Each passing year, the speed, quality and cost of digital printing has improved, but what hasn’t changed is all digital printed colors are limited to the combination of mixing cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) pigments.

While few printers have expanded color gamuts, they still remain limited. Arguably the most important of them all is the ability to print the color white. Technically speaking, white is the absence of color, but at the same time, you can’t help but feel like something is missing when it’s not included in signage, paintings and drawings. Many buyers of print don’t realize this limitation unless they need their retail signage printed on a clear material or a colored substrate, which is when white becomes the most important. White can be used as a primer behind the CMYK colors to help them appear washed out, as well as creating contrast on dark or clear materials.

Here are a few of the main reasons why screen printing is typically a preferable printing alternative to digital printing for touches or broad strokes of white.

Color spectrum narrower with digital printing
As we’ve noted here before, CMYK is the color combination that enables digital printers to recreate almost every hue. However, screen printing can print in CMYK, but also has much more flexibility, which typically makes it a better option for projects that entail a greater degree of customization. Most importantly, screen printing can print particular pigments loaded into the printing press such as a custom mixed Pantone® color, clear coats, glitters, fluorescent colors and white.

“White takes awhile longer to produce.”

Digital printers are very good at printing CMYK and some have the capability of printing white ink, but it comes with some considerations. For starters, digitally printing white usually is a second step that isn’t done at the same time as the CMYK printing, which makes long jobs last longer, doubling or even tripling the time it would take were it not included. This is because the white ink is often used as a primer that must go behind the CMYK image. Using a printing vendor that can screen print white ink can accelerate the production process and find real production cost savings.

Screen printing white is a common and extremely cost effective solution for graphics printed on clear substrates like static clings or adhesive-backed vinyl for use on storefront window graphics that are to be installed indoors but face outdoors (second surface graphics). In order to keep the windows functional and naturally translucent, white is needed for designs, slogans and lettering to appear more prominently on these backgrounds. Text and images will get lost without the contrast that only white ink can produce. Because white ink is typically less common among digital printers and when it is, takes longer to reproduce, screen printing is usually a smarter solution for efficiency, speed and quality purposes on larger projects.

White printing in digital is possible
Now, does this mean that white and digital are like oil and water? Not exactly. And not at NGS Printing, in particular.

A classic example is our Fuji Acuity F printer. We were the first installation in the United States and Canada, and the results speak for themselves. One of which is white, as unlike many other digital printers, the Acuity F can print in it. Going digital may actually be preferable to screen for jobs that aren’t as grand in scale, requiring a few dozen sheets, for instance. However, the larger the job becomes, the longer it takes, especially when more white is included. What is most important is that you are aware of all the options available and have printing vendors that can offer solutions.

Aside from contrast and depth, white imagery evokes certain emotions in signage, including peace and safety, according to research from Monash University. But when it comes to cost savings, efficiency and affordability, going with screen printing can be your safest best. You can trust NGS Printing for a job well done – and on the first try. Contact us for your next project and we’ll go to work to produce in white at a price that’s right.