To print an ID card with your card printer, you’ll need a printer ribbon – but do you know which one you need and how it works? Our ID experts break down the secret to reading a ribbon name so you always know what you need.

What’s in a Ribbon Name?

ID card printer ribbon names seem like a random jumble of letters and numbers at first, like a YMCKO 300 yield AlphaCard PRO ribbon. What does that really mean?

First, the YMCKO names the colored panels on the ribbon – Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, blacK, and an Overlay. Using these panels your printer can print any combination of colors and designs, which the overlay panel applies a protective coat to the card. This style of ribbon prints full color plus black on a single side of the card.

Next, the 300 yield lets you know how many cards you can print with this ribbon. So you can print 300 single-sided cards.

If you wanted to print dual-sided cards with full color on both sides, you could use this same ribbon but you would only get a 150 card yield (two YMCKO sets per card).

If you wanted to print dual-sided cards with full color on one side and monochrome black on the back, you would instead look for a YMCKOK ribbon – this has an extra black panel for printing the back side. The yield on this style of ribbon, like a YMCKOK 250 yield AlphaCard PRO ribbon, tells you the number of dual-sided cards you can print.

Other Types of Ribbons

YMCKO and YMCKOK ribbons are used to print the vast majority of card designs, but there are other styles of ribbons designed for specialized needs. Those include:

  • Half-panel ribbons, which have YMC panels that are half the normal size for printing color on only half of a card (often used to customize pre-printed cards)
  • Monochrome ribbons, like black or red, which only print in a single solid color (often used for text and barcodes)
  • YMC, YMCK, and YMCKK ribbons, which do not have an overlay panel and are used with reverse transfer or laminating printers
  • Ribbons with inhibitor panels, which prevent printing in designated parts of the cards
  • Ribbons with UV or fluorescent panels, for printing UV and holographic-style images and text

Shop All Ribbons on AlphaCard

It’s easy to find all the printer ribbons compatible with your ID card printer – you can shop ribbons and supplies by brand, or try our online Supply Finder tool.