ID card printer ribbons are an essential tool for your printer, but it can be difficult to understand all the different ribbon types and know which ones you need. This quick guide is here to help!

Full Color Ribbons

Full color ribbons have panels of yellow, magenta, cyan, and black. Using just those four colors your ID card printer can create many other colors and shades to produce a wide range of ID cards.

Full color ribbons come in several styles – a standard YMCK ribbon has panels of color (and often and overlaminate panel) that are around the size of an ID card. In contrast, a half-panel ribbon still has all the colors, but each panel is half the size of a card.

If you have both styles and you’re not sure which ribbon is which, compare them to see which ribbon has larger panels of color – that’s your full size color ribbon.

Monochrome Ribbons

Monochrome ribbons are single-color ribbons, who print only in solid colors (no shading or shadows). Common monochrome colors are black, red, blue, and green, although metallic ribbons are also available.

Monochrome ribbons are the easiest to identify because their film is all a single color.

Film & Laminate

Transfer films and laminates are both clear films, but they serve two very different purposes. Transfer film is used in reverse transfer printers – they first print your card design on the film, and then apply that film onto the card; in contrast, a dye sublimation printer will print directly onto the card.

Laminates, also called overlaminate, is a protective layer applied to your card after it is printed. This protects your card from sun damage and daily wear and tear from swiping cards in readers.

With laminate, you also have the option to get holographic or watermark-style images on the film. This adds an extra layer of visual security to your cards, and makes it easier to tell the holographic laminate from a plain one.

Learn More

For a more detailed look at all the different ribbon types, along with examples of the ribbons and what styles of cards you can print with them, check out the Different Types of Ribbons article in the AlphaCard Learning Center.

Need help finding ribbons for your ID card printer? Our Supply Finder tool makes it easy to find everything you need.