An introduction to White ink - Solvent, Latex or UV (Review)

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An introduction to White ink - Solvent, Latex or UV (Review)

May 01, 2024 7 min read

FULL walkthrough video available HERE.

As manufacturers respond to the demands of their client base, the facility to introduce White ink to your next Printer has steadily become more affordable and less pain-staking, leading to more print departments looking to bring the service in-house.

If you’re looking to invest in a large-format Printer capable of printing white ink, you’ve most likely come across a wide range of different technologies, brands and variations. In this Blog Post we aim to compare three of the most recognised technologies in the signage industry - SOLVENT, LATEX and UV - in order to better understand what benefits each ink can bring to the table.

So let’s get stuck in… first off, why would you consider introducing white ink into your Printer?

White ink is useful because it’s opaque, whereas the standard colours that make up a Printer are transparent. By printing an opaque White ink onto a clear or even a pre-coloured substrate, it creates a solid foundation for standard colours to stand out - without the addition of a White layer, standard colours can easily look washed out and faint against a window or dark background.

For these reasons, the addition of white ink is typically favoured by sign makers and print service providers for producing window graphics applied to the inside of a window.

Without White ink, this would typically be replicated by printing to a clear vinyl in reverse and applying a layer of white vinyl over the top. This is a labour-intensive process though, increases media waste, requires a separate laminator to sandwich the two vinyls together and limits the level of intricacy and depth you can add to a design.

Solvent Printers configured with White ink

As we’ve covered in previous posts, Solvent still remains extremely popular in the sign making and vehicle graphics industry, and for good reason. Solvent Printers are renowned for their wide colour gamut, vibrancy and quality, which for now at least, remains unmatched by Latex or UV ink. As a result, Solvent is still a go-to solution for clients who need to achieve specific Pantones, commonly required for commercial graphics and branding.

A high percentage of Pantones can still be accomplished with Latex and UV ink, but high contrast colours (reds, oranges, greens for example) are harder to match.

Moving on to the option of White ink, however, this has historically been quite temperamental in Solvent Printers. While Solvent technology continues to grow and improve, Solvent White ink still suffers from being:

  • More expensive to run due to a higher cost per millilitre and due to more frequent cleaning cycles

  • The White ink also requires more agitation than other inks, and as a result demands more maintenance to reduce the risk of clogs and blocked nozzles

  • Running White ink is a slow printing process due to the nature of the ink and the time needed to cure properly.

  • