Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know which size roll to order?

Simply measure an unused roll that fits your machine. Measuring a thermal roll is easy. All you need is a ruler.

  1. Measure across the receipt. This is the width of the paper.
  2. Turn the roll on its end and measure right across the roll. This is the diameter of your thermal roll.
  3. Measure across the core of the thermal roll. This is the small cardboard tube in the middle.

These three measurements are all you need to order the correct thermal roll.

What is thermal paper?

Thermal papers are used every day for printing receipts, tickets, and price labels. Thermal technology is quick, efficient and highly economical.


Thermal paper is specially treated for use with a thermal printer (see How does thermal paper work? for more details). A thermal printer has a printing head made of numerous tiny heating elements. When the thermal paper passes through the printer, words and images are created on via a reaction to the heat of the printing head.


Thermal printers are easy to operate and highly efficient. The low energy use and lack of expensive consumables associated with thermal technology makes it a cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice. 

How does thermal paper work?

The special qualities of thermal paper are created through a unique manufacturing process. First, a protective pre- coating is applied to a high- quality base paper. Next, the paper is treated with colour forming substances known as a thermo coating or the thermal reactive layer. Finally, the thermal paper is given a top coat to protect against wear and tear (see diagram, above).


Thermal printers have many, tiny heating elements on the printing head (see diagram, below). During printing, the thermal paper passes underneath the printing head (1). The heat from the printing head causes a reaction in the thermocoating of the paper (2), creating words and pictures (3).

How can I recognise a poor-quality paper?

Poor quality paper is often made using pulp from untraceable sources. Manufacturers might lower the cost of production by adding foreign substances - such as fabric rags - to the pulp. The resulting paper has inferior colouring and a warped, uneven texture, (as shown in the diagram to the left). Such low-grade papers cause uneven and illegible printing, and degrade faster, than higher-quality papers.

What is pulp?

Pulp is the raw material from which paper is made. Pulp can be made from a variety of materials, but is most often made from wood.


To make pulp, trees are harvested from farms or from natural forests (see diagram above). Next, the wood is ‘chipped’ into very small pieces. These are boiled and treated with various substances to make pulp.

This pulp is then shaped and dried to make paper.


Unfortunately, pulp is often made from unsustainably or illegally harvested trees from some of the most fragile forests on earth. Buying FSC-accredited paper guarantees that your paper is made only from sustainable sources.

Which thermal paper should I buy?

You may have noticed the wide variety of thermal receipt rolls available for sale. All thermal papers use the same basic technology. However, rolls can differ considerably in quality due to:

  • The kind of base paper used in the manufacturing process. The base paper is the plain, untreated paper to which thermoreactive substances are added to make thermal paper. Poor quality base paper may have unknown substances added to the pulp, and is lumpy and uneven. This results in poor printing quality.
  • The quality of the thermocoating. Substandard manufacturing often results in the important thermocoating being applied thinly and unevenly to the base paper. This results in patchy and unreadable printing.

It is important to note that extremely cheap thermal papers are not only poor in quality, but also very likely to be a result of unsustainable logging practices in some of the world’s most spectacular rainforests.


Only FSC ®-certified papers can be guaranteed to come from safe and responsible forestry sources. For this reason, the Ribbon Supply Co. (SGS-COC- 005695) recommends the use of high-quality, FSC-certified thermal rolls, such as the new EnviroPOS.