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How to Print Holograms on Plastic Cards

If you are looking for an effective way to increase your card’s security, holograms are the way to go. But integrating a hologram to an ID card isn't as simple as firing up your card design software and adding a holographic image to your card artwork.

None of the ID card printers sold on the market today are capable of printing holograms. Why, you ask? The short answer is it isn't technically possible yet.  Holograms are three-dimensional (3D) images and all card printers are only capable of printing two-dimensional (2D) images.

Given the technical limitation, the ID card industry has come up with a very clever solution and that solution is holographic laminates and overlays. The holograms in these films can be:

  • Custom Holograms (manufactured exclusively for you)
  • Standard Pre-Printed Holograms (available to everyone)

The production of holoraphic laminates is a very complex and expensive process that require special equipment and expertise. As such, custom holograms are generally expensive, costing around $10,000 per order with a production lead time that usually involve weeks.

Fortunately, less expensive alternatives do exist. The most common method for adding holograms to ID cards is through the use of standard pre-printed holographic overlaminates. These are thin rolls of film that are applied on ID cards surfaces by lamination printers. The most popular styles are globe and wave but other designs are also available.

Below are examples of ID cards with holographic overlays. Notice how the holograms add subtle designs to the surface of the cards.

An ID card printer with laminating capabilities is required to use these holographic films. Note that some ID card printers have lamination capabilities built-in, while others have them as optional upgrades. If you don’t have an ID card printer with lamination features, your options are Fargo’s HoloMark cards and Magicard’s HoloKote cards.

HoloMark cards from Fargo come with a holographic foil in the corner of the card. Just like overlaminate films, they are pre-designed with standard images, but can be customized through special order.

Magicard’s HoloKote cards are a popular choice for most businesses that are looking to use custom holograms because they are affordable compared to custom overlaminates. However, it must be pointed out that the “holograms” on HoloKote cards are not true holograms. They are two-dimensional (2D) watermarks that are customizable using Magicard’s Rio2e and Tango2e printers in conjunction with a HoloKote key, which contains the custom artwork.

In addition to adding holographic images to a card, these overlaminate films act a protective layer on cards keeping them from fading over time.


To find out more about holographic overlaminates and lamination printers, call our friendly ID professionals at 1-800-667-1772. Not much of a talker? No problem! You can also reach our ID experts via e-mail.

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