Guide to Help You Find the Best Thermal Printer for Shipping Labels

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For all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there wanting to introduce a new product into the market, you’ll need to invest in a thermal printer to print out your shipping labels, price tags, packaging labels, receipts and more. Not only do these machines operate at lightning speeds, but they come in different sizes to suit all types of budgets and businesses.

However, buying the best label maker is not as easy as it used to be because of all the options on the market. We don’t know about you, but we can personally spend hours in indecision when shopping for an item because the sheer variety can make the buying process very confusing.

It’s in moments like these that we turn to reviews and buying guides so that we can make an informed decision. The last thing you want is to purchase a thermal printer that’s either too expensive or one that doesn’t serve your needs.

Luckily for you, we’ve put together a helpful guide filled with all the information you need to find the best thermal printer for shipping labels. We’ve also included a list of the best options along with reviews, as well as tips and tricks on how to make the most out of your purchase.

Who Needs a Thermal Label Printer?

As with any purchase, it’s important to establish intent before you start shopping for a thermal printer. Ask yourself why you’re looking for one right now and if your business really needs it. Perhaps you’re still starting out and you only need a handful of labels printed each month, or maybe your business is scaling fast and you’re tired of dealing with printing companies and their drama.

Well, the best way to figure out whether you need a thermal label printer is to educate yourself about thermal printers in general. Understand how they work and why they are so valuable for businesses.

As the name implies, thermal printers use thermal technology to print all kinds of labels, which eliminates the need to purchase ink and toners. Thermal printers are considered a low maintenance and low-cost solution, especially when you consider their lifetime value.

Not only that but thermal printers are also incredibly durable and long-lasting, not to mention efficient and energy saving. If speed is your concern then you’ll be glad to know that these printers print out labels faster than any other machine on the market, and all without compromising the quality of the label.

As a business owner, you stand to gain plenty from investing in a thermal printer because you will need it at some point to print out labels and other important items for your enterprise.

Even if you’re an avid homemaker or you work from a home office, you’ll need a printer to make bottle markers, folder markers, shelf markers etc.

How Do Label Makers Work?

Thermal printers come in a wide variety of options to cater to different needs and applications. Some are designed specifically to print mailing labels while others are for folder labels and so on. But, some of the best thermal printer for shipping labels offer a variety of features in one package.

These versatile machines accept various roll widths, fixed length die cut labels and continuous length rolls. There are also those that only accept paper rolls to the exclusion of plastic, foil and fabric rolls, while others take them all!

Label makers also offer different cutters from manually operated models with serrated-edge blades and guillotine-blades to automatic units that cut labels individually. Cable-free models are powered by batteries and offer better mobility, while some plugged-in models offer a battery option as well.

Nowadays, most of the commercial and consumer printers that you see on the market use thermal technology. What does this mean? Well, the machine gets ink from the blank label material and depending on the thermal heat coming from the paper it releases that ink accordingly. Newer models such as the latest Brother thermal printers offer two-color paper printing in black and red.

The best thing about modern-day labelers is that they accept rolls of different widths and lengths which means you can use them to make different label designs. They’re the perfect option for someone who wants to print things like product barcodes, file folders, banners, price tags and shipping labels from the same place.

Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping for a Thermal Printer

PLAN - PRICE

Description

DYMO 1755120 LabelWriter

Easy to install, use and connect


Quick and efficient


Perfect for printing shipping labels


You can access from anywhere in your network

Brother QL-700 High-speed

Compact and easy to use


Comes with excellent software


Offers two modes so you can print a wide variety of labels


Durable and well-made

Seiko Instruments Label Printer

Best label printer for small business owners


Easy to install and use


Suitable for making unique labels


Backed by a 3-year warranty

DYMO LabelWriter Turbo 450

Puts out clean labels without any smearing


Easy to print labels


Delivers clean cut and good looking labels


DYMO LabelWriter Works very fast

Brother QL-820NWB Label Printer

Brother QL-720NW is easy to use


Offers excellent print quality


Best shipping label printer for eBay


It is a versatile label maker

We understand that you probably feel confused with all the options at your disposal. To help you out, we’ve done some research to bring you the most important considerations to make when looking at each option so that you can make an informed choice.

