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Understanding ID Card Printers: A Beginner's Guide

ID card printers play a crucial role in business, education, and public sectors. Whether you’re looking to print employee badges, student IDs, or membership cards, understanding the basics of ID card printers is essential for choosing the right one. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know as a buyer in the UK, including a look at some of the top brands available. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn about the different types of ID card printers.
  • Discover top brands and what makes them stand out.
  • Understand the features to look for based on your needs.
  • Find out about the costs involved and maintenance tips.

What is an ID Card Printer?

Overview of ID Card Printing Technology

ID card printers are devices that allow you to print custom identification cards. These printers are capable of printing text, graphics, and even encoding magnetic stripes or smart chips, depending on the model.

Types of ID Card Printers

Direct-to-Card Printers

These printers are the most common and cost-effective option, ideal for basic ID card printing. They print directly onto the card surface, providing adequate quality for most uses.

Retransfer Printers

For higher quality and more durable cards, retransfer printers are preferred. These printers first transfer the image to a film, which is then applied to the card. This method allows for edge-to-edge printing and better handling of uneven surfaces like smart cards.

Top Brands of ID Card Printers

Zebra Technologies

Zebra is known for its reliable and easy-to-use printers, suitable for a variety of printing needs from basic to high-security cards.


Evolis printers are popular for their sleek designs and efficient printing capabilities. They offer models that are perfect for small to large scale operations.


Magicard stands out for its built-in security features, such as HoloKote, which adds a watermark during the printing process, enhancing the security of the cards.


Datacard offers a range of printers that are great for high-volume printing needs, with robust durability and advanced encoding options.

Fargo by HID Global

Fargo printers are well-regarded in the industry for their superior print quality and advanced security features, ideal for organisations that need the highest level of card security.

IDP Smart

IDP Smart is renowned for its cost-effective solutions and excellent print quality, making it a favorite among schools and small businesses. Their printers often feature user-friendly designs and are known for their reliability and low cost of ownership.

Features to Consider

Print Quality and Speed

Consider how detailed and fast you need your printing to be. Higher resolutions are important for including fine details or small text.

Card Encoding Options

Some printers offer encoding options for magnetic stripes, RFID, and smart chips, which can be crucial for access control and other secure applications.

Costs and Maintenance

Initial Costs

Prices vary significantly based on the printer’s capabilities and technology. Basic models might start around £500, while more advanced systems can exceed £2,000.

Running Costs

Including ink, toner, and card stock, running costs can add up. Factor in these ongoing expenses to your budget.


Regular cleaning and occasional servicing are important to keep your printer in good working condition, which can help prevent costly repairs down the line.

Choosing the Right ID Card Printer for Your Needs

Assess Your Volume and Usage

Understand the scale of your ID printing needs—high-volume environments may require more robust printers with higher throughput.

Consider Future Needs

Think about potential future requirements such as double-sided printing or additional security features.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the best ID card printer for small businesses?
  2. Can I print ID cards from any computer?
  3. How long do ID card printers typically last?


Printer Type Use Case Cost Range (£)
Direct-to-Card Basic ID printing 500-1,000
Retransfer High-quality, secure printing 2,000+


By understanding these basics, including the top brands available, you’ll be well-prepared to select the right ID card printer that fits your needs and budget.

Next article Best ID Card Printers of 2024: Top Printers Chosen By Experts

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