Best ID Card PrinterIn this article we dig into the market of plastic card printers and pick the very best ID card printer for business use!

Identification cards have found an increasing importance in individual workgroups as well as businesses. Today, they are no longer a basic photo ID but have a central role in the security needs of the employers as well as the employees. The advancement in technology has taken this a step further. Today, ID cards are printed using very complex printers and software. They are equipped with features such as magnetic strips, RFID, barcodes and Smart Card Technology, all of which promote a higher security and better traceability.

Similarly, when you are faced with the task of buying an ID card printer, there is a wide range of options to choose from. Although the operation of each of these has been made as easy as possible, you should be able to identify the one that fits your need in the best possible manner. It would be quite a challenge to choose the right one without knowing the basic differences between the available options. Keeping out an eye for the following features could help you get hold of one of the best id card printers.

Buying an ID Card Printer: Things to Consider

  • Technology

Each printer uses a certain technology for printing out the cards. The two main technologies are direct to the card and reverse transfer.

The direct to card process is done through the process of dye sublimation using a print head. The print head heats different panels of the ribbon following which the ink gets converted into vapor. This is a very fast method and also very convenient given that it can be used with everything from monochrome ribbons to full colors to overlays. This method of printing creates a vivid imagery along all sides of the ID card. It also allows you to achieve very clear details with a high pixel.

Reverse transfer is very similar to direct to card transfer. The only difference is that in this process, the images or the graphics are first printed on a clear film which is then passed over the card. There are a number of advantages of using this technology, but the two most important are that it does not leave a white border along the edges and the other is that this method allows you to print evenly even on the rough and uneven surfaces. This method can be used to print a wide range of cards such as ABS, PVH, PET, and polycarbonate. It gives a very high-quality imaging with resolutions of up to 600 dpi. The best id card printers use reverse transfer process.

  • Speed, capacity, and media

When you have decides about the types of printing technology you want to have, take into consideration whether you are in need of a single or double-sided printing. The basic difference between these two types of printers is that one-sided printer prints only on one side at a time whereas a double-sided printer can print on both the sides in a single pass, thus saving time and hassle. If you are going to be printing cards that have information like photo identification and barcode on both the sides, a double-sided printer would be more convenient.

The print speed is in accordance with the media capacity and the card type. If you are going to be printing a lot of cards, you should be looking at high-speed printers with large input trays so as to increase productivity. On the other hand, if you are not going to be printing in very large quantities, a few of the functions may be underutilized.

The most popularly used media for cards are CR 80 and CR 79. CR 80 comes in varying thickness, measuring between 10 to 40 mil. You can also get those that have an adhesive layer at the back. You also get to choose from a wide variety of ribbons. They are available in almost every form you want such as black, magenta, cyan, yellow, metallic and so on.  You can also add invisible layers to the card by using UV ink panel.

  • Encoding

Cards use various methods of encoding for the sake of improving security. The most common thing is to use magnetic strips in the cards. This method is very simple. However, they may not be very long lasting, mainly owing to the physical wear and tear the card can go through. There are two types of encoding methods – the HiCo and the LoCo. The Hico have a stronger magnetic field and are also built to be physically durable. These are mainly used by employees and authorities as access cards. The LoCo cards have a less stronger magnetic field and are used for temporary use such as hotel pass, holiday cards and so on.

Better still are a smart card and it takes very best id card printers to print these type of cards. These cards are used in places that require very high security. There are contacts present inside the card and when placed in contact with the reader, can be adjusted to handle several different functions. There are also a few contactless versions of smart cards that can be processed by the reader in proximity, without having to be in contact.

  • Laminations and holograms

Laminations and holograms are another aspects that add to the encoding of a card. Lamination is nothing but the addition of a protective layer to the card. They can also be removed if desired. The thicker the lamination, the better the guard. Your choice for lamination should depend on the type of printer you are using and the choice of media. The laminators also add security to the cards by adding a simple or complex hologram after the lamination.

  • Software and connectivity

Most printers have integrated software for printing cards. Sometimes, if it allows for multiple connections through wireless or USB, the printer can also be controlled by several different devices at the same time. This definitely makes the printer more functional but may put certain limitation such as its placement and the networking capabilities.

Top 5 Best ID Card Printers

Fargo DTC4500e Dual-Sided ID Card Printer

The Fargo DTC4500e is the most complete solution on the market. It is a dual-sided printer with lots of features and customization options. We rank this as the best ID card printer currently on the market for the following reasons.

