What to do when the thermal printer is not printing clearly?

Thermal paper has been in usage since the late 1960s since its creation by Texas Instruments. Further developments have led to the current stage. Through the ages, proper refinement and improvement have been made to create high-quality and long-lasting thermal printer paper.

However, there might be some issues with a thermal printer, especially if they have not been in use for a long time. So let’s understand why a thermal printer might not print properly. But before that, it’s important to understand thermal printing.

What is Thermal Printing

Thermal printing is a system of printing that is usually done on a specially coated heat-sensitive paper. The heat applied comes through a controlled printhead, and the heat-sensitive chemicals allow the heat from the printhead to create letters or numbers on the paper. Two thermal printing styles can be used to create letters and numbers on thermal paper, which are as follows:

Direct Thermal Printing

In this type of printing, the heat from the printhead directly applies itself to the thermal paper, which causes a chemical reaction on the heat-sensitive layer of the thermal paper. Modern thermal paper is comparatively more resistant to environmental influences than before. Therefore, the color remains fresh for several years.

Thermal Transfer Printing

Thermal transfer printing uses color foil or thermal transfer foil, which helps get the print on paper. The heat-sensitive thermal transfer foil sticks to the paper while running between the printheads. Due to the process, the plain surface of the foil gets a fine and sharp print with a slight shine. As a result, the thermal transfer printing system lasts longer than direct thermal prints.

So now that you are aware of what thermal printing is and the two types of thermal printing. What to do when a thermal printer is not printing clearly will also be discussed ahead. Then, with the aid of experts at Graphic Tickets, you will be able to select the most suitable thermal printer and thermal paper roll to ensure reduced issues of printer printing light. So let’s now focus on understanding thermal receipt and what it is.

What is a thermal receipt?

A thermal receipt is a paper that has been coated with heat-sensitive chemicals which change color when exposed to heat. Thermal receipts are usually used in thermal printers to purchase products and services at various businesses. A thermal receipt paper has three different layers of coating that ensure that both numbers and letters are visible. The three layers are as follows:

  • Base paper
  • Precoat layer
  • Thermal layer

Also, a topcoat layer is applied to the thermal layer if there is a need for a long-lasting thermal printing image. The reverse side of the thermal paper can also be coated to improve the print quality and protect it from any adhesive. The layers placed on each side of a thermal receipt paper have been further explained:

Topcoat Layer

The topcoat layer can protect the thermal layer from being affected due to water, solvents, oil, scratches, humidity, and other elements.

Backcoat Layer

The layer applied to the backcoat of a thermal receipt paper reduces the chances of de-curling, aids in anti-static electricity treatment, and creates a back barrier against adhesives.

Now that you have understood what a thermal receipt is, the three layers on any thermal receipt and the additional layers applied on both sides of the thermal receipt. The experts at Graphic Tickets ensure that they provide the exact thermal paper type for the thermal printer being used. Let’s now understand the best steps to take so that the thermal printer can function properly.

Make sure your thermal receipt printer is functioning properly

It is usually easy to understand the details when getting a thermal paper receipt. However, there might be situations where the thermal printer not printing dark enough. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the thermal receipt printer not printing anything is taken care of at the earliest. Here are some helpful ways to ensure that the thermal receipt printer being used is functioning properly:

Maintain the exact heat and speed ratio

Many organizations that use thermal receipt printers usually have problems when the thermal printer not printing clearly due to illegible printing. So it is necessary to ensure that the thermal receipt printer you are using has the exact heat and speed ratio. Using the thermal receipt printer on a low setting will help in reducing the chances of the thermal printer not printing clearly. Also, it is a good idea to steer clear of adjusting heat settings without the assistance of a professional.
Another important thing to remember is if the thermal paper printer supplier has set up and tested the printer before shipping it to you. They will have most likely adjusted the heat and speed ratio to match the requirements and purpose. A proper heat and speed ratio of the thermal paper printer will ensure that the printer will be able to work for a long time without the need for replacement or wastage.

Cover the printer and place it in a minimal traffic area

Whenever you think of ways to reduce the chances of the thermal printer not printing clearly. One simple and extremely easy method is to cover the printer and move it to an area with minimal to low traffic. Unfortunately, many thermal printers are placed in high traffic areas with a high amount of dust and debris. Therefore, covering it up and moving it to a low to minimal traffic area will help in reducing the risk of accidental damage.

Clean the inner working parts and print heads

Another reason for the thermal printer not printing clearly can be due to the working parts and print heads not being cleaned regularly. It has been observed that thermal receipt paper printer heads are extremely sensitive. Using a soft cloth to clean the printer head will ensure that the issue of the thermal printer not printing dark enough is reduced. In addition, cleaning the interior of the thermal receipt printer with a soft cloth removes the dust and debris from inside and helps resolve the problem of the thermal printer printing too light.

Check for any loose parts

Another very important reason that causes thermal printer faded print is the regular use of the thermal printer. Long-term usage can cause a few internal parts to loosen and increase the chances of damage to sensitive parts inside the printer. A regular examination of the thermal receipt printer’s internal machinery will help reduce the chances of the thermal printer not printing anything.

High-quality Supplies

When using thermal receipt printers, it is important to ensure that you purchase high-quality compatible products. These should be the exact products the dealer or manufacturer-recommended, like Graphic Tickets. As low-quality products can damage the thermal receipt printer, it can lead to the thermal printer not printing anything or the thermal printer printing too light.

The above points are a great way to ensure that your thermal receipt paper works perfectly and does not have the printer printing light. The best ways to ensure that the thermal printer is functioning properly have been discussed. Let’s understand the reasons why the thermal printer is not printing clearly.

Reasons for thermal printer not printing clearly

All the methods of ensuring that the thermal printer provides clear and legible prints have been discussed previously. With that out of the way, let’s now understand why your thermal printer might not be printing clearly.

  1. The first reason that could be a cause for thermal printer faded print could be due to the printer head not being cleaned for a long time. Use alcohol to clean the print head with the power turned off.
  2. Insufficient power supply to the thermal printer can also cause your thermal printer not printing dark enough.
  3. Another important reason for the thermal printer printing too light is if the incompatible thermal paper roll has been added.
  4. Finally, a thermal printer printing too light could be due to the incorrect print density. The density can be changed in the printer settings or app settings.

All the above points should help answer the question, “why is my printer not printing correctly.” In addition, regular cleaning and maintenance of the thermal printer will ensure that you have good quality and legibly printed material on the thermal paper.


Graphic Tickets has been involved in manufacturing and selling thermal paper rolls according to the same thermal printers you use for your customers and clients. Therefore, they are the best choice in ensuring that the correct thermal paper style is provided for visible prints on the thermal paper.

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Written By
Mindy Timm

Mindy Timm is the Sales Manager for Graphic Tickets & Systems, where he gives guidance and helps the customer with getting the product that will perform the best for their needs. Dedicated to the end-user, he is enthusiastic about talking to people all over the U.S. and taking care of their thermal paper needs as quickly and efficiently as possible so they can worry about the other projects on their desk. As a Marine Veteran, he takes pride in his attention to detail to make sure that your thermal paper rolls will work in your machines. After hours, he spends his time as a volunteer firefighter. For more information about Mindy or thermal paper, please feel free to visit our website at

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