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Understanding ID Card Printer Ribbons

24 Jul Understanding ID Card Printer Ribbons
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We appreciate that understanding ID card printer ribbons can be like cracking code, so here’s a quick guide to the abbreviations that all manufacturers use and the different types of ribbon available.


What do all the letters mean?

The letters used in the ribbon descriptions describe the different panels that make up that particular ribbon and the order the panels are printed in, from left to right. 

      For example YMCKO means Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, Resin Black, Overlay


Panel abbreviations

Y          Yellow             (lower case y denotes a yellow half panel)

M         Magenta         (lower case m denotes a magenta half panel)

C          Cyan                (lower case c denotes a magenta half panel)

K          Black

O         Overlay sometimes called a Topcoat (T)

F          Fluorescent / UV

I           Inhibitor panel

H/h      Half panel


Dual Sided Printing

For full colour to both sides you can use a YMCKO ribbon as this will print all 5 panels on one side and then all 5 panels on the reverse.
If you need full colour to the front and just black to the reverse then use a YMCKOK ribbon.  This will print the first 5 panels, Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, Black, Overlay, on the front and just the black panel on the reverse.
YMCKOK panel


Monochrome Ribbons

Any single colour ribbon is classed as a monochrome ribbon.  Whether this be red, blue, green, silver, gold, white or black.  In fact, scratch off and signature panel ribbons are also classed as monochrome.


Overlay or Topcoat

Offers some protection from fading and scratching.  However for real durability consider a laminate.  



You will need a special printer to apply a laminate layer to your cards.  You can print on both sides if required.  Laminating your cards gives the best protection against wear and tear, scratching and fading.  A must for cards that need to last a long time!

Fluorescent / UV Overlay

These ribbons allow you to add a covert layer of security to your cards – printing text or an image that can only been seen under UV light.  This makes cards extremely difficult to forge.

Note that these ribbons print the UV layer before the black layer so that the UV does not inhibit any barcodes or personalisation.


Inhibitor Panel

Only applicable for re-transfer printing.  This panel prevents the print being applied to sections of the card that should not be printed over, for example a signature panel or chip.

Holographic ribbonHolographic Ribbons

Print a hologram design over your cards to help easily identify authentic ID cards.  Many of these holographic ribbons are available with sections missing to enable them to be printed over magnetic stripes, card chips, etc.

Half Panel

Sometimes denoted with an h or H or lower case ymc.  If the only colour personalisation you require is a photo then a half panel ribbon will allow you to print just half the front of the card in colour and the full front of the card in black – saves on ribbon and money!

YMCKO Half panel

The yellow, magenta and cyan panels are half the width of a CR80 card, the black and overlay panels are the full width of a CR80 card


scratch off panelScratch Off

Scratch off ribbons are used to obscure information printed underneath them on the card.  To use these ribbons you first print the information on the card and then overprint the card with the scratch off ribbon, to obscure just the information you want to hide.  Gift vouchers, phone top up cards and lottery scratch cards all use scratch off panels.

Signature Panel

Signature panel ribbon


Used to create a white area on the card that is suitable for signing with a pen.  Signature panel ribbons are the same width as all other ribbons so you can print a signature panel or area in any size on shape on your card – it doesn’t just have to be a standard signature strip.