Features of the DTC4500e

  • Fargo DTC4500e Single side ID Card PrinterIt tends to all the sophisticated application requirements of large corporations and government institutions
  • Allows personalization and printing in large volumes
  • The Fargo DRC4500e has an input/output hopper that gets locked onto the printer, thus providing a high-level security
  • It allows you to print as well as laminate the cards
  • The lamination is very secure and resists all kinds of tampering and forgery
  • It laminates both the sides simultaneously at a very high speed and let you save time
  • It is not necessary to so the printing and the lamination together. You can get them done separately
  • The Fargo DTC4500e has a built-in password protection, locking hoppers, UV printing with fluorescent ribbons, all of which go into providing a very high-level security

What makes the DTC4500e the Best ID Card Printer

  • The input tray can hold up to 200 cards
  • It has a very high printing speed. However, if you are also doing the lamination at the same time, it can take more time, since the card has to travel a lot of distance before finally coming out
  • You can use it with all the different card stocks. However, the lamination only works for 30 mil card stock. Also, it is better to opt for a composite cardstock as against the adhesive ones. This is because the heat from lamination may affect the final outcome
  • The printer has an inbuilt USB connection as well as a standard Ethernet connection. Furthermore, it also has a wifi accessory module, using which; you can print the card at any give n and from almost anywhere
  • You can use it for issuing both the centralized as well as remote ID cards
  • The ribbons used in the printer are eco-friendly. Since you can refill the cartridges, it helps by reducing the amount of waste generated


  • It offers multiple encoding options including the ISO magnetic stripe encoding and smart encoding
  • The Fargo DTC4500e comes from an authorized service provider
  • Prints in 300 dpi
  • Allows customization


  • Leaves a blank white line along the edge
  • Noisy

Fargo C50 Single-Sided ID Card Printer

This solution can be seen as the little brother of the above mentioned DTC4500e. It is way cheaper, but still comes bundled with the supplies you need to get started right away. The main difference her is that this is a Single-sided printer. If a single-sided printer is all you need, this is probably the best ID card printer for you. If not, you could go all-in for the powerhouse big brother DTC4500e.

Features of the Fargo C50

  • Fargo C50 ID Card PrinterIt is a single sided printer
  • This plastic card printer prints directly on the card
  • The controls and the operation are very easy
  • It offers an erase and rewrite functions so that you can reuse the temporary cards
  • The Fargo C50 Single-Sided Printer comes with a 2 years manufacturing warranty
  • It prints on CR 80 and CR 79. The printing is edge and edge and in full color as well as monochrome
  • Features ribbon cartridges that clean themselves, thus reducing and simplifying maintenance
  • It has a swift ID badge application which can be used to create ID badges
  • The FargoC50 ID Card Printer is compatible with HID Asure ID software that supports highly complex card designs as well as the data capabilities
  • It has software that keeps the malware in check, thus allowing for a smooth performance, with little interference from the user
  • The printer designs are very intuitive and allow for very speedy system status updates
  • It comes from HID Global, a trusted brand in the world of card printers
  • This plastic card printer has an energy star rating and uses up very little energy, allowing you to save up on the energy bills
  • Buying it together with the package that consists of C50 printer hardware, the supplies as well as the software completes the set and you can start using it right away


  • One of the bests ID card printers for issuing in low volume
  • The package also consists of blank cards and YMCKO ribbons
  • Can use all different card stocks
  • Prints at a very high speed
  • You can also buy eco-friendly ribbons
  • This PVC card printer supports Mac drivers I, Linux and different Windows desktop versions


  • Does not offer lamination

AlphaCard Compass PVC ID Card Printer

Another very popular solution is the AlphaCard Compass Printer. It is a handy tool that comes pre-packaged with the supplies you need to get going right away. Very easy to use and some of the best software on the market. It has its limits, but it is by far one of the most user-friendly solutions on the market. We’d rank this as the best ID card printer for small and medium-sized businesses.

Features of the AlphaCard Compass Printer

  • AlphaCard Compass Complete Photo ID Card PrinterThe printer is highly affordable
  • It can print the ID card complete with the photos
  • Best for printing in small batches, mainly for small firm employees, students, members of various clubs, and so on
  • The input hopper can accept 100 cards while the output hopper can hold 30 cards at a time
  • Saves a lot of time as you do not have to manually feed in the cards
  • Prints efficiently at a very high speed
  • It only takes 7 seconds to print monochrome cards and 35 seconds to print full-color cards
  • The AlphaCard Compass is a single sided card printer
  • The Compass-printer comes with an Alpha watermark system built into the device
  • This printer can print over 20 to 40 mil CR80 PVC cards
  • One YMCKO card can print up to 10 cards


  • Produces very sharp and bright color
  • It is very easy to set up and operate
  • One of the best id card printers in the low price category
  • Very good speed


  • If you want to print both the sides, you will have to bring it out and flip it over
  • The templates are limited

IDP Smart-30S 651075 Single-Sided ID Card Printer

The IDP Smart-30S is a decent solution. It is a well-built machine that comes with a good warranty. This printer does not work that well at bulk, though. It comes at a good price and is really easy to use. This probably makes it the best ID card printer for small scale usage.