A: Needs

If you’re looking for a thermal printer for business use then you should keep in mind your client’s needs and preferences.

That’s because you’ll be using the device to print out materials that will be received by your customers, such as product labels and shipping labels. Once you’ve figured out what you plan on using the labels on, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out the individual specs required.

B: Workload

Another important consideration to make when looking for a thermal printer is the expected workload. The good news is that printers come in different sizes to handle various loads. The best way to figure out how large your printer should be is to know how much and often you’ll be using it.

For instance, if you plan to only use the printer moderately, then you’ll do well to choose a model with a capacity to handle 100 duplicates per day. But, if you run a growing small business then you’ll need a printer that can put out up to 500 labels per day, at least.

C: Resolution

Print resolution should also be at the forefront of your mind when looking for a thermal printer because it will determine the quality of its scanner tag. For the best results, look for a model that makes less than 203 dots per inch.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a high-density printer then you should look for something that can make more dots per inch.

D: Performance

While you’re at it, don’t forget to look into the machine’s performance capacity, and this includes the technical specifications and individual characteristics of the printer.

One of the most important considerations to make in this regard is its compatibility with your other devices. After all, you should be able to use your printer along with your computer, laptop or tablet. If it can’t connect with these devices then you’ll have a hard time loading content into it and this feature will affect your productivity as well.

E: Warranty

If your intention is to purchase the best thermal printer for shipping labels then you should realize that it’s more of an investment than a regular purchase. This means that you need a product that’s durable and built to last, but more than that it should come with a generous warranty.

This shows that the manufacturer is confident about the printer’s quality and performance and is willing to offer everything to make sure that you’re happy with your purchase. Getting a warranty-backed printer also means that you can easily return it if you notice any defects or anything that makes it difficult for you to use it, and the manufacturer will either replace or repair it at no cost to you.

How to Connect to Your Label Printer?

Before you purchase a printer, figure out where you’re going to place it and how you plan to use it. This will determine the number of connections you’ll need to operate it in the long run.

The good news is most label printers come with several connection types, including USB connectivity. You can use the USB slot to connect the printer to your laptop, tablet or another mobile device. While most thermal printers are battery-powered, others offer you the best of both worlds with included plugs.

The only downside with a USB enabled thermal printer is that it requires a constant connection to another device and this affects its portability. Also, most thermal printers that operate through USB connectivity cannot be connected to the Internet which means you can only access them through the USB.

Alternatively, some models use Bluetooth connectivity as well as Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct. Wi-Fi connectivity means that the printer will be a part of your network, allowing for symbiosis with your other devices. On the other hand, Wi-Fi Direct operates according to a peer-to-peer network connection that allows your devices to access the printer without being connected to a mobile or another device.

How to Print Labels?

If you purchase the best thermal printer for shipping labels on the market then you should be able to send it commands through your laptop, PC, tablet or smartphone. This makes it so much easier to use the printer from anywhere in the house and you’ll be able to print all kinds of designs on it.

How does this work? Well, the printer communicates with the software to find out what kind of label roll is loaded. Then, the software shows you all the available label design templates for you to choose from. Your options are to choose one of the templates and use them as is; start from scratch and design your own label; or redesign the available template.

Aside from the provided design symbols and borders, you may also import unique photos and clip arts from your computer. Just keep in mind that it’ll all come out in monochrome as most thermal printers don’t accept color in the final layout.

Color Selection

A majority of the lower-end models can only print in one color – black. However, high-end models have the capacity to print in a wide range of colors, including red on black and yellow on black. The color of the paper itself will serve as the background color.

However, commercial sized label printers can also print in full color while offering different shapes and sizes as well. Some of these are so large that they can take up a lot of room, so we haven’t included them in this list.

