Both thermal paper and carbonless paper are commonly used as receipt paper in various industries. In this article, we will explore in detail the differences and unique characteristics that distinguish thermal paper from carbonless paper.

To begin with, it is important to understand what thermal paper and carbonless paper are and how they function. Let us delve into the specific features and applications of each type of paper to gain a comprehensive understanding.

What is Thermal Paper?

Thermal papers

Thermal paper rolls Source: Panda Paper Roll

Thermal paper is a particular type manufactured with specialty coating that aids inkless printing. Without using ribbons or inks, a distinct image is created on the paper when heat is applied to the coating.

Basically, heating causes the coating to turn black, which then causes the image to transfer to the paper. However, thermal paper printing is one of the most cost-effective printing processes due to its low maintenance requirements and low energy consumption.

In today’s time, thermal paper is used widely in several industries as a payment method. After any payment transaction, a receipt is issued as proof of the transaction, such as cash registers, bill payments, banking transactions, etc.

What is Carbonless Paper?

Carbonless papers

Carbonless paper roll Source: Panda Paper Roll

Carbonless paper is coated with two different types of chemicals: Coated Front (CF) and Coated Back (CB). These chemicals are in small capsules, which are released when pressure from a pen or printer is applied.

Basically, the carbonless paper has a two-ply (or three-ply) construction, which is created from wood pulp. When pressure is applied, an encapsulated ink or dye coated on the back of the top sheet of paper is transferred from the top to the bottom.

Carbonless copy paper is used in diverse corporations to produce one or more document copies, like invoices, etc. Although small-scale companies also use these sheets, including dry cleaners, shoe retailers, small grocery stores, and many others.

This was a glimpse of thermal paper and carbonless paper. Now, we will discuss the differentiators of each.

Difference Between Thermal Paper and Carbonless Paper

There are several significant differences when comparing carbonless paper to thermal paper. Let us discuss a few of them below.


While purchasing a paper, checking the number of ply in every paper you purchase is essential. The thermal paper roll consists of only 1 ply, while carbonless paper can have multiple ply such as 2ply, 3ply, or 4ply. Nonetheless, each has benefits, but the more the ply is present, it is more long-lasting and easy to read.


Many people choose to go with color printing for attractive marketing. However, there are limited color options in both the paper, yet carbonless paper comes in either pink, white, or yellow. Comparatively, thermal paper is available only in white.


We look forward to fast speed when it comes to printing. Among thermal and carbonless paper, thermal printing is faster; despite using heat, it is capable of printing quickly. Meanwhile, carbonless paper takes longer to print, the printing can get smudge. Thermal paper can deliver highly complex images or text in less than a minute.


A printing receipt is mainly used widely in transaction methods as proof of a payment done by an individual. Keeping this in mind, it is crucial to look into the accuracy of printing. Otherwise, a minor printing error could cause a major problem. For instance, if the numbers are printed accurately or clearly, there might be a misunderstanding between a customer and a vendor. Thermal printing is more accurate and sharp compared to carbonless paper. Thermal paper is capable of printing highly complex images or text precisely; meanwhile, there is a chance of smudge printing using the carbonless method.

Print ribbons

ERC printer ribbons

Print ribbons Source: Panda Paper Roll

Carbonless receipt paper requires the use of a traditional print ribbon, which delivers a quality print, depending upon the pressure on the first sheet, to print the image or text on the paper under it. Similarly, in thermal paper, there are no ribbons present; it highly works on the heat produced to create high-quality images or text.


While buying any product, we look precisely into the cost. Printing machines are the ones that are used most often to create billing receipts and invoices. There is a big difference in cost between thermal and carbonless printing. Since the thermal printer does not need moving parts, such as inks, ribbons, etc., maintenance is comparatively less costly. While carbonless printing needs ribbons, ink cartridges, etc., maintenance is a high cost since more parts are utilized. However, thermal paper rolls are expensive compared to carbonless paper.

Besides these, thermal paper and carbonless paper differ in several other factors. Here is a table summarizing the key differences between thermal paper and carbonless paper:

FeatureThermal PaperCarbonless Paper
PlySingle plyMultiple ply (2, 3, 4-ply)
Color OptionsOnly whiteWhite, pink, yellow/canary
Printing MechanismUses heat to produce an imageUses pressure to transfer ink from one sheet to another
PrinterThermal printersImpact printers or dot matrix printers
Printing SpeedFasterSlower, can smudge
Printing AccuracyMore accurate and sharpLess accurate, can smudge
Print RibbonsNo ribbons neededRequires traditional print ribbons
CostMore expensive paper, but lower maintenance costsLess expensive paper, but higher maintenance costs
Typical UsesReceipts, tickets, labelsMulti-part forms, invoices, purchase orders


Now, you can choose between carbonless and thermal paper as a business owner. A remarkable part of this industry is that thermal paper is regularly used everywhere in millions of places daily – this can generate huge, compatible profits for you.

Panda Paper Roll is China’s premier paper roll manufacturer and supplier. We manufacture both thermal and non-thermal paper products for every purpose and are used in every market sector. Reach out to us if you are looking for any paper products. We offer a special price for bulk orders and also provide a free sample at your doorstep.

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About the Author: Frank Ouyang

Frank Ouyang is the sales manager at Panda Paper Roll Company - a leading factory of thermal paper rolls, label rolls, and other print-related products in China. With extensive experience in the industry, Frank is an expert in thermal paper knowledge and enjoys sharing his insights and expertise with clients, helping them achieve their goals and maximize their success.

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