Can You Print in White Ink?

Yes, but an alternative might be better

What to Know

  • Best options: Mix silver ink with opaque white ink, use white foil stamping, or print dark colors with the type reversed on white paper.
  • Epson sells a white ink cartridge for use with its printers, but the cost is higher than typical ink cartridges.
  • For garments and plastics, use screen printing or flexography.

This article explains how to print white ink and other alternatives for printing white.

White Ink on a Desktop Printer

Epson sells a white ink 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.

Print the Dark Color in Reverse

Approach the print or design project from a different angle. You can print the dark color with the type reversed on white paper, which means that when you want an element to print white, you reverse or "knock out" the white type or element from the background. No ink is applied anywhere you want white, just around it 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. Obviously, this method won't work if the paper you use isn't white.

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, or 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, which are 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 textile printing.

Why It's So Difficult to Use White Ink

If you are looking for the effect of white ink on dark paper, you have options, but white ink is typically not one of them. Regardless of the method you choose, printing white is usually more expensive than printing other ink colors.

Few commercial print shops can print white ink on dark paper successfully. Those that do, charge handsomely for the service.

Most inks used in offset printing are translucent, and a translucent white ink cannot cover a dark color paper. Even if a print shop prints with opaque white ink, multiple applications are necessary for sufficient coverage, which increases the cost of a print project.

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

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

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