There are very many types of ID card printer ribbons and it is always an overwhelming job to choose one that is right for your printer. The ribbon manufacturers make a variety of ribbons for different purposes.
Unlike paper printers and their ink cartridges, ribbons for ID card printers use only the primary colours. This acts with along with heat to produce the many different colours. A letter associated with a ribbon type refers to the colour type of the ribbon.
The primary colours are listed as Y (yellow), M (magenta) and C(cyan). Two other letters that are used are K (black) and O (overlay).
How to Choose the individual Ribbon Types
This type of ribbon is used only for retransfer and laminating printers only. Without the O option, the colours are likely to smudge easily. If you need black colour prints or barcodes, your ribbon type should be different.
This is used for laminating/retransfer printers with K being used to give you black colour for text or barcodes.
This type is popular as it can print any colour and has the overlay to protect the print.
This type is used to print colours on one side and only black text/barcodes on the back side of the card.
This is the same one as YMCKOK but does not have the overlay. This can be used only on retransfer or laminating printer only.
The letter I stands for ‘inhibit’ and this type of ribbon is used only for retransfer printers for two-sided printing with colour on the front and only black on the back side. The overlay option is not used in these printers. The ‘I’ panel helps to protect holograms, magnetic stripes, etc., that may be on the card.
‘T’ denotes topcoat. Datacard and Polaroid ID card printers use this instead of ‘O’.
This type is used in Fargo retransfer printers. The ‘H’ panel stands for a heat seal that ensures that the HDP film adheres to uneven-surfaced cards such as those used in customized smart cards which have holographic or printed foil images on the top of the cards.
These ribbons are usually labelled with the single colour that they have. This type of ribbon also has metallic options available.