Direct to Card vs Retransfer Printing

When purchasing an ID card printer, it's important to understand the differences between Direct to Card printing and Retransfer printing. Direct to Card ID printing is the most popular, simply because of the lower price. However, some needs can only be met by a retransfer printer. Let's get into the benefits of each to find out which is best for your needs.

How do they work?

The fundamental difference between direct-to-card ID printing and retransfer ID card printing is the printing method. A direct-to-card printer uses a printer ribbon and printhead. This comes into direct contact with the cards surface to print the card design directly onto the card.

retransfer printer prints the card design onto an overlay film included in the ribbon. The overlay film is then stuck to the card’s surface by using both pressure and heat. This creates an over-the-edge printed card.

Direct to Card Printing


Why should I choose Direct to Card printing?

  • Streamlined Efficiency: Direct to card printers (DTC) have a streamlined and straigh­tforward printing process, meaning quick and efficient card production. Ideal if speed is a priority, making these printers an excellent choice for rapid card issuance.
  • Cost-Effective Simplicity: DTC technology is known for its cost-effectiveness, providing a budget-friendly solution without compromising on the essential printing functi­ona­lities. Perfect for organisations with tight budgets, DTC printers offer a practical and economical solution for high-quality card printing.

Retransfer Printing


  • No white borders: Retransfer ID printers excel in achieving over the edge printing, ensuring that the entire card surface is covered without any borders. Perfect for cards that have a large amount of colour on, where an empty border with no print would be very noticeable.

  • Versatility in Card types: Retransfer printing technology is highly versatile, accommodating various card materials, including smart cards, magstripe, signature stripe and more. Ideal for organisations working with diverse card materials, such as textured or technology-integrated cards, ensuring compatibility and adaptability.

  • Superior Image Quality: Retransfer ID printers deliver superior image quality and longer lasting ID cards that will not fade over time. The print quality remains exceptionally good, even over uneven surfaces - such as cards with chips.

Overall, the retransfer ID printer offers more features and flexibility, but the direct to card ID printer is much more budget friendly. You should consider your budget, and your printing needs before deciding which printer type to go with. If you're stuck or need some more help, contact us! No obligation, no cost.

Posted in Help and advice on