s an easy fix: use flood-coated (color) blank thermal labels or use a color ribbon on your thermal transfer label printer.
- Inkjet Labels — When it comes to printing full color labels, printers that use inkjet technology dominate the market. These include Primera Technology, Epson ColorWorks label printers, Afinia label printers, and Memjet-powered models. Inkjet printers work by shooting ink droplets at the label surface to produce text or graphics in high resolution. Inkjet label printers are best for product labeling and industrial use cases.
The water-based inks used in inkjet printers come in two main types: dye and pigment.
- Dye inks — Inkjet printers that use dye inks are great for labels that have a glossy or shiny finish.
- Pigment inks — If you want to print durable or water-resistant labels, use an inkjet label printer with pigment inks and matte labels.
Inkjet labels are available in a variety of materials, including paper and synthetic materials, sizes, and shapes. In addition, GHS BS-5609 chemical labels are available for a variety of inkjet-based color label printers. BS-5609 is the international standard for chemical hazard communication.
- Laser Labels — Color laser labels use four color toners. The laser printer heats the toner up so that it can bond with the label material. You need to be careful about the type of label you use. Laser printers need materials and adhesives that can stand up to the high temperatures without causing a fire or melting.
The most popular application for laser labels is for printing a glossy GHS BS5609-compliant label. Inkjet printers only produce matte GHS BS-5609 labels. Laser printers are also popular for printing white on clear labels. For example, the Afinia LT5C laser label printer uses five toner: cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and white.
Note that inkjet labels and laser labels are not necessarily interchangeable. Inkjet labels require a special inkjet topcoat to help the ink bond to the material, and as noted earlier, laser labels must be able to tolerate heat.
What type of labels do you need? As you can see, it depends on the type of labeling you plan on doing and your printer type. Argon Technology has a large selection of thermal transfer ribbons, direct thermal and thermal transfer labels, inkjet labels, chemical labels, and laser labels in stock.