Most of the thermal printers that we’ve reviewed are consumer-grade or professional grade and they’re primarily designed for small business use, which is why they cost between $100 and $500.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options in this price range when compared to larger high-end models, but we were quite impressed with the quality and versatility of the options that are available. Most of these models can print labels of different sizes and shapes as well.

How Much Does It Cost to Own a Thermal Printer?

You must also consider the cost per label or the cost of ownership of your thermal printer. The good news is that some of the best thermal printer for shipping labels can create up to 30 different types of labels in different sizes, lengths, widths, and even material types.

For instance, a regular sized label with dimensions of 1.5-by-3.5-inches costs about 2 to 4 cents per label. One of the best ways to keep costs low is to buy identical labels in bulk to cut running costs by up to 25%. Of course, if you print larger labels or you use materials like foil, cloth, and plastic, then you should expect to pay more per label.

However, cost per label also differs according to the machine and manufacturer, the number of labels you buy as well as the number of rolls you use.

Some of the Best Shipping Label Printers on The Market

There’s no denying that thermal printers are a compact, convenient, cost-effective and easy-to-use solution for small business owners. Now that you know what to look out for in a thermal printer and how you should use it, here’s our list of the top options to help you find the best label printer for small business.

1: DYMO 1755120 LabelWriter 4XL Thermal Label Printer

This compact and nicely designed label printer from DYMO is perfect for creating shipping labels. You can print shipping labels of up to 4-inch x 6-inch, but if you’re not satisfied with that then you can print labels that are up to 4.16 inches wide.

You’ll be glad to know that this is a versatile label printer that puts out high-quality and long-lasting labels. You can connect it to PC and Mac devices alike, and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the number of programs that you can use to design customized labels, including Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, Mac Address Book and more.

You can also use platforms like Etsy, eBay and Amazon to print unique and quick shipping labels. This machine has the capacity to handle big printing workloads with a speed of up to 29-labels per minute.

In terms of quality, the DYMO 1755120 LabelWriter has a 300 dpi resolution, which means you’ll have super-clear and easy to read labels. These and other characteristics are what have earned this printer recognition as the best thermal printer for shipping labels.

Pros:

Easy to install, use and connect
Quick and efficient
Perfect for printing shipping labels
You can access from anywhere in your network

Cons:

There have been some complaints about a lack of proper customer support from DYMO

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2: Brother QL-700 High-speed, Professional Label Printer

Brother is a well-known brand in the label printing business and they have plenty of options for different budgets. The QL-700 is quite affordable and has all the features you need to dole out hundreds of labels per day.

You can use it to print out labels for shipping, discs, envelopes, and packages as well. It works at a speed of 90+ labels per minute and offers high-quality prints that could rival some of the most high-end models on the market.

Thanks to the auto cutter, this label printer offers clean edges with minimal waste. It also offers a print resolution of 300 x 600 dpi so you can rest assured that you’ll have crystal clear text and sharp graphics.

If this is your first time buying a thermal printer, then you’ll be glad to know that this model is super easy to install and use, thanks to the software installation instructions dedicated to each type of label.

Plus, it’s compatible with software apps like Word, Outlook, Excel and others, with dedicated P-touch editor software to make cutting-edge barcode labels. You may also download a “Label Collection” with a wide range of pre-designed labels and banners.

Pros:

Compact and easy to use
Comes with excellent software
Offers two modes so you can print a wide variety of labels
Durable and well-made
Excellent tech support

Cons:

Third-party labels tend to stick to the print heads

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3: Seiko Instruments Smart Label Printer

This is another low-cost model from Seiko Instruments with the ability to print shipping labels, file folder labels, address labels and even name badges. You don’t need to buy ribbon, ink and toner, plus it’s USB-enabled with the ability to work with both MAC and PC devices.

It also comes with dedicated Smart Label Printer software that you can use to create all kinds of label designs. You can customize them with unique graphics, barcodes, and texts. You can even import image files from your laptop or another device to create labels that look absolutely amazing. Plus, it’s also backed by a 3-year warranty.

