Unlocking colourful possibilities of printing with white inks

by FESPA | 01/04/2016
Unlocking colourful possibilities of printing with white inks

White ink provides the opportunity to expand digital print and inkjet offering to include dark and unusual substrates and special effects.

A number of wide to superwide printers today include white ink as an additional colour enabling a new range of applications. However, it is important to understand the capabilities and limitations of white ink.

Many printers enable white ink as a pre‐ or post‐ colour only. This means that white ink can only be laid down in pre‐flood and spot or post‐flood and spot modes and are limited to two layers in a single pass. So the resulting range of applications can be limited

White makes way for new market opportunities

It is possible to use white ink in a variety of useful and creative ways—it can be printed as a solid area or applied as a tint or gradation. While some intended uses require no prepress intervention, some preparation is necessary for spot and shape white applications.

The prepress procedures are not complicated, but they do need to be done in a specific way to ensure success at the printer. “White under” can be used as a pre‐coat on coloured substrate. White undercoats allow use of a broader range of coloured and creative substrates.


This is a 3-layer print on neon green substrate. White ink is used under CMYK as a base and white ink shapes add creative detail.

“White over” as a post‐coat when printing on clear material is ideal for backlit printing. The white ink acts as a diffuser, spreading the light evenly for brighter, more evenly illuminated back‐lit displays.

Shape white printing as a pre‐ or post‐coat gives colours extra pop while allowing metallic or mirrored substrates to show through for striking results. Shape white enables the ability to utilise a greatly extended range of creative materials and substrates.


In Spot white mode, white ink prints as a 7th colour. In this example, the dress is printed in white ink on the metallic substrate. White areas in the file (0% CMYK) allow the metallic substrate to show through.

Dual Day/Night Applications

The following is a variation of the normal day/night backlit print. By creating a different file for the back layer, the front layer’s appearance is enhanced or changed when backlit. A white flood separates the two files and is designated at the printer.


The car example shows a schematic drawing when the lightbox is turned on

Dual Day/Night, “Hidden Message”

This technique can be used to show a hidden message and different graphic elements.

Two separate images were created from the same master file. The image on the left is the image that is visible during the daytime. The image on the right contains shading, colour gradients and text.

When backlit, the black areas block the light, darkening those areas to create a more dramatic look. The knockout text allows the light to come through, making it visible.

The middle layer is a white flood designated at the printer for maximum white ink opacity between the layers.

Dual Day/Night, Colour Change

This illustrates how this technique can easily be used to visually alter an image and create a colour change.


Two separate images were created from the same master file. The image on the left shows the model wearing “daytime” make-up.

The image on the right shows the model wearing “night-time” make-up. In the final print, backlighting the image adds density, changes the appearance of her make-up and alters the background colour.

The middle layer is a white flood designated at the printer for maximum white ink opacity between the layers.

All the subjects covered in this article can be reviewed in more detail by visiting the Fiery XF or Fiery ProServer online help resource within the Fiery XF client. 

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