In the course of shopping for an ID card printer for the first time, you might have run across the terms direct-to-card, dye sublimation, or reverse transfer. But what does all that technical jargon really mean? We’re breaking it down for you in our latest Learning Center article: Understanding Printing Technologies. Here’s a brief rundown of the three most common printing technologies:

Direct-to-Card Printing

Direct-to-card printing is the most common printing method used by ID card printers today. Direct-to-card printers transfer images directly from the print head to the surface of plastic cards through a process called dye sublimation. During printing, the print head heats the dyes on a printer ribbon. The dyes are then vaporized and diffused into the surface of the card.

Reverse Transfer Printing

Reverse transfer printing uses an entirely different process. Reverse transfer printers, or retransfer printers, produce a mirror image of the card design on a thin film. Heat and pressure then bonds the film to the card, sandwiching the ink between the two layers. ID cards produced using this method have especially crisp text and images, are more durable, and are resistant to tampering or illegal duplication.


Laminating ID card printers use heat and pressure to apply a laminate over the surface of a plastic ID card to protect the printed images, text, and graphics from everyday wear and tear.

Read the full article in the Learning Center for an in-depth look at each printing technology