There are several varieties of inks available for large format printing. Each type has its own features and purpose. To get the most of your large format printing materials, understanding the different types of inks is important.
These are pigment inks that contain dyes. They enable printing on different types of uncoated vinyls (used to create vehicle graphics, banners, billboards, adhesive decals). Solvent inks are oil- based solutions that are resistant to fading, UV rays and water for at least 5 to 7 years. This quality makes them ideal for outdoor banners. Solvent inks are also comparatively inexpensive.
Hard solvent ink provides a greater durability than mild or eco-solvent inks. However, it contains high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and requires specialized venting at the printing stage. Solvent inks also take a long time to dry.
Eco-solvent inks are made from refined mineral oil. They have gained popularity in recent times for their low cost, durability, colour quality and lack of toxic fumes. It doesn’t require special ventilation like solvent inks. However, it does require a longer time to dry compared to hard solvent ink. Also, the durability is not as strong as solvent inks. They can be removed with glass cleaners and alcohol. Eco-solvent inks are ideal for trade show graphics, Point of Sale (POS) and Point of Purchase (POP) banners, vinyls, wall graphics and fabrics with inkjet receptive coating.
These inks are generally water-based. Produced by a process called dye sublimation, aqueous inks are the most common type of inks used for large format printing. They come in two varieties – Dye and UV. Aqueous dye ink enables detailed, smooth images as the process involves very small dots of colourants. However, dye ink is not resistant to water and UV light. It’s suitable for short term pop up displays and roller stands for indoors. It can even fade if exposed to strong fluorescent bulbs, so take care when choosing when to implement it.
Aqueous UV ink is UV light resistant, so it doesn’t fade easily. The colourant particles are not as small as the dye ink but it still delivers high-quality images. Also, the texture of the ink is rough. When light falls on the surface of the image, the light is scattered, leading to a muted colour appearance. It can be used to print window banners, POS/POP displays, trade show banners and indoor signage.
Aqueous inks are expensive compared to the other types of inks. The printing mediums for aqueous inks require lamination or inkjet-receptive coating.
UV Curable Inks
After the printing is done, UV curable inks are exposed to UV radiation (LED light or mercury arc lamp) which then breaks the ink into liquid first, and then transforms it into a solid film on the substrate. Although the ink is exotic and expensive, the amount of ink required for the printing job is less. They dry out very fast. UV curable inks are perfect for printing on vinyl, glass, wood, and metal. However, some of these substrates may require a coating of primer so that the ink adheres properly.
They are the latest water-based pigmented inks. There are no VOCs and the printed materials can be immediately laminated once out from the printer. They are used on polyester, vinyl, paper and fabrics. They produce durable prints that can last for up to 3 years. However, latex inks require pre and post print heater and consume higher energy than other inkjets.
Consider what you want to achieve with your printed materials rather than only focusing on your budget. When you know about each of the ink types, you can make a more informed decision.