The best thermal printers can be handy devices for anyone running their own business who needs to print labels, receipts and more. Good thermal printers tend to be smaller, lighter and more reliable than standard home printers, and they usually require less maintenance, making them great options for small arts and crafts businesses, whether you're working from home, from a workshop or studio or on the move.
The best thing about thermal printers and the best thermal label printers is that they don't use ink cartridges or toner. All you need is paper and the printer itself. That means that they're usually cheaper to run if you're printing labels in bulk when selling craft items through sites like Etsy. There are lots of options on the market, so to help you choose, we've compared the best thermal printers based on their specs, features, reviews and value. We've chosen options for different uses, including the best label printers and best cheap thermal printers, highlighting the things to bear in mind with each one, such as the size of the printer, efficiency, connectivity and OS compatibility.
Below you'll find a very brief summary of our three top picks. Scroll down further for our full guide and right to the bottom for pointers on how to choose. If you're looking for tools to make smaller labels, we also have a guide to the best label makers, which are great for keeping your home or office organised. And if you're wondering where to sell your work, see our piece on the best places to sell design online.
The best thermal printers available now
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The best thermal printer overall
Max label width: 4.16in
This is our top pick for everyday use for most people because we've found it to be easy to set up and conveniently compact in size while the high resolution produces crisp and clear labels in a wide range of sizes, including shipping labels up to 4 inches wide.
Best for small businesses
The best thermal for small businesses
Max label width: 4.3in
We think this larger thermal printer is a sound choice for small businesses that might need to produce large numbers of stickers and labels in a range of sizes. Resolution is lower, but this makes it cost-effective and also very efficient, printing at up to 72 labels per minute.
The best wireless thermal printer
Max label width: 4in
Most thermal printers connect via USB, which is usually fine for desktop use, but the Rollo Wireless Printer X1040 connects via Wi-Fi, so you can print from your phone. It prints standard 4x6in shipping labels, but it's only available in the US.
The best thermal printers in full
We rate the Dymo LabelWriter 4XL as the best thermal label printer for e-commerce sellers – from Etsy sellers to those with small shops and websites. It’s simple to set up and compact in size, producing crisp and clear labels with its high resolution of 300dpi.
It's a compact printer, not too large to sit on a desk, and the black cover and silver edging looks pretty sleek good. While the Dymo 4XL printer has the ability to print labels in a range of sizes, it's best equipped to print larger shipping labels up to 4-inches wide. This goes hand-in-hand with its compatibility with many major online marketplaces and shipping platforms – it can print shipping labels directly from platforms like Amazon and eBay.
There are over 60 available label styles and formats, along with a wide variety of fonts and styles to choose from. We also found it quick to print, achieving around 29 labels per minute. This makes a convenient choice if you have a large printing task to undertake.
The MUNBYN Thermal Shipping Label Printer is a desktop-sized label printer. But while it's larger than some other options and not wireless, we think it's perfect for small businesses thanks to its efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Measuring 7.6 x 4.1 x 3.9in, it is smaller than many regular desktop printers, and it's compatible with popular software and platforms including Adobe, Microsoft, Etsy, eBay and a lot more. The MUNBYN label printer is fast, at up to 72 labels per minute, and the printing quality remains high. It can create stickers and other sized labels as well as the standard 6 x 4 inches, and the printer comes with a USB which includes a detailed printer installation video tutorial and driver.
The Rollo Wireless Printer X1040 has a sleek white design with purple highlights. Aimed at those who need to print 4x6in shipping labels, it has the benefit of wireless Wi-Fi connection as well as USB, which makes it easy to print from a phone. We also like the fact that it's designed to work with the cloud-based Rollo Ship Manager, which you can then connect to multiple online platforms to manage and keep track of all your shipping needs via phone or tablet.
The Rollo Ship Manager offers shipping discounts, which is ideal for businesses, though, like the device itself, this is only available in the US. We found it easy to set up using the video in the accompanying app, and there's no need to install a driver.
The Brother PT-P710BT is a smart, compact little thermal printer that can be used to create narrow, plastic labels. You're tied into using Brother's own TZe tapes but these work well and come in 60 different colours and sizes ranging from 6 millimetres to one inch.
It's a wonderfully compact thermal printer, and it can be used with desktop and mobile devices, but it's size and nature make it ideal for use with Android or Apple devices. While it can be used over Bluetooth, it's also nice to have the USB 2.0 connected there as a backup (although USB-C would be preferable). Another plus point is the app, which offers icons, images, barcodes, logos and more – there's even a spellchecker.
The Brother VC-500W full colour label printer is the best thermal colour printer we've found. We consider it a great, flexible choice when it comes to printing labels, offering various sizes ranging from 9-50mm width and they can be up to 50cm long, and the print quality remains high, at 313DPI.
We found it easy to print directly from most devices and operating systems, including straight from social media platforms. We also liked the free Colour Label Editor app, which you can download to edit your photos and choose from thousands of personalised features such as text, borders, filters and emojis.
One of the main downsides to this thermal printer is that the printing rolls are not cheap to purchase, which can make it quite costly to run. However, as long as your labelling tasks aren't too high-volume, the Brother VC-500W is a great pick for colour label printing.
The Arkscan 2054A is for anyone who wants a basic but approachable thermal printer. We found it to be super easy to setup, taking only minutes. It offers nothing fancy, but it does the job for any business that needs to print 6 x 4-inch shipping labels on a daily basis.
