top of page

ID Card Printing & Colour Profiles

When printing PVC ID cards, getting the colours right can be tricky. Especially some shades of blues and greens, which are famously fiddly in the plastic card printing industry!

It can help to undertsand some basics about colour profiles and ID card printing, so we've put this simple guide together to help you.

Lets get started...

There are two types of colour profile called RGB, which stands for Red, Green and Blue, and CMYK, which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black).

Colours on-screen are made from a mix of RGB, and printed colours are made from a mix of CMYK.

This means the colours printed on to your custom plastic cards will look different to the colours you see on-screen, because they are essentially made using a different colour 'pallete'.

RGB refers to the primary colours of light: Red, Green & Blue.
CMYK refers the primary colours of pigment: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black, also called Key.

About RGB Colour Profiles

All the text and images you see on-screen, whether you're on a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet, is made using an RGB colour profile.

Your screen contains tiny LED pixels which light up and mix different amounts of Red, Green and Blue to produce all the text and images you can see. For example, a mix of red and green creates yellow, or red and blue creates purple.

RGB needs the light from your screen to produce colours, and if you mix all of the RGB colours together you'll get white.

Some RGB colours cannot be reproduced in CMYK. This is important to know because the colours you see on-screen will look different to the colours printed.

About CMYK Colour Profiles

Most printers use CMYK inks and pigments, which means all colours are produced by mixing different amounts of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

Unlike RGB, printed CMYK colours do not have the benefit of a bright screen to light them up, which means they appear darker than RGB colours. When you mix all of the CMYK colours together, you'll get black.

The more CMYK colours you mix together, the darker the overall colour gets, unlike RGB colours which get brighter because of the light from your screen.

Print Materials

The material you're printing on to can affect the appearance of the printed colours. This happens because different materials absorb and reflect light in different ways.

For example, glossy PVC cards reflect lots of light, which can make colours appear darker than when printed on paper. This is where the Pantone Matching System can come in handy...

Pantone Matching System

This is a really useful system that acts like a universal language of colour.

The Pantone Matching System refers to sets of standardised colours, accurately matching them according to the type of material you're printing on to.

For example, PMS (c) is for Coated materials such as glossy paper, and PMS (u) is for Uncoated materials, like standard paper which is more absorbent than glossy materials.

You can use Pantone references to accurately define and communicate colours to designers anywhere in the world.

Important! When it comes to glossy PVC cards, you'll need to use PMS (c) Coated. The results will still vary though, because Pantone standardise these colours based on glossy paper, not PVC cards.

Summing up

Most of the time, you don't need to worry about colour profiles. It's good to know a little about them though so you have an idea of what to expect when printing.

If you're getting us to print your ID cards and custom plastic cards, we have some clever tech that converts all the colours automatically and achieves brilliant results.

Need more help?

Get in touch, we’d be happy to hear from you!


Please feel free to  contact us with any questions, or get started online.

bottom of page