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Edge-to-Edge Printing vs. Over-the-Edge Printing

Printing ID cards can be a confusing undertaking.

While most people would love a simple solution that allows you to put a blank card in and get a printed one out without much thought, that's never the way it works.

People unfamiliar with ID card printers are often under the mistaken impression that these machines must be similar to standard paper printers; after all, printers are printers, right?


Choosing an ID card printer requires making dozens of small decisions.

Unlike the "color vs. black and white" debate that countless offices and households have when shopping for a new paper printer, the search for an ID card printer requires a more detailed discussion.

Here are just a few of the questions one needs to consider when buying an ID card printer:

  • One-sided printing or dual-sided printing?
  • Lamination or no lamination?
  • Smart card encoding or no?
  • Magnetic stripe encoding or no?
  • How many cards will you be printing on a monthly basis?

Overwhelmed yet? Hopefully not, because we haven't gotten to one of the most important questions yet: do you want edge-to-edge printing or over-the-edge printing?

Before you answer, let's take a closer look at what separates the two styles.

Living on the edge

When it comes to ID card printers, print style can mean one of two things: the method used to put the imagery on the card or the way the image appears on the card.

The former is normally through methods like dye sublimation or reverse-transfer printing; the latter is where edge-to-edge or over-the-edge printing come in.

Edge-to-edge and over-the-edge are two print styles that describe the way your imagery is printed on the surface of a card. 


The difference between the two is subtle, but important.

What is edge-to-edge printing?

Edge-to-edge printing is a print style that leaves a slim border around the surface of your printed ID card. The border isn't printed; rather it's a small area of the card to which no print was applied.

Since most plain ID card stock is white, the border usually appears as white. However, a black card will get a black border, red card will have red, etc.

Edge-to-edge printing is a common print style with direct-to-card ID card printers.

edge to edge printing when compared to over the edge.png

What is over-the-edge printing?

Over-the-edge printing is a print method that leaves no visible border around the edges of your printed ID card. This print method is available on reverse-transfer printers, also known as retransfer printers.

Unlike direct-to-card printers, where the printhead comes in contact with the card's surface, retransfer printers print the imagery on a thin layer of transfer film, which is then applied to the surface of the card.

This film fuses to the entire surface of the card, leaving no border.

Over the edge printing vs edge to edge graphic.png I want edge-to-edge or over-the-edge?

It depends on what you want out of your cards! Consider the comparison below before making your decision.

  • Edge-to-edge printing is generally more affordable. It doesn't require the purchase of separate transfer film to create cards. However, the printhead coming into contact with the card surface increases the risk of damage. Also, cards with a white border tend to look a little less professional than their border-free counterparts.
  • Over-the-edge printing is a more expensive option, but it produces a higher-quality, more professional ID card. Retransfer printers require a transfer film, but because the printhead doesn't touch the card, it's less susceptible to damage. Choose over-the-edge if professionalism is a primary concern.

Now that you know the difference between edge-to-edge printing and over-the-edge printing, it's time to get yourself a new machine!

Browse our offering of ID card printers, featuring respected brands like Fargo®, Zebra® and IDP®.

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