Reviewing the quality of your printed labels? Don't overlook the type of ribbon you are using.


Selecting the right type of thermal printer ribbon is critical for the ongoing effectiveness of any label printing system.  The combined quality of the label material and printer ribbon will have a greater impact on your printing system than the hardware and software combined. 

Thermal transfer printing

Thermal transfer printing is a process where matter is transferred to paper or other media, by melting a coating of ribbon onto the material to which the print is being applied. In order to obtain the highest quality printed finish, it’s important to be familiar with the printer you have and what type of label and ribbon is suitable for the sector your business operates within.

It is also important to consider what the labels will be used for, as certain ribbons are more suitable for particular applications than others. The finished label your organisation requires will determine the type of printing you do. Using the incorrect ribbon can have a negative effect on the quality of the print and in turn the image and efficiency of your business. 

There are three different types of ribbon to choose from:


Wax is the most cost effective ribbon used for general purpose tags and labelling. Typical applications include shipping, warehousing, retail, textiles, and apparel. Wax ribbons are used when printing on uncoated and coated paper tags and label stocks, and low end filmic labels. This is ideal for identification purposes only and will be thrown away as part of the packaging.

Wax Resin

Wax resin is the most appropriate choice when a higher level of scratch, smear or mild chemical resistance is needed in labelling applications. Wax resin is used on paper, vinyl, and a broad range of label stocks, with excellent image durability. It is important to note that organisations often overlook wax resin and consequently unnecessarily overspend on resin labels. Therefore, understanding which ribbon is necessary for your particular print can save your company money.


Resin labels are best for use within harsh environments. Typical applications include chemical drums, electronics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive and the general industrial sectors. BS5609 approved resin ribbons are predominately used in the chemical industry to meet the internationally recognised specification for printed pressure sensitive adhesive coated labels for marine applications. For example, a chemical company would require BS5609 approved labels if they were shipping containers of chemicals, so if there were an accident the shipment could be identified by the labels even if the shipment was to enter the sea. When working with chemicals, it is imperative that the labels remain intact even if they are submerged. Matching a BS ribbon with a BS approved material can guarantee this in water.

Prior to ordering printer ribbons from a fresh supplier, it's a good idea to ask for some samples to allow you to run your own tests. Alternatively, it's worth checking whether the supplier can offer to run the tests for you by using the various ribbons on sample labels supplied by you.

Contact us

Here at Bannerbridge we go to great lengths to assist our customers with pre and post sales support.  If you need advice on a new labelling system or you're looking to run your current set up more efficiently or cost effectively, please contact us and a member of our team will be only too pleased to help you.