An ID card printer does not use inkjet cartridges but ribbons. Each ribbon features a series of different panels. In direct-to-card printers, the printhead heats each color panel of the ribbon. Because of the heat, the dye turns into vapor and diffuses onto the surface of the card to create vivid colors.
Learn more about all the major card printer supplies brands on the market.
ID card software is a core component of your ID card program. From card design to database management, the right system will definitely simplify your card production.
There are basically 4 different types of ID cards: PVC cards, proximity cards, iCLASSŪ cards and pre-printed cards.
Finding the right ID card printer is easy when you know what to look for. We prepared a detailed checklist to help you make the right decision.
Printing ID badges is great but making sure that people actually wear them is what creates a successful program. To do so, start by choosing the right badge accessories.
An ID card printer does not use inkjet cartridges but ribbons. Each ribbon features a series of different panels. In direct-to-card printers, the printhead heats each color panel of the ribbon. Because of the heat, the dye turns into vapor and diffuses onto the surface of the card to create vivid colors. Direct-to-card ID card printers can produce up to 16.7 million colors with a 300 dpi resolution.
In retransfer printers, the card images are printed onto a clear film called retransfer film that is then fused onto the surface of the card.
When you start browsing for ribbons, you will notice that you have 2 major options: monochrome and color. Monochrome ribbons are used to print single-color text or images on a blank or pre-printed card. Monochrome ribbons come in a wide variety of colors such as black, red, green and even gold and silver. Some manufacturers also offer specialty ribbon such as scratch-off rolls.
Color ribbons are divided into three to seven panels, each panel being designated by a letter. Therefore, a 5-panel ribbon will be defined by a series of 5 letters.
A standard color ribbon is a YMCK or YMCKO ribbon. YMC refers to the 3 primary colors: Yellow, Magenta, and Cyan. The printer applies each panel one at a time to produce up to 16.7 million colors! The K panel is a black resin panel used for sharp lettering and barcodes. Some ribbons also come with an overlay panel (O or T) to apply a clear protective layer on printed cards.
The first step is always to look for ribbons that are compatible with your card printer as each ribbon is specific to a brand and printer model.
Then, the design and layout of your cards will determine which type of ribbon you need. You can purchase standard YMCKO color ribbons to print vivid colors in one side or both sides of your cards or get a monochrome ribbon to personalize your badges with one color.
However, keep in mind that a YMCKO ribbon might not always be the best solution to print color cards. For dual-sided badges, a YMCKO ribbon is the right choice if the front and back of the card are printed in full color. But if you are printing color on the front and black on the back, a YMCKO-K ribbon is a lot more cost-efficient. This ribbon is specifically designed for dual-sided card printers and includes an extra Black panel that is used to personalize the back of the cards.
Here is another type of ribbon that might work for you: a half-panel color ribbon. In this ribbon, the Yellow, Magenta and Cyan panels are half the size of the regular panels of a YMCKO ribbon. Up to half of the card can be printed in full color while black text or images can be printed anywhere on the card. This ribbon is ideal for student IDs or employee badges and also works great on pre-printed cards when only a picture, name or barcode needs to be added.
A half-panel color ribbon allows twice the normal ribbon yield of a regular YMCKO ribbon, and is on average 45% cheaper.
We have made it easy for you to purchase the right ribbon for your applications. Simply go to our Card printer supplies section and use our ribbon selector to get started.
We have also developed a ribbon selector for color ribbons.
Step 2: Select your ID card printer on your printer’s color ribbons page.
Step 3: Answer a few simple questions such as “Are you printing color on both sides of your cards?” or “Is less than 50% of your card printed in color?”.
You will get within seconds the list of ribbons that match your criteria.
Most programs will allow you to import images, add text and barcodes, and use predefined templates to design your badges. However, if you need advanced functionalities, you will need to make sure that your software supports such options.
Entry-level software is perfect for small organizations in need of printing up to a few hundreds cards a year. These items usually come with limited database functionality and a set number of fields per card but work great for low volume applications.
Advanced software versions usually include external database connectivity and the possibility to add as many fields to your cards as needed. Designed for batch printing, these programs will allow you to save your cardholders data for easy reprints. Small to medium businesses looking for a flexible solution should definitely consider these products.
Finally, fully-featured software is available for corporations with large databases and encoding needs. Ethernet connectivity is also supported to connect on a network.
Database functionality: some programs come with an internal database, which allows you to save your cards and cardholder data for easy reprints. Entry-level software typically does not have this option so check the specs of your software carefully. Also, all programs do not support external database connectivity so if you need to import an Excel database for instance, make sure that your software will allow it. An easy way to know if you will need database functionality is to define the number of cards that you will print: if you print more than 100 cards per year, chances are that you will need this option.
PVC cards: commonly referred to as plastic cards, PVC cards come in a variety of sizes, thicknesses and colors. The most standard size is called CR80 - which is the size of your credit card (3.375" x 2.125") – but we also carry CR79 cards (3.303" x 2.051") that are a bit smaller and feature an adhesive back. Thicknesses vary from 10 to 30mil. As a reference, your credit card is a 30mil card. PVC cards can also include additional features such as magnetic stripes for multifunctional badges.
If you want to create unique ID cards, browse our selection of color PVC cards.
Proximity cards: “Prox” cards have an embedded antenna that stores the cardholder data. This data can be read when the proximity card is passed within range of a reader. Mainly used for access control applications, proximity cards are also chosen in environments where crowd control is a factor. Prox cards can be programmed online or call us to talk to an ID expert.
iCLASSŪ cards: iCLASSŪ cards combine contactless smart technology with a contact chip and/or a magnetic stripe. iCLASSŪ cards provide 13.56 MHz contactless smart card technology and allow users to add a barcode, magnetic stripe, photo ID, graphics, or anti-counterfeiting features. HID’s iCLASSŪ cards can be used for diverse applications such as access control, biometrics, cashless vending, public transportation, airline ticketing and customer loyalty programs.
Pre-printed cards: this option is ideal for membership cards, loyalty cards, or other ID cards where only a name, ID number or barcode might be added onsite. Let us print professional cards and if needed, personalize them on the spot in seconds. You will get stunning results that will definitely impress your customers.