Can You Print in White Ink?

The alternatives for printing in white

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Very few commercial print shops can print white ink on dark paper successfully. Those professional print houses that can, usually charge handsomely for the service.

If you are looking for the effect of white ink on dark paper, then you have options, but using white ink usually is not one of best options. 

What's So Difficult About Using White Ink?

Most inks used in offset printing are translucent, and a translucent white ink cannot cover a dark color paper.

Even if your print shop prints with an opaque white ink, multiple applications are necessary for sufficient coverage, which bumps up the cost of a print project astronomically.

For example, envision yourself painting a room white that had previously been painted a dark color. The white paint has to have good covering with several coats or your white room will be darkened by the underlying paint. 

Adding even more to the price is the considerable time on the part of the print shop staff that is spent cleaning the printing press to remove all traces of other ink colors that would muddy the white ink.

Alternatives to White Ink Printing

There are acceptable alternatives to offset printing using white ink. You can print in reverse, use silver ink, use white foil, or screen printing. What follows is a closer look at those options.

Print the Dark Color in Reverse

You can approach the printing project from a different angle.

You can print the dark color in reverse, which means when you want an element to print white, you reversed (or “knocked out”) the type from the background. That is, you did not print anything within the letterforms, just around them as a background. In essence, "printing in white" is the absence of any ink.

If your design includes white elements—for example, a white heart on a red background—only the red is printed and the white heart is the paper showing through. This option is much less expensive to print.

Mix White Ink and Silver

A near-white ink effect that provides adequate coverage can be achieved by mixing silver ink with opaque white ink. The downfall here is that not all print shops provide this service, and the cost can be much higher than regular printing.

Use White Foil

Another option for getting white color on the page is using white foil stamping to get the effect you want. Foils come in many colors and textures including metallic, gloss, and matte finishes. An opaque white gloss or matte finish mimics the look of paint or white ink, or you can achieve special effects with pearlescent, off-white, and silvery foils. Professional printing houses usually have foil processing options. They may have special requirements in preparing your artwork for foil stamping or embossing. This service usually has a premium cost attached to it as well.

Try Screen Printing and Flexography White Inks

Screen printing and flexography methods often used to print on garments and plastics use opaque white inks.

You can explore those printing options for your project when you need to print white ink. In some cases, screen printing has applications other than just textile printing.

White Ink From a Desktop Printer

Epson sells a white print cartridge for use with its inkjet printers. This option might work for small print runs on your home printer, but the cost of the white ink cartridge is much higher than typical ink cartridges.