Black Paper: White Vs. Silver Inks

Here is an image comparison of “opaque” white ink to silver ink. We did this little letterpress test to illustrate why opaque ink really isn’t opaque.

_0003_whitetwice_vs_silvertwice

Note: The small type in these images is about 4 point serif type.

We offer letterpress services to designers around the country and are constantly asked to print white ink on black paper. You can see above that it does not look crisp and bright like you might expect it to.  The conversation we have with designers goes something like this:

-  Can I have white ink printed on my black paper?

Yes, but it will not be opaque like you might expect.

-  What will it look like?

Sort of whitish blue and blotchy and with a bit of ink squeeze on the edges.

-  Oh, why doesn’t it just print white?

Opaque white ink for letterpress and offset printing is actually not very opaque.

-  Why is there ink squeeze?

A thicker film of ink must be run on press to achieve any sort of opacity. When the ink is run thick on letterpress, you get ink squeezing out at the edge of the artwork.

-  Can you do anything to get it to print up better?

We can run the paper through twice. The first pass is run with almost no ink and heavy impression. The second pass is run with heavy ink and just a kiss impression. This allows the white ink to sit right on the surface of the paper. It is not a very nice bright white, more of a blueish white.

-  Does twice through the press mean I’ll pay more?

Of course.

-  What do you recommend?

Print a metallic ink. Unlike opaque white ink, metallic ink is actually opaque. One hit of metallic ink can get good coverage on dark colored stock. A double pass of the metallic ink can even offer a nice sheen.

-  How about yellow or pink, will that work on black paper?

Nope, this goes for all inks of a lighter color printing on darker colored stock. The stock affects the color of the ink. Colors printing on dark colored papers will not be opaque.

-  How can I know what my ink color will look like printed on a colored paper.

We recommend using the “multiple” filter in Adobe Illustrator. It isn’t a perfect match but does give a good approximation.

-  Is there another printing method that can print opaque white?

Silkscreen Printing – but small details can suffer.

Foil Stamping – but small details can suffer.

Engraving – but the size and nature of the artwork is limited. And the cost is $$$.

-  Can you engrave it for me?

We do only letterpress printing services and some small foil stamping work. We do not do engraving. We partner with another vendor for engraving services when there is engraving combined with letterpress printing.

-  Hmm, maybe metallic ink will work for me…

Great, we are glad you understand!


    • When you say “small foil stamping,” what exactly do you mean by small?

    • We can do business cards or a portion of a letterhead. When it gets bigger than that and the project also involves letterpress, we handle the outsourcing of foiling to another vendor partner to help us produce the project.

    • Regarding non-white colors – have you tried two-pass method whereby the first pass is with metallic ink and second pass is with, say, yellow, over it ? I.e. the silver ink creates an opaque foundation and the target color is printed on top of it.

    • Yes, two passes – the first with a metallic base – affords more ink density. However, that still doesn’t make it a _bright_ white. And it requires a full dry back of the first color. (Which adds production time and cost.) But yes, it can be done with a bit more opacity that way.

    • I WANT TO PRINT ON BLACK PAPER, USING INK JET PRINTER. IS THERE A SILVER METALLIC INK/PIGMENT CARTRIDGE AVAILABLE?
      AKHIL

    • Not that we know of. But hey, we’re better at questions about analog technology rather than digital.

    • What is the black stock you’ve used here?