We found the printer to be fast, printing around 5-inches per second. Though it is slightly bigger than some of the other printer options, it does have the option to use a label roll which is stored in the printer as well as fan-fold stacks. This printer also has the option to make it compatible with Zebra LP2844, meaning it will support some software.
The printer comes with software included, BarTender UltraLite Label Making Software, with features for text and graphics. However, this is only available for Windows users so if you use a Mac then not all of these printers’ features will be accessible. Overall, it's a versatile thermal printer, with the option to buy a LAN version (at an extra cost) so you can print wireless rather than via USB.
The Phomemo PM-246 Pro is a very compact thermal printer, although you might have to take into consideration the extra space needed for the label holder. It's relatively easy to set up, coming with a USB containing how-to videos, quick guides and drivers so you shouldn’t have any issues with connecting. However, there is no Bluetooth connectivity so you won’t be able to print directly from your smartphone or tablet.
The printer comes with Labelife editing software which is great for customising your labels. However, just like some of the other printers’ software, this is only available for Windows users currently. That said, it is extremely versatile when it comes to printing, with the ability to print labels from 1 x 1-inches up to 6 x 4-inches, covering the majority of most commonly used labels – it also comes with a free label holder and some 4 x 6-inches fan-fold labels to get you started.
The Phomemo PM-246 Pro is a great printer for everyday labelling and printing as it’s built for high volume with its ability to run for up to 12 hours straight. Although it doesn’t offer Bluetooth connectivity, as long as you want your printer hooked up to a computer, it's a sound choice.
The Epson TM-T20II is an excellent thermal printer for making receipts, it's really that simple. If you're looking for the best thermal printer for receipts and don't really need one for much else, this is considered one of the best around.
It's a popular thermal printer for small businesses because it's a sturdy, reliable and speedy (200mm per second) thermal printer for receipts. It can be used with Windows and Mac but doesn't have a mobile app or support for Android. It prints on paper at lengths of 3.125 inches wide and up to 230 inches long.
The Zebra 4 is a good, modern thermal printer that can support the larger four-inch label side and has a fast 4.25' per second speed to keep those labels coming when you're up against a deadline. This is one of the best thermal printers if you need a fast label maker with consistent and reliable results.
It's a modern machine, with a compact and sleek design and cartridges are easily replaced. It looks good on your desk and once up and running is easy to use with the app. This is also one of the frustrations, as setting up this machine can be a little frustrating. It only works with the app, so like many modern printers you need good WiFi and a second device (laptop, tablet, phone) to get it up and running.
The Brother QL-600B comes in with the trademark blue and white housing and is probably the best thermal printer for those on a budget. This compact label printer allows you to design labels using its free P-touch Editor software. Although this is pretty basic software, it is great for beginners and has everything you would need to make and print custom labels on demand.
One unique feature of this printer is that it allows you to print a multitude of label sizes, without the need to change the roll. Whether you need postage labels, die cut labels or signage; this printer can provide you with that easily. If you need a thermal printer with just the basics, then this is definitely the pick for you.
Which is the best thermal printer?
When choosing the best thermal printer for you, you need to consider several factors. Most importantly, you need to have clear what you want to do with the thermal printer.
Some people might want to invest in a thermal printer for a small business whereas others might need one for a bigger commercial operation. Others might just want to label and organise things around their home.
You will need to consider print speed and label size compatibility. Businesses are more likely to need to print shipping labels and will need a thermal printer that can accommodate this. Those wanting a printer to simply label and organise can most likely get away with a printer that focuses on smaller-scale printing.
Another deciding factor might be whether the thermal printer has USB or wireless connectivity. If you want to be able to print from mobile devices, wireless is the way to go, but this improved portability costs more. Finally, some people will like the confidence of a reliable brand, and manufacturers like Brother and MUNBYN are good names.
What is a thermal printer good for?
Thermal printers are ideal for businesses and professional crafters and artists as well as hobbyists that need a printer for specific tasks, such as to print labels or receipts. Thermal printing fades over time, so it's not ideal for printing things that need more durability.
How do thermal printers work?
Thermal printers work in a different way to standard home printers, which tend to use laser or inkjet technology. Thermal printers use heat to transfer pigments onto a surface, turning the coating of the thermal paper black in the areas where it's heated.
What are the advantages of thermal printer?
The big advantage of thermal printers is that there's no need to buy ink cartridges; you just need the paper and the printer itself. They're also smaller and lighter than most regular printers.
On the other hand, the disadvantages of thermal printers are that they're often more expensive to buy than standard printers, and, while you don't need to buy ink, you do need to buy thermal paper rather than regular paper. They also have colour limitations, and thermal printing fades over time.
How we chose the best thermal printers for our guide
We picked the thermal printers for this guide by comparing the specs of a wide range of printers from reputable brands along with our own reviews and those of our sister site TechRadar and verified customer reviews to obtain a balance of opinions and experiences. Many of the contributors to Creative Bloq's tutorials and how-to guides run their own arts and crafts businesses and have experience of using thermal printers to make labels for shipping and inventory so their experience was also invaluable in comparing performance.
To cater to a range of needs, we've included not only the best thermal printers overall but a mix of different sizes and cheap thermal printer options to cater to different budgets.