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(March 2014) posted on Mon Mar 10, 2014

Six shops exploring the expanding universe of white-ink applications.

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By Mike Antoniak

That kind of work he expected. What’s surprised him, however, are some novel applications, like creating a 3D effect on plywood to convey the look and feel of an old wooden sign. For this project, designer Mario Columbini starts with a wood-grain image in Photoshop. “From that, I create a black-and-white alpha channel to create the depth,” he says. When the files print, he taps the printer’s ability to lay down white in four separate passes. “We print, then overprint white to create the raised layers of the wood before we print 4-color. It’s something we couldn’t really do with just a 4-color press.”

Jackson also reports success using white to bring sheets of rolled cork to life. A corporate client uses the panels as bulletin boards for employees to post announcements and fliers at its facilities. Jackson cuts the rolls into 3 x 6-, 4 x 6-, and 3 x 8-foot panels for the flatbed.

“The ability to print white adds a whole new dimension,” he notes. “They can have a white background instead of a dull brown. Because we’re printing on a brown base, the white gives us a better pop wherever we use color. “And, now we’re able to use white in art where it just wasn’t possible before.”

Where amazing becomes routine

“We’re shocked by how much white we’re doing,” admits Greg Hasbrouck, large-format production manager for Archway Atlanta ( “We knew it’s something we needed, but it really has been amazing. We’re using it on long-run projects every week.”

In less than a year, the shop’s HP Scitex FB7600 has become an indispensable asset. “We had a small press with white-ink capability before, but it was very slow, so we were outsourcing most projects which required white,” he says.

Extended press runs requiring white are now routine. “We do inside mount clings, print on black Styrene, and put photographs on different (colored) materials,” Hasbrouck shares. “You have to have white to get that effect.”

A couple of recent projects are typical examples. For one retail client, Archway produced a total of 1000 window clings, in three sizes, for installation inside store windows. Images were printed on the back of clear static cling media, then backed with 100-percent white.

The largest images, measuring 60 x 85-inches, were printed one at a time. Still, Hasbrouck says the quality, and speed makes the digital press a cost-effective alternative to screen printing for such projects.

“Sometimes we’re using white to put two different images on the same cling,” he continues. For a restaurant chain, Archway printed 1500 for installation inside its locations. The job required the same image be viewable, inside and outside of the eateries.

He describes the solution as something akin to an ink sandwich on clear cling. “First we laid down a reverse image in color, then a layer of white on top of that, and then a black blocker, he explains.” On the other side, he printed a layer of white, then a mirror of the color image.

White is also now figuring in smaller, specialty projects that just were not possible before. “One customer came to us with panels of lenticular stock for their project,” he shares. “We printed white on the panel so when someone moves around it, only the parts of the image they want them to see are visible.”

For an auto client, Archway spot printed white on chrome silver paper, so the color of the car printed on top of it really shines, but the underlying color shows through only where wanted.

“We’re showing our customers what we can do with white, and they’re starting to come up with ideas on their own,” he says.