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ID Card Printer Ribbons, what do those letters mean?

ID Card Printer Ribbons, what do those letters mean?

YMCKO, YMCKOK or YMCFKO? Do you know which ID card printer ribbon is best for you? Selecting the right ribbon for the job won’t just ensure better results; it can also save you money and maximise the productivity of your ID card printer.

First things first – what do those terms mean?
Although you might be used to seeing CMYK on your desktop printer inks, ID Card Printer Ribbons are a bit different.

They are split into panels, each panel being represented by a letter. These mean:

Y = Yellow dye sublimation panel
M = Magenta dye sublimation panel
C = Cyan dye sublimation panel
K = Black resin panel
O = Overlay panel

Your plastic card printer mixes the yellow, magenta, cyan and black together to create all colours in the spectrum.

You might also see:

F = Fluorescent UV Panel.

So which is right for which purpose?

YMC Ribbons
These are fine for full colour cards where you don’t need a crisp black, because the black will be made by mixing the yellow/magenta/cyan together. For example, basic membership cards. Don’t shell out for one of the ‘all singing, all dancing’ ribbons if that’s all you need to do.

YMCK Ribbons
However if you need to print barcodes or QR codes, you’ll need a ribbon with a black panel for the codes to be good quality enough to be scanned. If you’re printing photo ID cards or need crisp black text, you’ll almost certainly want a YMCK ribbon.

YMCKO Ribbons
YMCKO ribbons include a transparent overlay panel that basically adds a thin layer of protection to the cards, sealing in the print colours and giving them more durability.

This helps with fading and wear and tear – important if cards are used outdoors regularly, or in a manual job. They increase the shelf life of your cards and are becoming the standard purchase for many customers, as there isn’t a big price hike.

YMCKOK Ribbons
A second black? Well, yes. These ribbons are designed specifically for double sided plastic card printers, to allow you to print full colour on the front of the card and black on the reverse. In other words, the YMCKO panels work on the front, the K on the back.

Using one of these ribbons for this job will save you money over using a YMCKO ribbon. Using a YMCKO ribbon means the printer will use all 5 panels to print the front, and another 5 panels to print the back. The result? You use up the ribbon twice as fast.

Want to print double-sided cards, but both in colour?
Unfortunately plastic card printer manufacturers haven't come up with a YMCKOYMCKO ribbon yet, so you'll need to use a YMCK or YMCKO ribbon to print both sides. Just be aware that you'll also use it up twice as fast, but there's no alternative.

Only printing a single colour? Then use a monochrome ribbon.
You'd be surprised how many people think that 'monochrome' means 'black' rather than 'one colour'. If you're overprinting in a single colour, for example adding name or membership data, then use a monochrome ribbon rather than wasting a YMCKO one.

Monochrome ribbons come in a variety of colours, including gold and silver and are considerably cheaper, per card, than YMCKO ones.

How many cards do you need to print?
Each printer ribbon is capable of printing a certain number of cards, so make sure you choose the right one for your need. If your plastic card printer is only printing a handful of cards on an irregular basis, don’t waste money on a 1000 image ribbon for example, when a 200 image would do.

The larger the print ribbon, the less the cost per card, so if you're printing larger numbers, invest in a higher image one. This will also save on re-ordering costs such as delivery.

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