A printer ribbon is the part of the printer that administers the image onto the surface being printed on and there are two main types of ribbons: color and monochrome.
Color - Printer ribbons come in two basic types: color and monochrome. Color ribbons are ribbons that are used to create full color images and can administer a wide range of hues onto a surface. They are typically used for any print job that requires sharp, distinct colors, such as picture ID’s or advertisements. Color ribbons contain work somewhat like a palette, containing several panels of colors. The printhead presses each panel onto the surface in a specific order until an image is created.
A common term in color printing is “YMC,” which stands for “yellow, magenta and cyan,” which are the three main colors used to create the full range of hues needed for color printing. The printer mixes the colors in their correct proportions in order to create other secondary and tertiary colors. Different printers come with a different range of colors.
YMCK ribbons are used for color printing but as well contain a resin black panel, symbolized by the letter K. YMCK ribbons are used for specific print jobs, such as bar code printing. A bar code cannot be read by a scanner unless the black ink is printed onto the card’s surface in resin black. The resin panel also allows for the crisp, distinct lines needed for bar codes.
A third of ribbon used in color printing is a YMCKO ribbon, which contain an overlay panel, represented by the letter O. The overlay panel serves somewhat as a protective layer to prevent fading and scratching.
Monochrome - Monochrome means “one color” but refers to black and white images that contain a wide range of shades of gray. Monochrome printer ribbon quality is measured, in part, by the range of gray that the ribbon can produce. Contrary to popular belief, monochrome ribbons are not limited to containing only black, which is administered in different proportions. Rather, monochrome ribbons can as well contain the entire range of colors as a color printer, only that the colors are mixed to create black and shades of gray. Most printers as well have a setting whereby the black ink cartridge can be used in place of the color.