Make the Right Choice for Your Business: Carbonless vs. Thermal Receipt Paper

When it comes to providing receipts for customers and keeping track of your business finances, there are two main options: carbonless or thermal. But how do you know which type of receipt paper best suits the needs of your business?

Here, we’ll break down the key differences between these two popular types of receipt paper and help you make an informed decision that aligns with your budget and practical considerations. Read on to discover whether carbonless or thermal is right for you.


What is Thermal Paper & How Does it Work?

Thermal paper is a commonly used type of receipt paper. This specialized fine paper works best with thermal printers, cash registers, and credit card terminals. Unlike traditional bond paper, it is coated with chemicals and dye.

The paper is prone to alterations when it’s subjected to heat due to its chemical composition. The chemical makeup consists of four types:

  • Leuco dyes
  • Developers
  • Sensitizers
  • Stabilizers

This paper doesn’t require costly ink or cartridges for printing. It also has a brighter sheen compared to bond papers.

Thermal papers often have a protective coating to prevent the thermal image from fading easily. This coating is advantageous because thermal papers are frequently exposed to UV lights, water, oils, grease, and other substances. Additionally, the coating reduces print head wear, which improves durability.


What is Carbonless Paper?

The purpose of carbonless copy paper or No Carbon Required (NCR) is to eliminate the use of carbon paper when making several copies of a document.

Carbonless paper, created by chemists Lowell Schleicher and Barry Green, enables the creation of multiple copies with minimal pressure. The paper is coated with two types of chemicals, Coated Front (CF) and Coated Back (CB), which are stored in small capsules that release when pressure from a pen or printer is applied.

In the past, people used carbon paper to make multiple copies of a receipt. They would place a sheet of carbon paper between two regular sheets. This was called “carbon interleaving.” However, there were some difficulties with this process despite its effectiveness, such as:

  • Carbon paper can be messy and may leave marks on your hands and soil on other surfaces that you touch.
  • Writing a receipt on carbon paper can pose a security risk as the imprints of the information are left on the paper. If the carbon paper is not properly discarded, someone may be able to retrieve it and potentially read the details.


Carbonless vs. Thermal Receipt Paper

Here are some important differences between thermal receipt paper and carbonless paper:

  • Printer – Thermal papers can only be used with thermal printers, while carbonless papers are usually compatible with Impact Printers.
  • Coating – Thermal papers usually come with a protective coating to prevent thermal image fading. The carbonless paper has two chemicals (Coated Front and Coated Back) stored in small capsules. These chemicals get released when there is pressure from a pen or printer applied.
  • Ribbons – The first page of carbonless receipt paper has a high-quality print due to the use of a traditional printing ribbon, and the pressure applied on the first sheet causes an image to appear on the subsequent pages. There is no requirement for a ribbon in thermal paper.
  • Paper Surface Color – Carbonless printer paper has three different surface color options: white, pink, and canary. In contrast, only a white option is available for thermal paper.
  • Print-Out Image Color – In thermal paper, the print-out image color is black. However, in carbonless paper, it can be blue or black, depending on the ribbon’s color.


Which Paper is Best for Your Business?

As a business, it’s crucial to have receipts. Although digital receipts are gaining popularity, paper receipts are still essential for in-person transactions or physical stores. To ensure accuracy and quality, picking the appropriate receipt paper is key.

Both carbonless and thermal receipt papers are great quality options. While thermal paper may be more cost-effective in the long run because it does not require a ribbon, both types of paper utilize chemical reactions and coatings. Although thermal paper rolls are more commonly used, wood-free or carbonless paper is worth considering if you believe it would be a better fit for your business.


Third Type of Receipt Paper – Traditional Bond Paper

Wood-free paper, also known as bond paper or non-thermal paper, is commonly used in offices for printing documents. The paper’s size varies depending on the document type being printed, but the popular size is A4. It is important to note that wood-free or bond paper is only suitable for traditional ink or cartridges printing.

Comparing bond paper and thermal paper side by side, one can easily notice the difference in their surfaces. Unlike thermal paper, bond paper doesn’t have a coating on either side, which makes its surface less bright and smooth.

It can only be used with thermal transfer printers that utilize ribbons to generate texts and images. Though, it’s important to note that using bond paper for printing receipts is not cost-effective due to the need to replace costly ink cartridges frequently.



The choice between carbonless paper and thermal paper is made according to individual needs, budgets, and preferences. The decision should be based on the anticipated amount of printing needed and what functions the receipt will serve. For higher quantity printing needs combined with sharp image longevity, the thermal paper continues to be the leading solution for commercial printers.

Traditional bond paper has also become an increasingly popular solution for print shops needing to produce reasonable quantities of printing for shorter-term use cases. Ultimately, knowing what your business needs before making a decision is important – which can only be done by taking a closer look at each option. If you are considering purchasing thermal paper, reach out to Telemark Diversified Graphics – they carry a broad range of products designed to meet your requirements.




Q. What is carbonless receipt paper?

Carbonless paper allows for making multiple copies with low pressure. It has two types of chemicals, Coated Front (CF) and Coated Back (CB), that are stored in tiny capsules. When you apply pressure from a pen or printer, the capsules release the chemicals.


Q. How many different surface color options are available in carbonless paper and thermal paper?

Carbonless printer paper has three surface color options: white, pink, and canary. However, only the color white is available for thermal paper.


Q. What are the benefits of the coating present in thermal paper?

Thermal papers usually have a protective coating to prevent thermal images from fading easily. This is useful because thermal papers are often exposed to UV lights, water, oils, and grease, among other substances. Moreover, the coating reduces print head wear, which increases durability.


Q. Which is the third type of receipt paper, apart from carbonless and thermal paper?

Traditional bond paper, also known as wood-free paper, is the third type of receipt paper. It’s essential to keep in mind that bond paper is only compatible with standard printing that involves ink or cartridges. Moreover, thermal transfer printers that use ribbons are the only printers that can be used to print text or images on bond paper.