Finding the right ink

Water-based pigment and dye inks are other options for wide-format printing. After the ink is printed, the water is extracted from it by using heat and/or forced air to dry the graphic. These inks provide excellent performance on a wide variety of media, strong printhead durability, enhanced fade resistance for indoor applications and intense, vibrant graphics with a large colour gamut.

When printing on fabric substrates, dye sublimation inks are a great option, eliminating the traditional need for intermediary heat transfer paper. And as these inks are made up of tiny particles, each less than 100 nanometres across, there is virtually no possibility of printhead clogging. Dye sublimation inks are generally durable for indoor applications.

Minimizing costs
With the increasing level of competition in today’s digital wide-format printing sector, it is important not only to use the right ink to ensure print quality, but to find it at the right cost to ensure profitability. Like other businesses, sign shops and PSPs survive strong competition by squeezing value out of their operations. So, all things being equal, the best ink is one that can be used for the highest number of jobs at the lowest possible price point.

In this context, there has been much debate over whether to use printer manufacturers’ specified inks—typically referred to as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) inks—or to consider inks formulated by third-party developers.

One of the keys to success in today’s wide-format printing market is the ability to produce vibrant colours.

One of the keys to success in today’s wide-format printing market is the ability to produce vibrant colours.

The ultimate ink?
As wide-format graphic applications continue to grow in popularity, more businesses will embrace digital inkjet printing to diversify their product and service offerings. And besides producing straightforward banners and display graphics, some wide-format machines offer cutting capabilities, enabling their operators to more easily produce decals, labels, window graphics, vehicle wraps and other signage.

Whenever considering a new market, however, it is important to research and investigate various options carefully. A business should consider its existing customers, asking them about their wide-format graphic needs. If it makes sense to move forward, after determining the technical requirements for printing conditions, processes and substrates, it is time to find an ink that can deliver optimal results for discerning customers.

New applications are constantly being introduced to the wide-format printing sector, so ink manufacturers must stay knowledgeable, proactive and innovative to keep up with changes and offer their customers what they need. There may be no single, ultimate wide-format ink, as the industry is always evolving and developing further, but there are certainly many products available to meet current demands.

Tom Sheehan is the wide-format ink specialist for Van Son Holland Ink, which manufactures inks for a variety of presses. For more information, contact him via e-mail at or visit

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