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How Barcode Label Printing Works with a Thermal Transfer Printer

Do You Need 600 dpi Barcode Printer or a 200 dpi Barcode Printer?

Barcode Labeling

How Barcode Label Printing Works

The printhead on your thermal transfer barcode label printer produces printed labels by transferring ink from your thermal transfer ribbon onto the label material. The ribbon is transferred in tiny dots of printing. Each dot corresponds to a dot on the printhead.

Each barcode symbology is made up of thin and wide bars, and each symbology defines the width of each thin and wide bar that composes it. The width of the white space between printed bars is also fixed.

A 200 dpi printhead transfers 200 dots in an area the size of an inch. A higher resolution barcode printhead can transfer more dots of printing in that same size area: a 300 dpi printhead can transfer 300 dots of printing per inch, and a 600 dpi printhead can transfer 600 dots of printing per inch.

Do I Need a 600 dpi Barcode Printer or a 200 dpi Barcode Printer?

Many people debate the pros and cons of whether to select a 200 dpi barcode label printer or a 600 dpi barcode label printer. High-resolution barcode label printers can economize limited label space and improve barcode scannability, but are higher-priced than traditional 200 dpi barcode printers. Here is some information to help you decide which printhead resolution is right for your end-use label printing application.

200 dpi barcode label
600 dpi barcode label

Barcode printing in 200 dpi is great for text, numbers, and codes, but may appear a bit grainy or pixelated. You can improve the print quality of a barcode printed in 200 dpi by making the barcode physically larger on your label, but you may not have enough space to do this on your label. If you decide to do this, please note that each barcode must be scaled proportionately, since the aspect ratio of each barcode is strictly defined by each barcode symbology.

A high resolution barcode label printer is capable of accurately reproducing printed images, barcodes, and text in a very small area. Using a 600 dpi barcode printer is best if you wish to minimize the size of the barcode you print on your label, or when you need to print a lot of text and want to minimize the space it occupies on your label. A high resolution label printer is also useful when you have a small size label, a small size product, or when you are labeling a small area on your container or package. It's also the best way to reproduce a 2D barcode.

The table below shows an example of the physical space required by a barcode. Note that higher resolution printheads permit barcodes to be printed in smaller sizes. For example, a barcode that is one inch wide at 200 dpi could be reduced to one third of an inch at 600 dpi.

Barcode Printer Printhead Resolution

Physical Area Necessary to Print 2 dot barcode

Physical Area Necessary to Print 3 dot barcode

Physical Area Necessary to Print 6 dot barcode

200 dpi

1 inch

1.5 inches

3 inches

300 dpi

0.66 inches

1 inch

2 inches

600 dpi

0.33 inches

0.5 inches

1 inch

Do I Need a Barcode Number? Where Can I Get a Barcode Number for My Product?

If you are printing barcode labels for internal use (inventory, asset tracking), you are free to choose your own barcode symbology and print barcode labels according to your own numbering system. Simply choose a barcode symbology in your barcode labeling software, and assign your own number.

However, if you sell products through retailers, you will need to get a registered barcode number for your product that identifies your company as the maker of the product. To get a registered, unique barcode number for your product, you must become a member of GS1, formerly known as the Uniform Code Council. You will be given a UPC or EAN company identification number which you can encode into a UPC-A or EAN-12 barcode on their product label

How Can I Print a High-Quality Barcode Label?

Barcode labels printed by the Pronto! Barcode Printer

Many people are aware that differences among label materials can dramatically impact barcode label print quality. The impact of selecting the right thermal transfer ribbon is less well-known, but equally important. If labels must survive exposure to moisture, UV light, temperature changes (such as room temperature to freezer), moisture exposure or water submersion, it is critical to match labels with thermal transfer ribbons. For guidance about label and ribbon compatibility, contact QuickLabel Systems.

Is there a Barcode Quality Standard? ISO/IEC 15416:2000

Within the packaging industry, ISO/IEC 15416:2000 is the ISO standard that governs barcode print quality and barcode scanning quality for linear barcodes such as UPC-A, UPC-E, Code 39, and HIBC as well as two-dimensional barcodes (2D barcodes) such as Datamatrix, PDF417, and IUID/UID barcodes. This standard defines the amount of “reflectance” for each printed barcode in order to produce an acceptable barcode that can be properly scanned by a barcode scanner. ISO 15416 applies to companies in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

A High Resolution Barcode Printer is also a Monochrome Label Printer

Pronto! Barcode Printers

Many people are surprised to learn that a bar code printer can also be considered a monochrome label printer, which is a single color thermal transfer label printer. It is possible to print attractive monochrome labels with graphics, illustrations, logos, fancy fonts, and more with a high resolution barcode label printer/monochrome label printer. With a high resolution monochrome label printer like the Pronto! 486, you can print monochrome labels in any single color using thermal transfer ribbons – including metallic colors like gold and silver. The ability to custom-print barcode labels in 600 dpi resolution means that you can achieve very fine print quality on the labels you print yourself. High resolution monochrome label printers can produce labels that are used as primary product display labels.