Can Thermal Printers Print Colour?

Colour thermal printing

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To put it simply, yes, SOME thermal printers can print in colour.

Thermal printers are generally monochrome printers. However, with the use of thermal transfer printing technology and special colour ribbons, thermal printers can print in colour.

Continue reading to find answers to common questions about printing in colour with thermal printers.

What Types of Thermal Printers Can Print in Colour?

If you need to print in colour with a thermal printer, look for one of the following five printers.

  • Zebra IQ colour printers
  • Thermal transfer printers
  • ZINK printers
  • Dye-sublimation printers
  • Retransfer thermal printers

What Are the Capabilities and Limitations of Colour Thermal Printers?

Here’s a table containing the capabilities and limitations of the five types of thermal colour printers.

Thermal Printer Types with Capabilities and Limitations
Thermal Printer Type
Zebra IQ Colour Printers
Zebra IQ colour printers are equipped with a multi-colour system. The system allows the printer to print in black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, cyan, and magenta.
Zebra IQ colour printers can only print in 9 colours. Moreover, you can only select up to four colours during a print job.
Thermal Transfer Printers
Thermal Transfer printers can print in different colours depending on the ribbon used.
Thermal Transfer printers can only print in one colour at a time. The colour options for thermal ribbons are also very limited.
ZINK Printers
ZINK printers use heat to print in colour. They can print in various colours and produce professional-quality images.
ZINK printers can only print on ZINK papers.
Dye-Sublimation Printers
Dye-sublimation printers heat solid ink and deposit it on label material to produce coloured prints. They use the CMYO (cyan, magenta, yellow, overcoating) system.
Dye-sublimation printers require a particular type of ink and additional equipment like a heat press to produce prints.
Retransfer Thermal Printers
Retransfer thermal printers print on transparent films, then apply heat and pressure to transfer the images to print media. They are able to print in a wide range of colours.
Retransfer thermal printers require clear retransfer films for printing colour images.

Do Thermal Printers Produce High-Quality Colour Prints?

Thermal printers can produce high-quality colour prints. However, the print quality will depend on the type of printer and the quality of the ribbon used.

Generally, a thermal transfer printer with high-resolution capabilities (600 DPI) will produce higher-quality colour prints than other thermal printers.

It is worth noting that industrial thermal printers cannot print the same vivid colours or with the same level of colour accuracy as laser or inkjet printers.

Can Direct Thermal Printer Print in Colour?

No, direct thermal printers cannot print in colour.

Direct thermal printing technology uses heat-sensitive paper (also called thermal labels or thermal paper ) instead of thermal ribbon for printing. As a result, direct thermal printers can only print in black and white.

Check our guide on direct thermal vs. thermal transfer printing to learn more about these two printing methods.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, yes—thermal printers can print colour. However, they can only print a limited number of colours depending on the particular colour ribbons used.

If you require high-quality, vibrant colour prints, a thermal printer is not the best option for your needs. Instead, consider using inkjet printers or laser printers.

Thermal printers are best suited to industrial environments where speed and durability are more important than colour printing capabilities. They are often used for printing labels, shipping labels, receipts, barcodes, and other monochrome documents. Our thermal printer buyer guide will help you choose the right printer for your specific needs.

We hope this article has answered your questions about printing in colour with thermal printers. Thanks for reading!

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