Selective focus of stack of white paper wrinkled receipts in daylight on blue background


Thermal paper is a special paper that changes color when heat is applied to it, hence the name. They are used in thermal printers for printing receipts.

Many business owners prefer thermal paper to other receipt papers. They have several advantages over others. For instance, thermal papers provide quick and high-quality images.

Thermal paper does not require ink. It has a coating that changes color when it is exposed to heat. The thermal paper consists of three layers.

The first layer is known as the base paper. It contains gelatin, alkali salts, and starches which makes it possible for heat to pass through the paper safely.

The second layer is the precoat layer. Its function is to improve heat insulation, uniformity, smoothness, and anchoring of the thermal layer. The third and last layer, known as the thermal layer produces images after a thermal reaction. Chemicals like dye, sensitizer, and developer cause heated parts to turn black.

Thermal paper is different from other types of receipt papers because they require heat to work whereas other types of receipt paper need ink cartridges for printing. Compared to other types of paper, thermal paper has a glossy surface and feels different to the touch.

To ensure that the paper you have is thermal paper, there are simple tests you can use. Although there are types of thermal paper, certain attributes run through. They also come in different sizes. For example, 3 ⅛ thermal paper, 2 ¼ thermal rolls, etc. Hence, these tests can be used for any type of thermal paper. Let’s take a look at some of these tests.

The Surface Test

As I mentioned earlier, the thermal paper has a glossy surface.

You can identify thermal paper by feeling the surface and comparing it to how the surface of other papers such as carbon paper or bond paper feels. This test may not be 100% accurate because some bond paper also has a smooth surface.

The Fingernail Test

This is one of the easiest ways to identify thermal paper. This is done by using your fingernail to scratch the surface of the paper.

Thermal paper has a chemical coating on its surface. Heat is generated when you scratch the surface of the paper with your fingernail.

This causes the black marks on the surface to show. If after scratching both sides of the paper, you don’t see black marks, the paper is not thermal paper.

The Fire Test

You can also identify if a receipt paper is thermal paper by placing the paper near an active flame. If the paper discolors, then it is thermal paper. Chemicals present in the paper react with heat and give it a black color.

Test the Paper with A Thermal Printer

This is probably the best way to determine if the paper is thermal paper. Thermal printers use heat to produce text on thermal paper without the use of ink cartridges.

You can try this test with other types of receipt papers such as wood-free paper or carbonless paper. No images will appear on these papers because they do not have a chemical coating on their surface. If images or texts appear on the paper, then it is thermal paper.

Qualities of Good Thermal Paper

To be able to function properly, there are certain qualities that thermal paper should have. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Heat Resistance

Some thermal paper rolls are specifically made to withstand higher temperatures. Thermal paper left in places where the temperature can reach 150 degrees can turn black and unreadable. This is due to the chemicals present in the paper reacting.


Thicker materials tend to be more durable and may look like they are of higher quality as perceived by the human eye.

However, this can affect the number of documents you can print before you are out of thermal paper because the thicker the material, the less paper you have on the roll.

Moisture Resistance

If your paper rolls would be stored in a humid area, it is important to consider moisture-resistant thermal paper. Paper that is formulated to be moisture resistant will protect the receipt paper from getting damaged to the point where it is impossible to use.


You have to put into consideration how long the paper rolls will be stored. A good thermal paper roll should be able to last longer even when in storage.

It should be able to withstand harsh conditions such as heat and moisture. If you own a business, you will likely buy thermal paper in large quantities. Invest in thermal paper rolls that will still be in good condition when you have to use them.

How to Take Care of Your Thermal Printer

How long your thermal printer will last depends on how well you take care of it. These tips will help you maintain your thermal printer to ensure that it is always in good condition.

  • Always cover the printer when not in use. This will prevent dust and debris from damaging the small parts of the printer.
  • Frequently clean your printer head and the inside of the printer frequently. Clean it with a soft cloth to avoid damaging or scratching the printer.
  • Ensure that the settings meet your needs. Thermal printers allow you to adjust the settings related to speed and quality. It is important to note that faster printing is going to put pressure on the machine which will cause wear and tear.
  • Invest in quality thermal paper. Some manufacturers of thermal paper use inferior materials, this can cause debris to build up in your printer.
  • Replace printheads that are old and worn out. You should also try to avoid touching the printhead.

Thermal paper is quickly becoming popular among business owners. Apart from the fact that using thermal receipts in thermal printers is less costly, it also provides speedy and high-quality images.

Thermal paper is easy to identify once you know what to look out for. You should, however, invest in a high-quality thermal paper which will produce high-quality receipts.

Although there is a move towards a cashless future, thermal papers are still relevant. Knowing how to take care of your thermal printer will not only ensure that it lasts longer but will also save you from the extra cost that comes with getting a new printer or fixing the old one.