Pros:

Best label printer for small business owners
Easy to install and use
Works fast
Suitable for making unique labels
Backed by a 3-year warranty

Cons:

No complaints here

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4: DYMO LabelWriter Turbo 450 Direct Thermal Label Printer

This is yet another fantastic option from DYMO and this Turbo model comes with dimensions of 1/4 x 3/8 x ½, with the ability to print over 70 labels. This includes barcode labels, file folders, address labels and shipping labels to name but a few of the available options.

Once the labels have been printed, they’re super easy to peel off and you can print directly from software like QuickBooks, Outlook, Word, and Excel. It’s also compatible with PC and Mac devices, which means it works with different operating systems including Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS 10.4. Plus, you can also connect to it via USB.

It comes with a Stamps software which allows you to print USPS-approved postage without paying monthly fees. This label maker also comes with a DYMO stamp starter roll, address label starter roll, USB cable, quick start guide for PC and Mac users, as well as a power cable and adapter.

Pros:

Puts out clean labels without any smearing
Easy to print labels
Delivers clean cut and good looking labels
Works very fast

Cons:

No custom label templates

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5: Brother QL-720NW Professional, High-Speed Label Printer

The Brother QL-720NW model offers high-quality labels at lightning speeds, it puts out 90 labels per minute with a resolution of 300 x 600 dpi, and it’s guaranteed to produce high-quality barcodes with clear graphics and text.

Thanks to the automatic cutter, you never have to worry about getting jagged edges on your labels while custom labels are super easy to make. This printer connects to Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and it’s compatible with Mac and Windows devices.

It also offers a serial interface which means you can use it with another device to download and print unique labels. This includes file folders, postage labels, banners, and shipping labels.

Pros:

Easy to use
Offers excellent print quality
Best shipping label printer for eBay
Versatile

Cons:

We have nothing bad to say about this printer

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6: Rollo Label Printer – (Simply the Best Commercial Label Maker)

The Rollo Label Printer is one of the best thermal printer for shipping labels and it can print labels of different sizes. It works like any other printer, despite the fact that it uses thermal technology, and reviewers say that it’s super easy to set up and use. It has a large printing capacity with the ability to print 4.16 x 6.3 shipping labels.

You can use this printer to print barcodes, warehouse labels, FBA labels and ID labels to name but a few. It’s also compatible with UPS labels if you have a lot of shipping labels to print and it’s a high-speed device that can put out 150mm per second.

Pros:

Easy to use
Perfect for small business owners
Nice and compact
Well-built

Cons:

Instructions can be quite confusing

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7: Zebra ZD420d Direct Thermal Desktop Printer for Labels

If you’re looking for a fast and hardworking printer, look no further than the Zebra ZD420. Sure, it’s pricier than most of the other models on this list but it’s way faster and more powerful.

It’s the best printer for printing labels for growing businesses and it works perfectly when used in conjunction with Scan to Print function. This workhorse of a label printer will make hundreds of labels for you every day and it comes with Bluetooth connectivity and wireless support as well.

Pros:

Easy to manage
Compatible with PC and Mac devices
Powerful and quick

Cons:

We have nothing bad to say about this printer

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8: Brother QL-820NWB Thermal Shipping Label Printer

This is a lightweight, small and easy to use Brother printer. It’s a user-friendly model thanks to the clear instructions, and you can easily adjust the size and other features. You’ll be able to adjust template settings and other details at the click of a button.

It also offers a high standard of performance and puts out high-quality labels very fast. This unit comes with features like dual-color label printing so you can print bolder labels in the color red. You can also use it through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity depending on your needs and preferences.

Pros:

Flexible connectivity
Easy to set up and use
Versatile

Cons:

The software could use some improvement

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9: Zebra ZD500R Thermal Transfer RFID Printer

The ZD500R model from Zebra has been rated as the best printer for printing shipping labels by small business owners for a reason. It features wireless RFID label technology, which means you can use it to print out labels with an embedded encodable chip, while it’s also perfect for tracking assets like inventory and equipment.

Although it sounds rather cutting edge and technologically advanced, this printer is easy to use and it’s also very affordable. Not only can you use it to print out a wide variety of labels, but fan-folded tickets and wristbands as well. All in all, this is a comprehensive, full-scale thermal printer that will grow with your business.

