There's more to print graphics than meets the eye. Print professionals must account for an array of variables at every stage of the process; What type of substrate are we printing on? What print method are we using? How is it being mounted? What weather conditions must it withstand? The list goes on. Long story short, it's easy to take vibrant graphics for granted.
One way we keep up with demand for designing innovative print concepts is through the use of white ink printing methods for digital printing. While it's pretty standard to achieve accurate coloration on a white substrate, printing 4-color process to dark or transparent substrates has traditionally proven to be a much bigger challenge. The use of white ink to provide a uniform base has been around for a while, but the technology surrounding it continues to evolve. These advances allow us to create some incredible graphics on a scale that was previously unachievable.
WHAT can WHITE INK do?
When working with white ink with a digital printer, you're not limited by the color of the substrate you're working on or the intricacy of the print. You can underlay white ink beneath a highly detailed 4cp image and print it on a substrate (whether colored or transparent) without compromising the design due to trapping/bleed of conventional printing. This process opens a ton of doors for creating graphics that stand out among the competition.
CHALLENGES OF WHITE INK
There are a few challenging aspects of white ink to keep in mind:
Time: Print speed is also a factor to consider. White inks require an additional pass in the press, as well as additional time in prepress—digital files that require white ink use more layers.
Longevity: There are different types of white inks and some are more weather resistant than others. Care should be taken to make sure that the correct printer/ink is specified for an exterior application. Always consult with your print partner to figure out which type of ink is best for your intended use.
Applications: Depending on the printer and the white inks, some digital white inks may have issue adhering to certain substrates. This is especially true with particular plastics that are made with recycled materials; the recycled material may create issues with ink adhesion. Print providers can check for ink adhesion prior to any production.
Discuss these issues with your print partner, who should be able to give you accurate estimates on timing and cost, as well as what substrates are best to use with the white ink application you have in mind.