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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

   The 4-Minute Guide to Designing with White Ink

                                                                                 By Haidan Dong


Designing with white ink is like vectorizing—it takes a little extra work but the end result is worth it. You may have seen white ink used in designs for food labels, business cards printed on a special stock, or clear vinyl decals. This article is dedicated to helping you see why and how you can use white ink to enhance your designs and produce beautiful results.

Why Design with White Ink

There are many reasons why graphic designers create print artwork with white ink. The two main reasons are:

1. To produce white areas on non-white stocks

Sometimes printing with white ink is essential because white is part of a company’s logo or campaign colors. Therefore, to produce white areas on stocks such as a silver or transparent label, the design requires white ink.

2. To help other colors pop on non-white stocks (as a support color)

When CMYK colors print on non-white stocks such as brown kraft paper, the end result is that you may be able to see the stock show a little bit underneath the colors. If this is not what you’re looking for and you want your CMYK colors to appear more opaque, you can add white ink underneath the CMYK to stop the stock from showing through.

Why the White Ink Printing Process is Special

Printing white ink requires a different process than printing CMYK colors. This is because white does not get printed in a standard CMYK-only workflow. When you design a CMYK file to print on regular white cardstock, the areas without any color values (C0% M0% Y0% K0%) don’t get any ink, so the cardstock shows through as simply white. 

This means that the white needs to be its own ink (in addition to any CMYK colors you use in the artwork).

As this is a printing process that is more out-of-the-norm, you would need to first find a print provider that can print white ink. We recommend The Print Cafe of LI, that offers special prices to graphic designers.

How to Create a File with White In

Ready to start designing a file for white ink printing? Different printers have different requirements such as:

  1. Using spot color for white ink areas
  2. Using a different layer that contains all your white ink areas
  3. Using a separate file containing only the white ink areas

Note: Some print workflows require specific naming of your file in order to work, so you may need to name your white spot color, layer or file a certain way. Always check their requirements before submitting your file.

SinaLite, for example, requires the white ink areas to be a spot color with a particular name. Download their free white ink setup guide here:

Tips for Designing with White Ink

  • We recommend using Adobe Illustrator to design files for printing. You can, however, use any program that exports files as PDFs for printing.
  • While designing, you may wish to set your spot color for the white ink as a more visible color to help you visualize.
  • Even if your printer doesn’t require a separate white layer, it’s still a good idea to create a separate layer for them, as it makes working on them easier.
  • Here are a few things you should check for before submitting a file that contains white ink areas:
  1. Overprint settings (check with your printer for their requirements)
  2. Knockout settings
  3. All strokes and fills accounted for
  4. Your order specs indicate white ink printing
  5. File contains CMYK only plus your spot color if your printer requires it
  • We recommend using Adobe Acrobat Pro (not Reader) to check your file prior to submitting it for printing.Need some fresh ideas? Contact us today to get started! 516-561-1468 or FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ANY OF OUR MARKETING PRODUCTS GO TO: www.printcafeli.com


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