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November 22, 2015

How to Setup a Variable Information Database to be Printed on Plastic Cards

ID Badges Printed with Variable Data

Custom printed plastic cards can be used by anyone who uses a Point of Sale (POS) system and even those that do not. Most common uses of plastic cards are;

Gift Cards, Loyalty Cards, Rewards Cards, Discount Cards, Fundraising Cards, Membership Cards, Insurance Cards, Luggage Tags, Name Badges, Business Cards, ID Cards and Hotel Key Cards.

For a lot of these card types, especially for custom ID badges, you may wanna print variable information on each card. – Variable data printing refers to any card data and imaging that is different from card to card such as barcodes, member names, PIN numbers and/or account numbers, sequential or random numbers, member photos, and any other variable information printed on each card.

Variable Numbers Printing per Card

Let’s start by setting up a database with a simple Excel spreadsheet, that will be sent to print, along with your artwork, with each plastic card being printed with its respective data row from this database. NOTE: if your order contains more then one artwork version, then you should create a new separated spreadsheet for each artwork version, providing all data needed, for each row of the total quantity printed for this batch.

Let’s get a screenshot in, to help you understand better …

Variable Data to print on each plastic card

So, with above example, we have 2 art versions ready to print, and the first spreadsheet named “Artwork Version 01″ provides the variable data to be printed on artwork version 01. – In this case a $25 custom gift card. – Now, with this data provided, the first plastic card in this print run would look like this; 01 2595 5001 8001, and the PIN hidden beneath the scratch off bar would be; 91259.

The artwork files provided, must also indicate the exact location for each row of data, and point out where each variable field should be printed. Of course, you should create your own numbers and setup, the above screenshot is for demonstration purposes only.

Variable Images Printing per Card

Variable Images Printing

Now what about personalized plastic ID badges and membership cards, where you would like to print variable images, unique to each card?!

For a project like this, you would also have to create a similar excel spreadsheet as above, that provides a row of data for each card printed, and a column for each variable field. This screenshot is an example of a typical data file layout. You should provide the file name of the image in the Excel spreadsheet, and place all images together in a single images directory. In the screenshot example attached, the photo name “j.jones.jpg” is the actual file name for the image placed in the images directory, and is listed in the row for John Jones in Column “E”.

NOTE OF CAUTION: If you are printing variable ID photos, or any other variable images printing on plastic cards, you should make absolutely sure that each file is 100% IDENTICAL in size both in height and width. If the image file is off by even a single pixel, the image on the plastic card will be stretched, off or reduced and not look its best. The printer automatically inserts each image or ID photo on the cards, so sizing errors will only be seen when printing is completed.

Creating a database this way, provides us the variable data needed to be printed on each single plastic card. while giving you endless choices, for how to setup a custom gift card printing job, that works perfectly with your POS (Point Of Sale) in-store system. Should you have more questions about setting up a variable data database, please don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.

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