Digital printing has revolutionized the sign-making industry. It has enabled makers to print all kinds of media on a variety of materials, from stickers to garments to rigid textiles. While a large part of this change is owed to the tech in new machines, another important aspect is the ink used in digital printing.
This varies depending on your machine (if you’re using a Roland printer, it’s best to use Roland printer ink), the substrates you’re working with, and the type of media you’re printing, and greatly affects the quality and durability of your output. It’s therefore important to look for the best inks for your projects, and you can start with Airmark’s catalog of top-notch ink for a large-format printer.
Types of Digital Printing Ink
There are several types of digital printing ink for large-format images. Here’s a quick explainer of each one:
Inkjet ink uses ink in the form of colored pigments to form different images. These are typically mixed with various additives to keep the ink runny in its container (to prevent it from drying out).
Most large-format printers used solvent ink during the boom of digital printing because it was cheap and worked with a wide variety of materials. However, it was found that the fumes ejected by the ink negatively affected the health of those who worked with it.
As a result, solvent inks were reformulated into more eco-friendly versions, called ‘eco-solvent ink,’ which are a little less efficient than their past iteration. Still, this type of ink remains one of the most commonly used ones, especially because it works well with self-adhesive PVC.
UV-curable ink cures to a tough finish through a process called ‘polymerization,’ which allows it to withstand outdoor use. It used to only be limited to more rigid materials because it wasn’t as flexible, but modern formulations of UV-curable ink flex better, so they can be applied to more substrates. Note that the tech used in UV-curable ink, as well as in the machines that require them, often makes them more expensive.
Resin ink works by encapsulating the pigment in some form of plastic or resin (e.g. latex). The ink is cured through heat, which melts the plastic and allows it to adhere to the surface material. This also doubles as a layer of protection that enables resin rink to be a suitable choice for outdoor large-format printing jobs.
Aqueous ink uses dye or pigment as a colorant. They’re typically used as proofing devices for certain presses due to their wide color gamut and their ability to produce high-quality fine art applications. That said, this type of ink has poor weather or UV resistance, so it’s best used for prints that will only be displayed or used indoors.
Dye Sublimation Ink
Dye sublimation ink is water-based ink usually used for fabrics and textiles (with at least 70% polyester), which is common in exhibition and retail applications. While dye sublimation ink can be printed directly to garments, they’re typically printed to transfer paper, which is then heat-pressed with the fabric to bond the ink to its surface.
Choosing the Right Digital Printing Ink
Choosing the right digital printing ink can potentially make or break a digital printing project. Most digital printers come with specifications of the type (and even brand) of ink that you should be using with them; not doing so will produce poor print outputs and may damage your machine. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right digital printing ink:
Find ink with a formulation that will guarantee high-quality prints. You want something sure to deliver vibrant colors that adhere properly to the surface you’re working with.
Most printers only work with certain types or brands of ink, and it’s crucial that you only use a type that’s compatible with your machine. Check your device’s instruction manual to see the specifications before you choose your ink.
The type of ink used will also affect how long prints can last. If you need outputs that will stand the test of time, especially those that will be displayed outdoors, use ink that’s durable for such use.
Purchase Digital Printing Ink From Airmark
Airmark carries multiple types of digital printing ink suitable for Epson, Roland, and Summa equipment. Check out our catalog to find the right digital printing ink for your project!