Pros:

Efficient and economical
Works for numerous applications
Support block permalocking

Cons:

No complaints here!

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10: Brother QL-1100 Professional Thermal Label Printer

Last but not least we have the Brother QL-1100 model with high-speed performance and the ability to print up to 69 labels per minute. Many say that this is the best thermal label printer for shipping labels and it’s also one of the more cost-effective models on this list.

It’s small and easy to store pretty much anywhere without taking too much space, and it’s versatile enough to print out address labels, mailing, postage and barcode labels alike. It’s a workhorse with a resolution capacity of up to 300 dots per inch, and you can connect to it via a USB cable.

This is undoubtedly one of the best commercial label printers on the market, and it comes as no surprise considering that it comes from the reliable Brother brand. We especially love the “Plug and Label” feature which means you can get going immediately without the need for any software installation.

Pros:

P-touch software makes it easy to use
Easy to install
Prints fast

Cons:

Doesn’t work with Linux devices

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How to Maintain Your Thermal Printer

Thermal printers are generally low maintenance, but then again they work differently from the average printer.

With a thermal printer, you don’t have to worry about overheating because it doesn’t use heat, but it’s still a good idea to store it in a cold area.

You should also clean the printer regularly and carefully so that you don’t lose any of its components.

Be sure to check the printer’s internal components as well every now and then, while making sure that the cable is always close to the printer.

Always follow the instruction manual and place your printer on an even surface if you want it to perform optimally. Also, don’t allow dust to accumulate on the roll as that could damage it very fast.

Frequently Asked Questions About Thermal Label Printers

1 – What paper do you need to buy for your thermal printer?

Thermal printers can work with any heat-resistant paper.

2 – What to do when your thermal printer can’t connect?

Start by checking your main connection and make sure that you’re using a complimentary cable with your printer. If it still doesn’t work even though you’ve secured the above issues, then you’ll have to get in touch with customer support for help.

3 – Is it possible to print oil change labels?

For the best results, keep your thermal printer out of areas that are prone to heat, or anywhere that has access to direct sunlight, as that may lead to fading.

4 – Can I add words as well when printing a barcode?

You may add any description or logo that you like to your barcode.

5 – What type of ink does a thermal printer work with?

Thermal printers don’t require ink to work.

PLAN - PRICE

Description

Rollo Commercial Grade Label Printer

This label printer from Rollo is easy to use


Perfect for small business owners


It is nice and compact


The Rollo Label Printer is well-built 

ZD420d Direct Thermal Desktop Printer

ZD420d Direct Thermal Desktop Printer is easy to manage


It is compatible with PC and Mac devices


ZD420d Direct Thermal Printer is powerful and quick 

Brother QL-720NW Professional Label Printer

Brother QL-720NW comes with flexible connectivity


The unique design makes it easy to set up and use


The versatility of this label maker from Brother is only limited by your imagination

Zebra ZD500R Thermal Transfer RFID Printer

The Zebra ZD500R Thermal Transfer RFID Printer is efficient and economical


It is designed to work for numerous applications


Zebra ZD500R is able to support block permalocking 

Brother QL-1100 Professional Label Printer

Brother QL-1100 Professional Thermal Label Printer is designed to work fast


You get a P-touch software makes it easy to use


The Brother QL-1100 is easy to install

Conclusion

Well, there you have it! Hopefully, this guide will make it easier for you to find the best shipping label printer for your business. We’ve covered all the bases here with all the information you’ll need to find the best model for your needs.

But, if you’re still feeling confused about which model to choose from our comprehensive list of reviews, we’d like to recommend the Seiko Instruments Smart Label Printer.

We chose this unit as the best thermal printer for shipping labels because it’s small, simple, easy to install and use. It’s suitable to use in printing a wide array of different labels, and it’s compatible with Mac and Windows devices.

All told, this is a versatile unit that will meet your needs without taking up a lot of space. Plus, it comes with a 3-year warranty to boot!

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