Whether you’re looking to print a batch of ID cards to elevate your business security or you’re preparing for an upcoming event and want all guests to have their own ID badge for networking purposes, the best PVC ID card printer can make a world of difference.

It will influence how quickly you’re able to work through each batch and the quality of print on each badge. There’s a lot that goes into choosing a printer, so we’ve put together this buyer’s guide to help you pick the best ID card printer for any situation.

That being said, printing your own ID cards is typically not the best use of financial or time resources unless you are selling ID cards yourself. In most cases, you’re far better off focusing on what you do best and leaving the printing to us here at CustomLanyard.net.

We’re the #1 choice online for custom PVC cards and we even have the best badge holder selection to help you display the cards with ease. Join more than a million satisfied customers who entrust their printing needs to us today!

Can Any Printer Print on PVC Cards?

Before we get into the best ID card printer, do you really need a specialized machine or can any printer print on PVC cards? Because ID card materials are rigid and non-porous, they need a printer specifically designed for these characteristics to produce high-quality, long-lasting prints.

That means that standard inkjet or laser printers, commonly used for paper printing, are not suitable for PVC cards. These printers lack the necessary mechanisms and appropriate inks or ribbons required to adhere to and bond with the plastic surface of PVC cards. Instead, you’ll need one of two types of ID card printers:

  • Dye-Sublimation Printers: These use heat to transfer dye onto the surface of the PVC card. It involves a special ribbon that holds the dye, which is then vaporized and embedded into the card’s surface. This method produces vibrant, high-resolution images and is ideal for creating professional ID cards with photo-quality finishes.

  • Thermal Transfer Printers: These use heat to transfer resin-based ink from a ribbon onto the PVC card. They’re known for durability and resistance to smudging, making them suitable for cards that are constantly handled or exposed to harsh environments. They’re also capable of printing barcodes and other security features.

There are so many options you can choose from regardless of which of these two methods you end up choosing. For most businesses, we recommend thermal transfer printers. For events needing cards for temporary use, a dye-sublimation printer will work just fine.

However, you need to make sure you’re doing your due diligence to get the best PVC ID card printer no matter which style you choose. So, what should you look for?

What to Look for in the Best ID Card Printer Machine

Choosing the best PVC ID card printer machine can be overwhelming given how complex the technology has gotten over the years. There are so many new features that leave the average user overwhelmed - let us simplify things for you.

Really, there are just a few things you need to prioritize in choosing the best ID card printer machine - quality, resolution, speed, compatibility, customization, and value.

Print Quality and Resolution

You obviously want your cards to look professional, which is where the concept of resolution comes into play. It’s measured in dots per inch (DPI), with higher DPI resulting in sharper and more detailed images. 

Look for printers with at least 300 DPI to ensure crisp, clear text and vibrant images. This well help you produce professional-looking ID cards that are easy to read and visually appealing.

Printing Speed and Efficiency

This is especially important if you are attempting to print a large batch of cards for an entire business or a massive event. You need to be able to work quickly since time is money.

Printers are typically measured in cards per hour (CPH) when it comes to speed. A printer with a higher CPH can save time in high-demand situations, but will inevitably cost you more. So if you don’t need to work ultra-fast, you may not need to invest in a higher-volume solution.

Durability and Reliability

The last thing you want is to invest a heap of money into a printing solution and get familiar with its ins and outs only to find yourself dealing with constant maintenance or troubleshooting, or worse - premature replacement.

Look for machines built with high-quality materials and components that can withstand continuous use. Getting a printer from a reputable brand known for quality and customer support is an investment in peace of mind. You’ll reduce maintenance costs and downtime, ensuring consistent performance over time.

Connectivity and Software Compatibility

Modern ID card printers should offer various connectivity options to integrate seamlessly with your existing systems. USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi connectivity provide flexibility in setup and use. 

You should also make sure the printer is compatible with your design software and operating system. Some printers come with their own proprietary software, offering user-friendly interfaces and advanced features for designing and managing ID cards.

Customization Features

Chances are you want to be able to put your own personal touch on the ID cards you’re going to print, whether for aesthetics or security reasons. But, can you customize an ID card? With the right printer, you certainly can! There are quite a few unique features you should seek out here.

For example, some printers offer dual-sided printing, allowing for additional information on the back of the card. Features such as lamination, holographic overlays, and UV printing enhance security and durability. 

Encoding options like magnetic stripes, RFID chips, and smart card encoding are essential for access control and data management applications. Just think about what you need in an ID card and then choose a printer that can make it happen!

Value for the Money

At the end of the day, there’s no getting around the heft price tag on ID card printers - especially if you’re looking for the best PVC ID card printer. 

These cost thousands of dollars, but they’re a long-term investment, so don’t just look at price alone. Instead, shift your focus to value for the money.

Remember, if you buy the cheapest option you’ll likely end up paying more in the long run. You tend to get what you pay for. So, evaluate the total cost of ownership, including the initial purchase price, ongoing maintenance, and supply costs. 

Consider the printer’s lifespan and the cost of consumables like ribbons and cards. A slightly more expensive printer with lower operating costs and longer durability can provide better value in the long run.

What is the Best PVC ID Card Printer in 2024?

There’s clearly a lot that goes into choosing the best ID card printer, but you don’t have to go through this process alone. We’ll compare and contrast 5 of the top choices below to help you make your decision with confidence. 

