Card Printing Tips & Advice

How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer Ribbon

How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer Ribbon

If it’s your first time purchasing a card printer ribbon, then this post is for you.

When purchasing a new ribbon for your ID card printer, it can be quite confusing to understand the purpose of each one.

If you’re not yet familiar, our post on ‘A Simple Guide to the Types of ID Card Print Ribbons’ explains all the different variations of ID card printer ribbons and their uses.

We advise on taking a look at this post so you know the purpose of each ribbon.

Now it’s time to work out which ribbon is best for your ID card printing needs.

How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer Ribbon

The ribbon you’ll need to use depends on the type and make of the ID card printer you’re using and what design you want to print onto your cards.

Step One – Types of ID card printers

There are two types of ID card printers. Firstly, you need to work out which one is yours.

  • Direct-to-card (DTC)
  • Retransfer

Direct-to-card printers (also called dye sublimation printers) are the most common type of printer. They print the design directly onto the card and leave a small white border around the edge of the card. They generally offer faster print speeds and have a lower cost per card than retransfer ID card printers.

Retransfer printers are specifically designed to offer a higher print quality and have the ability to print over cards with uneven surfaces such as RFID cards. Retransfer printers print the design onto the ribbon which is then adhered to the card with heat.

This type of retransfer printing allows full card coverage, and every colour/monochrome ribbon must be used with a retransfer ribbon.

No retransfer colour ribbons have an overlay panel because this clear lamination layer is added with the retransfer film.

If you’re still unsure, look at the printer box, an old invoice, or write down your serial number and give us a call on 0161 988 2095 and one of our card printer experts will be able to assist you.

Step Two – Make and Model of Your ID Card Printer

Once you know the type of ID card printer you own, next, you need to look at the make and model of your ID card printer.

Each brand has their own card printer ribbons for each model of printer, and you must use these in order for your printer to work correctly. If you try to use a ribbon from another printer brand or a non-genuine ribbon, it won’t work properly or fit into your machine.

To make this clearer, we have a page listing the different card printer brands and the individual ribbons for each model of printer.

Don’t forget to check with your supplier that any ribbon you purchase is a genuine ribbon.

Step Three – What Type of Card Do You Want to Print?

Once you’ve worked out the type and make of your ID card printer, you then need to decide what you want printed onto your cards.

To make this easier, we’ve listed below examples of the types of cards and the designs our customers print:

1. Single-Sided, Full-Colour and Black Text (DTC Printers)

A high percentage of our customers are looking to print full-colour ID cards with an image of a staff member, a company logo, black text and a barcode. If this is the case, a ‘YMCKO’ ribbon will cater to this. These ribbons work with DTC printers and have an overlay panel to protect cards from scratching and fading.

YMCKO ID card printer ribbon

2. Single and Dual-Sided Monochrome Colour

If you’re only wanting to print a card using one single-colour, then you need a monochrome ribbon.

Our black resin ‘K’ ribbon is our most popular and other colours include red, gold, green, blue and silver. These monochrome ribbons are perfect for adding colour to pre-printed cards, and they come with either one or two panels (K or KOK) for both single and dual-sided printing.

Black monochrome ID card printer ribbon

3. Dual-Sided, Full-Colour and Black Text

Just like the single-sided ‘YMCKO’ ribbon, our ‘YMCKOK’ ribbons allow you to print full-colour images, logos and black detailed text onto one side of the card. The second black ‘K’ panel enables dual-sided black printing of detailed text and barcodes to the reverse of the card.

4. Single-Sided, Full-Colour with UV security

If you want a full-colour, single-sided ID card but don’t want to compromise on card security, then opt for a ‘YMCKOUV’ ribbon.

This offers all the full-colour, black resin and overlay panels as a standard ‘YMCKO’ ribbon, but the UV panel adds a layer of personalised text or images to the card that can only been seen under UV light, helping to increase card security and easily detect counterfeited cards.

In most cases, a UV torch is supplied with the ribbon, or you can purchase one separately here.

UV light

5. Single-Sided, Full-Colour and Black Text (Retransfer Printers)

If you have a retransfer printer, no matter what design you wish to print, whether it’s full-colour or monochrome, this must be compatible with a retransfer film ribbon.

Using a ‘YMCK’ ribbon offers you full-colour images along with black barcodes and text, but it does not include an overlay panel. This is because the retransfer film adheres the design to the card, adding a protective lamination layer. Therefore, an overlay panel is not required.


Once you have decided on the design you want to print, you can simply pick the ribbon with this capability and one that matches your make and model.

To learn more about which ID card printer ribbons are compatible with your machine, download our free ‘ID Card Printer Ribbon Buying Guide’.

Adam Bennet
Adam has been the Digital Marketing Manager here at Digital ID since 2015. Adam is in charge of the content creation and promotion on our blog and has been featured on sites like Entrepreneur, Talk-Business and Brighter Business to name a few. See what he gets up to in the office by following him on Twitter @adamjbenno.

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