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What Questions Should I Ask Before Choosing a Printer?

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What Questions Should I Ask Before Choosing a Printer?

ID Card Printers

Now that you know about ID card printer options, how do you choose the printer that’s right for you? Not all digital photo ID card printers are alike. Ensuring the right one for the job involves a careful examination of your needs. We've listed some questions below to get you started in choosing the printer that best suits your needs.

10 Questions to Help You Choose an ID Card Printer 

Do I have an ID card printer brand preference?

ID Zone sells and supports the most reputable card printer brands: Fargo | Evolis | Zebra | Magicard | Nisca | Datacard | Digital ID EDIsecure | Polaroid | NBS ImageMaster. If you prefer a certain brand, it’s likely that we can help you select a card printer that meets your needs within that brand.

Do I need to print color ID cards (including photographs)?

Most printers print a combination of colors (full-color) as well as monochrome (single-color), but certain models print only in monochrome. Consider your future needs before deciding on which printer is right for you today. 

Will my ID cards be printed on one or two sides?

Some card printers only print on one side of a card, usually referred to as 'single-sided' printers. Card printers that are capable of printing on both sides of a card in a single print cycle are also referred to as dual-sided, or duplex. If you would like to print color and/or monochrome on both sides of your cards, you will want to select a dual-sided card printer. Select this ID Card Printers link to browse for printers by single- or dual-side printing capability.

Will my ID cards need a magnetic stripe?

Magnetic stripes are the dark stripe on the back of your credit card or driver’s license. These stripes store data and are often used in Time and Attendance or Access Control applications. All printer manufacturers offer optional magnetic stripe encoding on their printers. Consider adding magnetic encoding up-front or select a printer that is upgradeable to magnetic encoding in the future. Thinking ahead can save you money down the road.

Will I need to encode smart cards?

If you need an ID card to hold more information more securely than a magnetic stripe allows, you might choose a smart card with a memory chip embedded in the surface. The decreasing cost of smart cards gives even the smallest organizations an opportunity to add memory storage capacity. Virtually all printer manufacturers offer smart card contact stations as an option.Since most smart card contact stations cannot be added after the printer has been built, we suggest ordering this option up-front. For more information on the various embedded card technologies, see our Technology Cards page.

How many ID cards will I need to print? 

If you plan to print many cards per session or per year, look for a printer that is built to sustain high volume printing. These printers usually include input and output card hoppers that hold more than 100 cards.

How long do I need my cards to last?

Consider an ID card printer that is capable of lamination if your cards need to last more than a year, will be used outside or will be subject to chemicals or abrasive contact. In the process of lamination, a thin clear or holographic protective layer is adhered to the surface of the card, protecting its images and information. If you select a lamination-capable printer, be sure to use composite PET/PVC cards rather than 100% PVC cards. Composite PET/PVC cards are designed to stand up to the heat generated by the lamination process. Select this Laminating Printers link to browse all lamination-capable printers.

Do I need additional ID card security?

There are many ways to protect your printed cards from fraudulent duplication. One method is to utilize the optional lamination station that is available with many mid- to high-level ID card printers. If you need to secure your cards now or in the future, consider purchasing a lamination-capable printer. Learn about additional ways to secure the authenticity of your printed cards in our ID Card Security section.

What type of interface do I need?

Most ID card printers now come standard with a USB interface. Ethernet connectivity is available on several card printers as well. Many printers are also available with a combination of a parallel interface along with USB and others offer USB with an Ethernet interface. Our ID Experts can help you select a printer that provides the interface you need.

What type of driver do I need?

All card printer manufacturers support Microsoft Windows operating systems, with limited MAC driver availability. However, please note that MAC-supported ID card software is in short supply. 

Ready to shop for a printer? Shop now or use our Printer Finder.

Have questions or need assistance? Talk with an ID Expert at (800) 910-5987, Chat Live, or email us at

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