Ribbons to Use with a Ribbon Printer

Ribbons to Use with a Ribbon Printer

April 08, 2019

"What kind of ribbons work with the ribbon printer?" ... "Do I have to use your ribbons?" ... "Can it print on Grosgrain?"

These are some of the most frequent questions we get. So here's the scoop ... Many people are under the assumption or have been told that the printer will only print on satin ribbon. That is not true! There are quite a few ribbons that you can use and we are identifying more all the time.

Acetate - Let's get this out of the way from the start. The technology of thermal transfer does NOT work with pure acetate ribbon. You will not damage your machine, but nothing will print if it is a pure acetate ribbon.

Elastic - There are some brands of elastic ribbon that will not only take the print, but will not distort when stretched. Testing your material is best here.

Grosgrain - The printer will apply a print to grosgrain although it only "takes" on the upper layer of the ribbon ridges. Grosgrain that has less variance in the ridge height prints best. Many designers who use grosgrain will print on a satin ribbon and incorporate the printed satin on top of the unprinted grosgrain for a personalized effect. This is a very popular technique for hairbows.

Organza - Also known as Organdy and Chiffon, this is a sheer material made of silk or nylon. The print effect is very mystical and light. For the majority of applications, this would not be the ribbon to use.

Picot - This is typically a single or double faced satin ribbon that has tiny loops on either side. Since you are printing on the satin portion of the ribbon, it will print well depending on ribbon brand. See Single/Double Faced Satin below.

Poly Satin - Be careful with this type of ribbon definition. I have seen single and double faced satin referred to as poly satin and also satin acetate referred to as poly satin. They are two entirely different types of print. It is strongly recommended that you check out your ribbon if you want to print on this. The example shown in this article is the poly satin that The Ribbon Print Company offers. It takes a fabulous print because it is a pure poly satin. (See Pretty Print™ Ribbon below.)

Polyprophlene/Splendorette - This material creates a strong print. It has a shiny papery feel so it's stiff which is important to many.

Qualetex - This is the ribbon that is used with the Master Bowmaker machine. It prints well. I was surprised when we tried it. The result is a notch above the Satin Acetate described below.

Satin Acetate/Florist's Satin/Flora Satin - This material will take a print. It is not as bold an imprint as on satin or polyester ribbon, but it will print and we do have customers who use it due to its low price. It is a waterproof material typical used in floral arrangements and suitable for outside events.

Seambinding - Hug Snug by brand takes the print and is available in a large variety of colors. This is a great idea for soft goods manufacturers who want to brand their product with a company logo, etc.

Single/Double Faced Satin - This ribbon works beautifully depending on the brand. Each manufacturer will use a different percentage of polyester, tightness of weave and finish. It does not hold true that the more expensive the ribbon, the better the print. You really have to test a brand and see if it's acceptable to you. Once you find a manufacturer you like, all their colors should work. Note: Satin is actually not a material. It is a type of weave created with polyester, silk or other fibers. That's why some satins print better than others.

Wired Ribbon - You can run this through your machine but use caution. If there is an uncovered or broken wire and it pokes through, it can scratch the printhead. We've printed a lot of wired ribbon without a problem but cannot warranty against damage from its use.

As you can see, there are lots of ribbon types available for printing based on the result you're looking for. It's a very subjective decision. What's good for one is not necessary up to standards for another. 

As the business has developed, we've created another option that provides the most consistency and quality.

PRETTY PRINT™ Ribbon - This is our branded ribbon formulated specifically to use with your thermal ribbon printer. While you can get varying results with all types of ribbon, nothing will give you as sharp a print as ours. That's because it's made for printing! Many of our customers have converted over to Pretty Print™ ribbon as their only printing option because of it's reliability. 

But the choice, of course, is yours.

If you are unsure about a material you would like to use with a ribbon printer, feel free to send it over to us to test. We'll print on your material and send it back for your review. Print quality is such a subjective thing. It's much better to judge for yourself if it meets your requirements. Send us about four feet of ribbon and include a business card and note on what you'd like to test, i.e. color of print. Send to The Ribbon Print Company, 508 Central Ave., Suite 208, Highland Park, IL 60035. 

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