Ribbon names may look the same when you’re first starting to use your ID card system with all the abbreviations, but our card experts are here to help you understand what it means and how to select the ribbon you need.

Basic Guide to Printer Names

A printer ribbon name is made up of two parts – the ribbon type, and the ribbon yield.

The most common ribbons are full color single or dual-sided ribbons – YMCKO and YMCKOK. That stands for yellow, magenta, cyan, black, and overlay (and extra black for dual-sided ribbons). The color panels repeat in that pattern for the entire ribbon. Using the YMCK panels your printer can print designs in any color combinations.

If you want a full-color design on one side of your cards, select a YMCKO ribbon. If you want a full-color design on the front and black text or images on the back, select a YMCKOK.

The other thing to know is the ribbon yield – often lower yields like 200 or 300 prints, sometimes up to 1000 prints. This lets you know how many times the YMCKO/YMCKOK pattern repeats so you know how many cards you can print. A 300 print YMCKO ribbon print 300 full-color single-sided cards, for example.

Do note that if you use a YMCKO ribbon to print full color on the front AND back of the card, the ribbon yield will be half (150 cards instead of 300) because you are using two full YMCKO sets for each card.

If you want to batch print large numbers of cards without having to frequently stop to replace ribbons, look for high-yield ribbon options.

What About Other Ribbon Types?

YMCKO and YMCKOK may be the most common type of ribbons, but there are a lot of other options out there!

Some brands call the clear layer a topcoat instead of an overcoat, so the names would be YMCKT and YMCKTK.

Some ribbons have an overlay/topcoat on the back too, so the name would be YMCKOKO. Go with this style of ribbon if you want to protect the text or images you print on the back of the card.

Monochrome ribbons are panels of all one color such as black, red, green, or metallic gold or silver. Monochrome ribbons can print only in solid colors (no shades or shadows) are are most often used for text.

Specialty ribbons have specific uses like fluorescent and UV printing for visual security, scratch-off ribbons, 3D-style images, and more.

Shop Ribbons & Other Supplies on AlphaCard

AlphaCard carries a wide range of full color and monochrome ribbons, laminates and retransfer film, cleaning kits, and other supplies for all the leading ID card printer brands.

And supplies for other brands including Matica, SwiftColor, and Nisca