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What are the Different Types of Ribbons for Plastic Card Printers?

This article summarizes the different types of ribbons for most printing scenarios. Find out which one to use for your needs.

Card printer ribbons come in either monochrome or full color. If you are printing in only one color, you can get away with a monochrome ribbon, which is cheaper. If you are printing in two or more colors, you will need a full color ribbon.

Monochrome Ribbons

 A Datacard black monochrome ribbon
Monochrome ribbons will be labeled by their color. For most card printer models, there are also metallic options available. For the best effect, use
monochrome ribbons on color PVC cards.

Full Color Ribbons

If you are printing full color images on one side of a plastic card, you will need a YMC, YMCK or YMCKO/YMCKT ribbon.

All colors can be created from yellow, magenta, and cyan panels. A YMC ribbon will create a composite black by mixing together yellow, magenta and cyan.
Black won’t be very sharp or dark.

The ‘K’ is a black resin panel. We highly recommend a YMCK ribbon if you’re printing black text. If you’re printing barcodes, a YMCK ribbon is required for
the black to be crisp enough for a barcode scanner.

Depending on the brand, a ‘T’ or ‘O’ indicates a protective top coat for the color cards. This overlay is an optional panel for full-color ribbons, but it
is recommended. The top coat will prevent your card colors from fading over time and protect it from rubbing effects.

 A Javelin YMCKOK Ribbon

If you are printing full color on both sides of the card, you would buy a YMC, YMCK or YMCKO ribbon and either manually feed the card through a second time
or use the flipper if you purchased a dual-sided printer. A color ribbon will yield half as many cards if you print on both sides.

Alternatively, you might want full color on one side of the card and just black text on the back. You could purchase a YMCK-K ribbon or a YMCKT-KT/YMCKO-KO
if you would like an overlay.

While all PVC card printer manufacturers produce monochrome and full-color ribbons, ribbons are model-specific. For example, you cannot use a Zebra ribbon
in a Datacard printer. Once you identify your model and application, choosing the right ribbon becomes easy.

Send us your card design and printer model and we’ll tell you which ribbon you need.

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