How to use white ink effectively in your next graphic design piece
American Color Labs is able to produce graphics using white ink. This opens up a lot of different design options for our clients. Here is an overview of how white ink can be used to create more interesting graphics for yourself and your clients and how to convey your white ink specifications for a fantastic printing experience.
Generally speaking, there are two applications for white ink:
Flood white ink
Most printing processes apply four colors to a white surface to achieve a full-color image: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK). However, when your design calls for printing on a non-white surface, you need to put a base layer of white so that when the colored ink is laid on top, it yields correct color.
The most common non-white surfaces are clear window clings and natural wood. Other applications include printing on clear adhesive, brushed aluminum, steel, mirror, or colored plastics such as coroplast, PVC, styrene, and acrylic.
A white flood is applied when you want the entire viewable area covered in white. This is most commonly used when clear materials are being applied to the inside of a window. If we imagine a graphic going in a store window, our layering would look like this: window/adhesive/film/CMYK image, white layer. The white flood creates a solid background for the graphics to be viewable. White floods can also be used to “whitewash” your materials, such as wood.
Spot white ink
Spot white is used when you want to apply white ink strategically to your design. This, as with the white flood, can be incorporated into any design for any material but is most commonly used on non-white materials.
Spot white allows you to pick and choose where you would like white ink to be applied. If we apply our same store window decal example, the white ink might be placed only behind the CMYK graphic, allowing the viewer to see through the clear areas of the window. Similarly, you may wish to put a spot white behind a print on wood to make sure that your colors are accurate, while still allowing the viewer to see the natural wood around that print.
How to apply white ink to your design
The easiest way to call out white ink in your design is to create a separate layer designated “White.” Within that layer, you should include any shapes that you want to be printed in white ink. For example, if you were printing a logo on clear material, you would have one layer with your CMYK art on it. On your second (white) layer, you would copy that same art, but flatten it to a single shape. This is now your white ink. We ask that you set up your white ink layer at 100% Cyan, but as long as you label the layer we should have no problems recreating it for you.
A few more helpful notes
If you require color matching, then we strongly recommend that you request a printed proof of your graphic. This is because the white ink’s ability to produce a bright white surface for printing true-to-color CMYK graphics is limited by the white point of the underlying substrate. It is possible to increase the white point of the underlying surface by printing additional layers of white ink before printing the CYMK graphics. However, this process is expensive and time-consuming, and if it is not critical to the overall graphic, then we recommend foregoing this endeavor.
When to use white ink instead of cut vinyl
We are commonly asked why a designer would choose to use spot white ink instead of white cut vinyl. While it is true that white cut vinyl can achieve a similar look, there are many situations white ink is advantageous over white cut vinyl.
Here are some of the most common examples…
– White ink allows for the production of graphical elements that convey a consistent look and feel throughout the whole piece. Cut vinyl can often appear more glossy than direct ink and can look disjointed.
– Spot white ink graphics can be applied in our shop by the printer so you don’t need to involve a professional graphics installer. This saves you money, time, and hassle.
– Spot white ink graphics allow you to produce graphics features that are much smaller and more refined than white cut vinyl. This is particularly helpful when you want to use thin strokes in your graphic art or uses small fonts or fonts with fine elegant features.
Please contact us for more information about printing with white ink. We love talking with our graphic design clients about new and interesting projects!