How can you tell if you’re buying the right receipt paper for your business?

Imagine you’re running a restaurant or a retail store, the paper rolls in your printers are almost finished out, and you want to buy some new rolls. So you use your computer or mobile phone and Google “receipt paper suppliers”. However, you find many receipt paper suppliers selling thermal paper or bond paper. And you are confused by the paper types: what’s the difference between them? How to tell thermal paper? Am I using thermal paper in my store now?

Here in this article, we will introduce how to identify thermal paper. But before that, you should first understand the three common types of receipt paper used in POS systems.


What are the Common Receipt Paper Types?

1- Thermal Paper

Thermal paper comes with a chemical coating on its surface. Once thermal paper passes over to the thermal print head, the coating turns black where the heat is concentrated, and from there produces an image or text. You can identify the thermal coat by its brightness and smoothness of the surface. It’s also called the thermal side of the paper.

The other side of thermal paper has no coating on the surface, which is the non-thermal side and doesn’t change its color when it’s subject to heat.

The thermal paper market is a billion-dollar market where the retail, e-commerce, and finance sectors have a significant influence on its growth. It’s economical and convenient to use because establishments don’t need to use cartridges and expensive inks for printing receipts.

2- Wood-free Paper

Wood-free paper, also called bond paper, is a staple at the office. The sizes may vary, depending on what type of documents you print, but the popular one is the A4. Whether at home or the office, wood-free or bond paper is useful only in traditional printing with the use of ink or cartridges.

If you put a bond paper and a thermal paper side-by-side, you can notice the significant difference on the surface. Neither sides of the bond paper have a coating, which results in a less bright and smooth surface than thermal paper.

Bond paper can be only used in thermal transfer printers with ribbons which can transfer the image to the paper surface to generate the texts or images. One of the caveats in using bond paper for printing receipts is that it’s not economical. You need to replace ink cartridges, which are costly if you’re doing this daily.

3- Carbonless Paper

Another way to print receipts is through the use of carbonless paper. This type of paper contains 2 or 3-ply, and often one copy is for the customer, and the other copies are for the business owner.

Generally, a carbonless paper consists of three layers: the coated back (white), coated front and back (canary), and the coated face (pink). The coated back is the one on top, and often where the pressure is applied. It has microencapsulated dye coating at the back of the sheet. When you put pressure on top of the paper to print an image or text, it produces crushed little capsules at the back of the sheet, which releases a dye. The dye reacts with the clay and resin of the coated front and back ply’s face and creates a ripple effect in the coated face.

Here Below is the Table to Show the Paper Types Differences:

When it comes to printing receipts, both bond paper and carbonless paper use ribbons to produce images, which are, in a nutshell, needs maintenance on ink cartridges and also printers.

Thermal PaperWoodfree PaperCarbonless Paper
Paper colorwhitewhitewhite/canary/pink
Image colorblackblueblue

How to Identify Thermal Paper from the 3 Paper Types?

Now that you have an idea about the three common types of receipt paper, you can identify if the receipt paper is thermal by using these 3 methods.

1- Scratch with Your Fingernail

The easiest way to identify a thermal paper is by scratching the paper surface with your fingernail. As mentioned above, thermal paper has a chemical coating on its surface, when you scratch the paper surface with your fingernail, there is heat generated in this process, and the thermal paper can show the black marks on its surface. It’s the easiest way to identify if it is thermal paper.

To ensure you have the right thermal paper, conduct a scratch test on both sides and see if you can see the black marks. If, after scratching, you don’t see any black dots or markets on either side,  then it is not thermal paper.

2- Observe and Feel the Paper Surface

Another way to test if it’s a legit thermal paper is to observe and feel the paper surface and compare it with a bond paper and carbonless paper. The thermal paper stands out with its smoother, shinier surface.

But in some cases, some bond paper also has a very smooth surface, so observing and feeling the paper surface isn’t the best way to determine if it is thermal paper.

3- Test the Paper on Thermal Printer

Last but not least, the best way to identify thermal paper is to test it with a thermal printer. A thermal printer uses heat to produce an image or text on the thermal paper without the use of ribbons.

If you insert a wood-free paper or carbonless paper into the thermal printer, it won’t produce anything on these types of papers because they don’t have the chemical coating on its surface. If the paper roll can feed out printed images and texts once you run it into the thermal printer, it passed the test.

What’s Your Action Plan?

Whether you’re in the retail, entertainment, or banking industry, printing receipts are made easy and economical with the use of thermal paper. You don’t have to think about maintaining your printer and ink cartridges—no more fiddling with the printer’s ribbons. When you use thermal papers, you only have to invest in a thermal printer and just purchase paper rolls all year round.

Are you ready to take your business to the next level with the use of thermal paper? Let us know if you need any of the receipt paper products we offer, we can send you a special price for bulk orders.