Information on Lamination and Varnish Overlay Used on Zebra Card Printers

Article ID: 71947164




This document informs the user of the difference between an overlay panel and a laminate film along with the benefits of using one of these options

Applies To

  • All card printers
  • Ribbons with an Overlay panel
  • Laminate films



Most of the ribbons used for card printers have a clear panel, called a varnish overlay. For example in a 5-panel YMCKO ribbon, the "O" would be the overlay (the transparent panel). In addition, some printer models come with a standard or optional laminator station where a laminate film is applied. The laminate film is separate from the ribbon and comes in its own cartridge.

NOTE: ZXP Series 8 printers use retransfer technology. Only lamination would apply in this case.

Both Varnish Overlay and Lamination patches act primarily to protect the dye-sublimation images (printing process) against fading caused by Ultraviolet light. Varnish overlay provides little protection against abrasion. Lamination patches provide significant protection against abrasion and are the preferred choice for applications where the card will be physically "swiped" for its barcode and/or subject to severe conditions/exposure.

The varnish overlay would be considered a "light" coat of protection while a laminate film would be a "thicker" coat of protection. Both of these options can be applied to the card for even higher protection. Although the application of an overlay or laminate can de disabled in the printer driver, keep in mind the following:

  • Quality of the image on the card may diminish (fade) overtime due to heat or other elements
  • The image printed may stick to the plastic of an ID holder
  • A varnish or laminate can be customized to add a hologram, which is a low cost security option

If you have questions about ribbons or laminate options for your printer, please contact your reseller or Zebra Customer Service.