ID card printers work by using a heated printhead and a color ribbon, and depending on your ribbon type you can design and print almost anything! But the type of ribbon you pick has a huge impact on your cards, so choose wisely.

What is a Printer Ribbon?

ID card printer ribbons are thin colored films, available in a huge range of styles. The most basic ribbon type, which is used to print full color designs, is a YMCKO:

Using the yellow, magenta, cyan, and black color panels your printer can create full color designs with a clear overlay panel. A YMCKO ribbon is for use in dye sublimation printers (reverse transfer printer ribbons do not have an overlay panel) and single-sided printing (if you print full color on both sides using a YMCKO ribbon, you will get half the prints listed for the ribbon).

Other ribbon types include:

  • YMCKOK – for dual-sided printing, with black monochrome printing on the back
  • Monochrome ribbons – available in many colors, does solid single-color printing only
  • YMCK – full color ribbon for reverse transfer or lamination printers
  • YMCKF – full color ribbon with a fluorescent panel
  • Laminates – available in clear, with holographic designs, and with cut-outs for smart card chips or magnetic stripes

Why do these different types matter? Because if you use the wrong ribbon, you can’t print your design – for example a monochrome ribbon can’t do multiple colors or shadows.

Finding the Right Ribbons

In addition to selecting the right color or monochrome ribbon for your design, your ID card printer can only use the manufacturer recommended ribbons for that printer model.

ID Card Group makes it easy to find all the printer ribbons that are compatible with your ID card printer through our Find My Ribbon online tool. Just select your printer brand and model from the drop down lists, and we’ll give you a list of all your ribbon options!

More Resources For Understanding Ribbons


Contact our expert sales staff at (877) 868-0012 or for help finding the right ribbons for your ID card design. We’ll make it easy for you!

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