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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

When white ink emerged as an option on a new generation of wide-format digital presses, early adopters embraced the technology as a way of differentiating themselves from competitors. As they’ve explored its applications, new opportunities have emerged, creatively and commercially, putting bright and colorful graphics and effects where doing so just wasn’t feasible or cost-effective before.

Today, the novelty of printing with white ink has worn off. In fact, it could be argued that having white-ink capabilities is now a necessity for print providers aspiring to be a full-service partner in addressing clients’ graphics needs.

The six profiled shops that follow have found success with white ink. As one shop indicates, “We’re shocked by how much white we’re doing.”

A way with wood
When Dali Decals ( launched in 2008 in Jacksonville, Florida, its focus was primarily on custom printing of large-format vinyl decals for cars and interiors. As satisfied customers inquired about additional print services, the company expanded its capabilities and it brought in-house Epson and Roland large-format printers, and, in mid-2012, the shop added an EFI Rastek H652 (now branded the EFI H652) hybrid UV printer.

“Adding the UV printer really broadened our product base and our capabilities,” reports David Okun, Dali’s executive director. He credits the printer’s white-ink option as a key gain for his operation.

“I don’t think we would have brought in a UV printer if it couldn’t print with white ink,” Okun elaborates. “Without white, you’re really limited in choices (of material). We’re always printing with white now – onto acrylic, wood, and metal. Without it, I don’t see us printing on those materials with the same results.”

One primary use at Dali has been putting color photographs on clear acrylic, reverse printing the images, then backing the images with 100-percent white. Customers don’t necessarily understand the method, but they do like the resultant look.

This type of work has figured into many Dali projects. For instance: the US Navy’s Navy Entomology Center of Excellence at the nearby US naval air station. There, the Dali team filled a 25-foot hall with photos and graphics to tell its story.

Other projects have combined prints on acrylic, with standard sign boards transformed via white ink to resemble pricier wood panels with some distinctive grain.