AlphaCard Pro 550

The AlphaCard Pro 550 is a versatile and efficient printer ideal for mid-sized businesses. It supports both single-sided and dual-sided printing, with a high print resolution of 300 dpi, ensuring clear and professional-quality ID cards. 

One of its standout features is the AlphaGuard watermark technology, which adds an extra layer of security without needing lamination. The printer supports lightning-fast print speeds, capable of producing full-color cards in just 23 seconds and monochrome cards in 6 seconds. 

It also includes a 100-card input hopper and a 70-card output stacker, making it efficient for batch printing. Connectivity options include USB and Ethernet, and it comes with a four-year warranty so you can buy yours with peace of mind.

Fargo INK1000

The Fargo INK1000 brings the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of inkjet printing to ID card production. It uses a YMC (Yellow, Magenta, Cyan) ink cartridge, eliminating the need for traditional print ribbons, which reduces costs and simplifies maintenance. 

This printer offers a high resolution of 600 x 1200 dpi, ensuring vibrant, detailed prints that are UV-stable and fade-resistant. It can print up to 100 cards per hour, making it suitable for low to moderate-volume needs. 

The compact design, ease of use, and affordable pricing starting around $1,395 make it a great option for small to medium-sized businesses and educational institutions​.

EasyBadge 3.0 ID Printer

The EasyBadge 3.0 is one of the most eco-friendly printing solutions on the market - for every printer bundle sold, a tree is planted! The printer takes things  step further as it uses eco-friendly plastic cards and color ribbons. Those looking to reduce their environmental footprint love this solution. 

It’s also equipped with a mobile app that allows remote design and credential management, making it ideal for businesses with decentralized or remote teams. 

This printer is compact, quiet, and prints full-color cards in about 23 seconds. It is priced starting at $900 and includes a standard 36-month warranty, making it a cost-effective and environmentally conscious choice​.

Entrust Sigma SL3

The Entrust Sigma SL3 is a high-performance printer designed for medium to high-volume printing needs. It supports both single-sided and dual-sided printing and offers exceptional print quality with a resolution of 300 dpi. 

Key features include a user-friendly dashboard that can be monitored from a mobile device, encrypted data protection to ensure security, and optional ribbon shredders for data privacy. 

The SL3 also offers a variety of encoding options and rewriteable technology, making it versatile for different types of ID cards. The printer is priced starting at $2,889 and comes with a comprehensive 36-month warranty​.

IDP Smart 31s

Last but certainly not least on our list of the best PVC ID card printers, the IDP Smart 31s is known for its flexibility and affordability. It supports single and dual-sided printing, and offers options for magnetic stripe, contact, and contactless encoding. 

This model uses Enhanced FINE™ Imaging Technology for high-quality prints and includes eco-friendly features like rewriteable printing. It is ideal for a range of applications, from employee IDs to access control badges. 

The Smart 31s is compact and user-friendly, with easy-to-replace ribbons and a straightforward interface, making it a versatile choice for various organizational needs. It’s fairly affordable too at just around $1,600, and comes with a 2-year manufacturing warranty to protect your purchase.

Avoid the Hassle of Printing Your Own PVC ID Cards - Let CustomLanyard.net Handle it For You!

After choosing one of the options above, you can learn how to print on ID cards in our blog. We also have tips on how to make badge holders so you can complete the process! 

But the truth is, most people should not print their own ID cards. Like we said from the start, the investment in a high-quality printer is expensive, and you’ll have to devote internal resources to the printing process. You are far better off outsourcing this.

So, who makes custom ID cards? Look no further than CustomLanyard.net. We are the #1 choice for custom ID cards online thanks to our diverse selection of styles and world-class customer service. You also get the best ID card prices online when you partner with us - as low as $0.37 each! 

Our brand was born more than a decade ago and we’ve earned the trust of customers like Facebook, Microsoft, Bike, Netflix, and many more. Plus, making PVC ID cards is as simple as a few clicks with us.

Start by choosing your ID card sizes and orientation. You have a ton of options at your fingertips. Then, pick from an array of card finishes, from glossy to holographic, matte, and more.

You can choose your card thickness hole style to put an ID card on a lanyard. Then, simply upload your artwork, design the card from scratch, or choose one of our templates. It’s really that easy!

We also have all the types of badge holders, whether you need a custom badge holder, acrylic badge holder, or clear plastic card holder. You can even add branded lanyards and custom wristbands to complete your purchase.

With more than 27,000 five-star reviews, you can rest assured you’re in the right place. So, save yourself the time and stress associated with printing your own ID cards. Order yours at CustomLanyard.net today.

Final Thoughts on the Best PVC ID Card Printer

There you have it - everything you need ot know about picking the best ID card printer machine. With so many options and features to choose from, we know this can get overwhelming, but we hope you feel more confident in making your decision after reading this guide.

The AlphaCard Pro 550 offers high security and efficiency, while the Fargo INK1000 is innovative and cost-effective. The EasyBadge 3.0 excels in eco-friendliness, the Entrust Sigma SL3 is perfect for high-security and high-volume environments, and the IDP Smart 31s provides flexibility and affordability. 

There is truly something for everyone - the only question is, which aligns with your specific needs and budget? You can learn more about how ID cards work, the difference between PET vs PVC ID cards, how to print on wristbands, what to put on a lanyard, or the different types of lanyards in our blog. 

Otherwise, why not put the stress of printing ID cards in the past for good? You can effortlessly bring your PVC ID cards to life in just a few clicks with CustomLanyard.net. Save time and ensure premium results by letting us handle your PVC ID card printing needs.