placeholder_ribbonsID card printers use colored ribbons to print your designs, instead of the traditional ink cartridges you use in desktop printers. With so many types of ribbons available, knowing what a ribbon name means will make it easier to find the ribbons you need!

How Ribbon Names are Formatted

Printer ribbon names indicate what color panels that ribbon has – ribbons are either full color, which can print a rainbow of colors, or monochrome, which can only print a single color.

Y – Yellow

M – Magenta

C – Cyan

K – Black

O – Overlay

Most Common Ribbons

YMCKO – This standard ribbon is used to print most cards and is designed for single-sided printers. If you use it in a dual-sided printer you can print full color on both sides, but you’ll get half the ribbon yield.

YMCKOK – This is the standard ribbon for dual-sided printing. This style of ribbon will print full color on the front and monochrome black on the back.

In addition to full color ribbons, there are monochrome ribbons that often come in black, white, green, blue, red, and metallic gold and silver. These ribbons can only print in a single color.

Specialized Ribbons

There are also specialized ribbons used to print cards and designs beyond the normal colors.

F – Fluorescent, also called UV (only visible with a UV light)

T – Topcoat, also called Overlay

I – Inhibitor (prevents printing in a specific area of the card)

UV – Ultraviolet, also called Fluorescent (only visible with a UV light)

Shop all ID card printer ribbons on DiscountID.

Schools are more often requiring their students and staff to wear their ID cards to increase security, and having an easy way to display those cards is essential to successfully rolling out a new program.

ID Accessories for Students

Whether your students wear uniforms or casual clothes, lanyards are the easiest way to wear ID cards with any style of clothing.

Lanyards are worn around the neck, with many styles that help improve safety and security including lanyards with wide plastic hooks that keep ID cards facing out and breakaway lanyards that will spring open if the lanyard is grabbed or caught on something to prevent injuries.

ID Accessories for Teachers & Staff

Along with lanyards, ID badge reels are popular with teachers and school staff. Badge reels are easy to use with any clothing from casual to a uniform, but allow teachers and staff to move them around to more convenient placement than a lanyard which always hangs in front.

Reels have several attachment options, most commonly a belt clip that easily slides onto pockets or a swivel clip that attaches to any clothing. No-twist badge reels keep ID cards facing forward because they only fit together one way.

ID Accessories for Volunteers

For visitors who need to display temporary IDs, the best accessories are clip-on ID badge holders or ID badge strap clips.

Reusable badge holders, like those with clips or those with magnetic attachments, are easy to take on and off when visitors arrive and leave, and allow the school to reuse the holders throughout the school year without relying on an adhesive name badge that can easily fall off.

School ID BadgeSchools are out for the summer, which means school districts across the country are getting ready for school to start in the fall. Do you have all the supplies and ID accessories you need to start the year?

Complete Photo ID Systems

If your school is looking to update or replace an old ID card system, DiscountID has many great options at low prices. Shop our selection of ID card systems and find the best systems from leading manufacturers including Magicard, Datacard, Fargo, IDP, Evolis, and Zebra.

Complete ID card systems are a great option because they contain everything you need to get started: a printer, software, blank cards, and ribbon.

Student & Staff Card Accessories

If your school requires teachers, staff, and students to display their ID cards, you’ll need an ID card accessory. Lanyards are always popular because they work with any style of clothing from casual to uniforms, and come in a wide range of colors, styles, and patterns.

If you want something that prevents the ID card from hanging down and potentially getting in your way, try a badge reel. These easily attach to your clothing using a traditional clip or pocket clip.

Visitor IDs

For security purposes, most schools now require all visitors to check in with the front office and get a visitor badge when they enter the building.

These expiring visitor management cards let you know instantly if the visitor is authorized or not – once the card has expired it will show the expiration pattern and students, staff, and security personnel can report the person with an expired pass.



Do you know what style of blank cards you need? With a wide range of options, there’s a card for almost every need; by knowing how you’ll use your cards, you can find the best card material.

Standard Cards

Blank cards come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and styles. Standard plain blank ID cards are made from PVC plastic, which are the most commonly used cards. If you are printing cards in a dye sublimation printer with no lamination, this is the best card for you.

Sometimes card are made from a PVC/Poly plastic combo – this makes the cards more durable, so they can withstand higher heat during the printing process. You’ll want to use composite cards if you have a reverse transfer printer, or laminate your cards.

Shop PVC cards. Shop composite cards.

Encoded Cards

Encoded cards are designed to store data directly on the card in some way, including magnetic stripe cards, smart cards, RFID chip cards, and proximity cards.

These types of cards have a wide range of uses from school ID cards that pay for lunch and checking out library books to building key cards, time and attendance tracking cards, mass transit passes for the bus or subway, gift cards, and more.

Shop access control cardsShop magnetic stripe cards.

Rewritable Cards

Rewritable cards can only be used with rewritable ID card printers. With these cards you can print on a card, erase it, and print it again – up to 500 times per card!

The limitation for rewritable cards is their color options – you can only print in black or blue monochrome.

Shop rewritable cards.


When you look at an ID card printer descriptions, often one of the first details often listed is the printing technology. But do you know the difference is between dye sublimation and reverse transfer printers, and why it matters?

Dye Sublimation Printing

Dye sublimation printing works by using a heated print head to print the design directly on the card’s surface using the colored or monochrome panes from your printer ribbon – this type of printing may also be called Direct to Card printing.

Dye sublimation printers, like the Datacard SD260, are the most common types of ID card printers on the market, giving you the widest range of price points and feature options.

Reverse Transfer Printing

Reverse transfer printers, like the Fargo HDP5600, use a different printing style – in these printers, the card design is first printed onto a clear film and that film is then applied to the surface of the ID card.