Features of the IDP Smart-30S

  • IDP Smart-30S 651075 Single-Sided ID Card PrinterThe IDP Smart-30S Single Sided ID Card Printer allows you to create full color and monochrome ID cards
  • It works through dye sublimation and thermal transfer technique
  • The IDP Smart-30S has the ability to print about 156 cards in one hour, thus allowing you to print bulk quantities in a very short span of time
  • It prints the cards at a resolution of 300 dpi in full YMCKO color
  • If you are printing in monochrome, it can print up to 720 cards in an hour, thus proving to be highly efficient for jobs with a large number of employees
  • If you are using the CR 80 format cards, you can take benefit of the single-sided edge to edge printing
  • The printer features an input hopper that can hold 80 cards and give a 25 card output
  • It offers a USB 2 connectivity
  • The plastic card printer is also ideal for entry-level applications
  • This PVC card printer comes with a 2-year unlimited printhead warranty and an included 3 years warranty for advanced exchange
  • The smart ID software used in the software allows you to design the cards in a very convenient manner, in exactly the way you want
  • The software also allows you to customize the design by adding unique photos, images or texts
  • It comes with a few of the pre-installed templates so that you can get started even if you do not have much idea about customization

What makes this Printer so Good

  • the printer is very precise in printing sequential numbers and one dimensional and two-dimensional barcodes
  • the software installed into the printer is so designed that it can scan and identify the faces and have the size and position adjusted accordingly
  • there are plug-in points through which you can connect the printer to cameras, scanners, sign pads and other necessary external devices
  • the printer provides support to printing with magnetic stripes and contact/contactless smart card encoding with the help of plug-in programs
  • it produces vibrant colors and very high-quality images in print
  • it is very easy to use, has highly advanced security features and features very easy controls
  • there is a drop in ribbon cartridges for an easy change of ribbons
  • The printer has an automatic ribbon search feature. Therefore, you will not be required to make manual adjustments
  • It is a compact equipment and can easily fit in narrow spaces
  • There are input/output hoppers for the ease of operation while printing in large volume
  • for feeding in the card, you can choose from automatic and manual options
  • It uses advanced networking and allows to you to take care of the encoding through the network printer server so as to save time
  • There are password verification functions and transmitted data encryption for a high data security


  • Very easy to operate
  • Good warranty protection
  • Keeps the data very safe
  • Features a built-in USB connectivity


  • Looks very basic

Badgy200 Plastic ID Card Printer

The Badgy200 is a fairly cheap solution. It can be good for smaller business environments but it certainly has its limits when working at scale. This option doesn’t really have what it takes to be the best ID card printer. With that said, this could be the right solution for occasional use.

Features of the Badgy200

  • Badgy200 Plastic Card PrinterOne of the best id card printers for printing professional plastic cards
  • Can run on Windows XP, Vista and Mac
  • Features database import as well as PC and Mac design software
  • It takes only 38 seconds to print in full color
  • The Badgy200 follows edge to edge printing
  • Can be used smoothly by professionals as well as beginners
  • You can avail warranty extensions for this printer
  • Comes with a detailed instruction manual
  • One of the best id card printers to tend to the needs of a small organization
  • The Badgy200 can print more than 1000 cards per year
  • The IDs printed from it are tamperproof


  • Offers customization through the use of logos, barcodes, texts, photos, GR codes and so on
  • Comes together with the software, color ribbon, cables and free cards
  • Cleaning and maintenance is easy
  • User friendly


  • Inconsistency in printing
  • Wastes a lot of material
  • Print quality not up to the mark

The Best ID Card Printer – Fargo DTC 4500e

These are the best id card printers that are currently available in the market. They use the latest software and easy operations.

Fargo DTC4500e - The Best ID Card PrinterHowever, if one is to name the best one out of these 5 best id card printers, it would definitely be the Fargo DTC 4500e Dual-Sided ID Card Printer. It prints both the sides and supports lamination. The input tray can hold up to 200 cards at a time, thus allowing you to save a lot of time. It can also be used with all different card stocks and offer multiple options for encoding. The print quality is very high and you can also have them customized according to your own will. Our final choice for the best id card printer is therefore the Fargo DTC4500e.

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