How to Print on a Plastic Card

Nowadays, plastic cards are everywhere. They are used for photo ID, credit card payments, and business loyalty programs. Besides, they can be used to confirm a club membership or for building access. Hence, you cannot deny their usefulness. Most businesses out there use them for customer loyalty or membership. Luckily, they are durable and versatile. If you wonder how these plastic cards are printed, this guide is for you. The following is an outline of how to print on a plastic card.

Understanding how you can print on plastic cards helps you learn more about the different types of plastic cards. In addition, you will be able to differentiate which one is perfect for your needs. Therefore, take your time to go through each procedure.

Way to Print on a Plastic Card

Plastic Card Printers

One common method of printing plastic cards is using a plastic card printer. This one allows you to produce highly customized plastic cards for various necessities. A unique process is used in the technology used to print on plastic cards, and it differs greatly from the one used for printing on paper. One of the major differences is that printing on a plastic card is more durable than when done on paper. Hence, they can stand the test of time.

Another essential feature in plastic card printing is encryption. Also, the magnetic stripes help store helpful information. The two common plastic card printing techniques are retransfer printing and direct-to-card printing.

Retransfer Printing

Also, you can refer to this method of printing in a plastic card as reverse transfer printing. It is a little more straightforward. This printing process features two clear stages.

First, a transparent film is used. Typically, you will not see this in a direct-to-card printing process. The design image is printed on the transparent film in reverse. The sublimation technique applies various color layers until the design color is achieved.

On the other hand, the transparent film is applied to the plastic card while the original design is displayed. Here, you do not need extra coating or varnished layers. This printing process on a plastic card is known for its durability. Additionally, it can be applied to a larger range of mediums than the technique used in direct-to-card printing, depending on the chemical bonds within the plastic surface.

Direct-to-Card Printing

Another name for direct-to-card printing is dye-diffusion thermal transfer. The major difference between this method and retransfer printing is transferring the image onto the PVC card. To achieve this, it uses dye sublimation and monochrome thermal transfer.

Dye Sublimation

This printing technique is known to produce the highest quality photographic outcomes. Sublimation means turning colors into vapor without becoming a liquid first. This makes sure less spillage and mess is experienced.

The key equipment piece is the ribbon stored within the printer in this printing procedure. Inside the ribbon, there are several color panels: clear, cyan, magenta, yellow and black. You can use any combination of these panels to create each color across the spectrum. The portable printer head helps to heat the color panels as needed.

Afterward, the physical color layer is vaporized and transferred to the first layer of the polyvinyl-chloride card. There is a chemical bond between the color dye and the plastic surface. Luckily, the colors solidify fast. Extra layers are superimposed and transferred as needed to help achieve the desired color. Another amazing thing about this technique is that it is well known for its high printing speed.

Monochrome Thermal Transfer

This printing method on a plastic card uses a monochrome ribbon. A single layer of color is applied to the plastic card at one time, rather than using several color panels simultaneously. The print head heats a particular area of a single-color panel later applied to the plastic card. At the top, a varnish is used to ensure the print is durable. This is the most cost-effective printing technique when a single color is required. Mostly, this is the method used to print barcodes.

The Benefits of Plastic Cards

Benefits of Plastic Cards

Nowadays, many people prefer plastic cards. There are different reasons for this. The following is a discussion concerning them.

It comes with an attractive design.

A plastic card is best because you can choose the design option you want based on your wishes and needs. You can select the shape and size you prefer. Plastic cards look like premiums in the corporate world because they are available in different sizes and shapes. You can opt for financial or medical printing cards based on your needs.


It is affordable to print plastic cards. This is mainly when you consider them in bulk. Plastic cards are made of plastic material. Those made of metal materials are known to be expensive. Nevertheless, it is wise to understand that the price of your cards differs based on your needs and size. If your financial plan is tight, choosing the basic ones is advisable and adjusting them to how you want them to be is not.

It offers different uses.

Plastic cards are designed for various uses. You can use them in varying ways because they are flexible and can be customized around various business ideas and needs. These cards interact easily with machines. As a result, they form perfect access cards. You cannot expect this with traditional paper cards because they are prone to damage. In addition, plastic cards are easy to store. They are the best for all seasons because they are hard to break and water-resistant.

Plastic is eco-friendly.

Most of the plastic cards out there are made to be recycled. Therefore, you do not have to worry about environmental degradation. Also, some plastic cards can degrade when they contact soil after some time. Nowadays, many businesses are turning to these cards to reduce pollution. These are the best business cards you should choose if you are looking forward to running a start-up business or growing an already existing one. Besides being effective, they are also environmentally friendly.


This is mainly applicable to credit cards and debit cards. It is best to carry your money using plastic money if you are in a place where the crime rate is high. They are convenient because they can easily fit into your wallet. If your credit card gets lost in the process, you can call the bank to block it so that you can protect your money.

On the other hand, plastic cards are waterproof. Hence, you don’t have to panic even if it gets soaked in water. Take your time to have plastic money to help keep your cash safe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of printer do I require to print on plastic?

An inkjet printer is the best printer you can have to print on plastic. This is because a laser printer will burn your plastic sheet and destroy the printer and your sheet. If your printer has less ink, it cannot print on plastic because your print will be illegible.

Does acrylic ink work on plastic?

Typically, acrylic paint is not meant for painting plastic. Therefore, even if you use primers and sealers, the paint will come off eventually. Mostly, acrylic paints are best on ceramic and wood pieces. You can only use it on plastic if you add the proper sealers.

Can you use transfer paper on plastic?

You first need to place the paper onto the material you wish to transfer the graphic to while facing down. Even though it works best on wood and cloth, you can do it on plastic, metal, and glass.


There are different ways to print on a plastic card from the above guide. It is worth taking your time to understand them and choose which one will best suit you. Luckily, you have seen that a plastic card comes with several benefits. Hence, it is something worth having. For example, they are lightweight, durable, weather-proof, and strong. Nowadays, plastic cards are used everywhere. Hence, reading this guide can help you start up a business that will help you make money now and then. Happy Printing!!

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