The benefit of the reverse transfer process is in the added quality and durability it gives cards; these printers are capable of printing high definition images and use true over-the-edge printing because the film is larger than the actual ID card. Additionally, these cards are more resistant to scratches and wear than a card from a dye sublimation printer.

The trade-off with a reverse transfer printer is a slower print speed and higher cost due to the additional materials used for printing.

DiscountID carries a wide range of card printers, including dye sublimation and reverse transfer printers. Shop all ID card printers on DiscountID.

If you have a Mac computer, we have added new Mac-only software to DiscountID – AlphaCard ID Builder for Mac! Available in four editions, ID Builder has a wide range of features and options.

AlphaCard ID Builder Editions

With four software editions, it’s easy to find an ID Builder for every need.

AlphaCard ID Builder Basic is entry-level software with a built-in database that holds up to 300 records (100 if you store photos on your database). It comes with pre-designed card templates, background designs, Clipart, and shapes for fast and easy card designing.

AlphaCard ID Builder Standard is the most popular edition, designed for use by small to mid-sized organizations. The Standard edition has an unlimited built-in database, and options to connect an external XLS, XLSX, CSV, or TXT database. Standard also includes a built-in image editor and image effects.

AlphaCard ID Builder Professional has a wide range of design and database options including image acquisition through SKD, multi-layout card designs, and OLE objects and photos on database records. With Professional, you can connect an external MSAccess or SQLite database.

AlphaCard ID Builder Elite is the most advanced edition with user account management, audit reporting, and search (query) records. With Elite, you also have an ODBC connection to an external database.

Free Six-Week Software Trial

If you want to try out AlphaCard ID Builder, download the free six-week trial today! This free trial works exactly like the full version of the software, except “DEMO” is printed across any cards you print. This trial allows you to try out all four versions of the software.

Once your trial is over, any card design and database information you created will be transferred over to your full edition of the software.

Download the free trial of AlphaCard ID Builder for Mac.

The difference between a single-sided and a dual-sided printer is whether or not the printer will automatically print of the back of a card – but how do you know when to upgrade to dual-sided?

When to Use a Single-Sided Printer

Single-sided printers only print on the front side of your cards, making them faster and more efficient than dual-sided printers. If you are only printing single-sided cards, you’ll need a single-sided printer. But there are several instances where you may also want a single-sided printer even if you are printing dual-sided cards.

For example, if all your cards have the same design on the back, like a “Return to this address if found” message, you can batch print all the cards with that information, and then print the customized front for each cardholder as needed. Or if you are on a tight budget and print a low volume of ID cards, and have the time to manually flip cards to print on both sides.

Shop all single-sided printers on DiscountID.

When to Use a Dual-Sided Printer

Dual-sided printers will automatically print on both sides of your cards, either by flipping them and running them through the printer again or by using two printheads to print both sides in a single pass.

You may want to upgrade to a dual-sided printer if printing efficiency and speed is important to your organization, especially if you print large numbers of cards. A dual-sided printer is also the best option if you need to print unique data on both sides of the card and cannot pre-print one side of the card.

Shop all dual-sided printers on DiscountID.

DIDBlogImage_cameraAdding cardholder photos to your ID card designs make it easier to verify the cardholder is the person in the photo, improving your building’s security. When taking those photos, you’ll want to use some basic equipment to ensure that all your photos come out clear and uniform.

ID cameras are designed to work with your card design software, and are easy to use. They connect to your computer so your photo files are already saved there when you’re ready to design your cards.

A tripod will help you keep the camera level and steady, resulting in clear photos. By positioning the camera at the same height on the tripod you can also ensure your cardholder photos are uniform and easily identifiable.

Lighting is also important for taking clear photos – fluorescent overhead lighting will washing out the colors in your photos. If possible, take photos in natural light; if you need to take photos in an office, place a desk lamp near the person to off-set the fluorescent lighting.

Finally, a backdrop also helps your take uniform cardholder photos with the same colored background in every photo. Portable backdrops also allow you to take photos in any location.

ID card printers use colored ribbons of thin film to print your full color or monochrome card designs – but if these delicate ribbons rip, is it possible to fix them? Yes, and it’s a surprisingly simple fix!

How to Fix Your Ribbon

If your printer ribbon rips, you just need some clear tape to fix it – making this quick and easy to do in any office or workplace.

First, tape the two ends back together. Next, roll the taped section on to the used end of the ribbon. Load the ribbon back in your printer and you can continue printing! The reason this works is because you’re not printing with the broken section, you just need it to be taped back together so the ribbon will continue to spool as you print.

Shop all ID card printer ribbons on DiscountID.

Navigating the world of ID card systems can seem overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the technology. We’ve created a few pointers to help simplify the process.

If you will be printing less than 100 cards per year…then one of our entry-level ID card systems is probably the right choice for you. Systems that feature printers like the Magicard Pronto, the Fargo DTC1250e, or the Zebra ZXP Series 3 are designed to meet the needs of smaller organizations. Many smaller scale organizations will only need single-sided cards.

If you will be printing 100-500 cards per year…then mid-range systems are the answer for you. Card printers such as the Fargo DTC4250e and the Magicard Enduro3E all provide enough printing power and functionality to meet the needs of medium-sized businesses and organizations.

If you will be printing more than 500 cards per year…then you will want to consider systems that are capable of handling high-volume printing. Systems that feature printers such as the Fargo DTC4500e, the Magicard Rio Pro, or the Zebra ZXP Series 7 are all capable of batch printing, which helps improve the efficiency of larger organizations. These printers also all come with Ethernet connectivity for easy networked printing.