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Home Articles Roll Labels Fanfold Labels vs. Roll Labels: Which Is Better for Your Business?

Fanfold Labels vs. Roll Labels: Which Is Better for Your Business?

Updated 07/07/2023
Fanfold vs roll labels, which is better for your business

Thermal labels serve an essential role for businesses, big and small, and in many different industries. They’re time-efficient to print at home, and are so durable that they tend to last for years without wear, making them an ideal choice for product identification, tracking, shipping, and more.

Two popular thermal label formats that businesses consider are fanfold labels and roll labels. In this article, we’ll delve into the characteristics, advantages, and limitations of both fanfold labels and roll labels so that you can make an informed decision on which better suits your labeling needs.

What are fanfold labels?

Fanfold labels are thermal labels in a format that consists of a continuous sheet of labels folded in a zigzag or accordion-like pattern. The labels are typically connected by perforations, allowing them to be easily separated.

Fanfold labels come in stacks, and rest behind the thermal printer. The labels are fed through a slot in the back of the printer, and come out the front as they’re printed.

Blank fanfold labels fanned out

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fanfold Labels

Now that we know what fanfold labels are, let’s discuss some of their advantages.

Cost Effectiveness and Reduced Material Waste

Fanfold labels minimize material waste as they eliminate the need for a liner and a label roll core, resulting in cost savings — especially for high-volume labeling applications.

Because of their simple folded format, they are less expensive to produce than roll labels, and therefore, less expensive to the consumer. Plus, since they produce less waste, they’re considered to be a more environmentally-friendly choice.

Easy Handling and Storage

The continuous sheet of fanfold labels can be easily transported and stored. They require minimal storage space and can easily be stacked up in a compact way.

Also, when the labels are being printed, they self-stack as they come out the front of the printer. This means that you can leave your printer unattended as your labels print, and most of the time, come back to a neatly folded pile of printed labels.

Fanfold labels being printed on a desktop printer Product used: FF6497

Suitable for High-Volume Labeling Applications

Fanfold labels are perfect for labeling jobs that require a large quantity of labels to be printed and used simultaneously. Fanfold label stacks typically hold more individual labels than a label roll, meaning there will be less time spent re-loading. So not only is the printing process extremely efficient for a large quantity of labels, but as previously mentioned, there are significant savings when it comes to large quantities.

Disadvantages of Fanfold Labels

Despite their advantages, fanfold labels do have some limitations to consider:

  • The folded nature of fanfold labels restricts their size and shape possibilities, which may not be suitable for certain labeling needs.
  • The continuous folding process has the potential to cause misalignment issues during printing, affecting label accuracy and quality. This can be especially true in the beginning as you’re getting used to using fanfold labels.

What are roll labels?

Roll labels, as the name suggests, come in the form of a continuous roll. They come in different label quantities, core sizes, and label sizes/shapes. Depending on your printer model, a roll of labels can either be installed in the printer, or hung on a label holder outside of the printer and fed through the back.

Roll labels being printed on a desktop printer

Advantages and Disadvantages of Roll Labels

Like fanfold labels, roll labels have their own set of distinct pros and cons.

Versatility in Label Size, Shape, and Material

Roll labels can be produced in a wider range of sizes, shapes, and materials, offering flexibility to suit diverse labeling needs.

High-Speed Printing Capabilities

The continuous roll format allows for high-speed printing, creating an efficient and rapid label production system.


Because of the tight and compact nature of the roll format, you’re not as likely to experience any alignment issued with roll labels.

Disadvantages of Roll Labels

However, roll labels also have certain limitations:

  • Compared to fanfold labels, roll labels may involve higher upfront costs and can produce more waste than fanfold labels since rolls utilize label liners and label cores.
  • The bulky nature of label rolls generally requires more storage space.
  • If your printer model doesn’t require the roll to be mounted inside, you’ll need to purchase a label holder, which will hold the roll and keep it in place while the labels print.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Fanfold and Roll Labels:

Several factors should be considered when deciding between fanfold labels and roll labels:

  • Labeling requirements and application scenarios: Evaluate the specific needs of your labeling application, such as label size, shape, material, and production volume.
  • Cost considerations: Analyze the upfront costs, material usage, and potential waste associated with each label format, considering the long-term financial impact.
  • Printing and production efficiency: Assess the printing speed, accuracy, and how easy it would be to integrate with existing equipment to determine which format aligns better with your production processes.
  • Storage space: Consider how much space you have to store a supply of your labels.
  • Labeling equipment compatibility: Determine the compatibility of your label printer with both fanfold and roll label formats, to ensure smooth operations.
Fanfold labels next to roll labels with a tabletop printer

The choice between fanfold labels and roll labels depends on your specific labeling needs. Both the fanfold and roll format have unique characteristics and advantages that could be suitable for your business and help things run smoother overall.

Ready to get some labels? Shop fanfold labels or roll labels today.

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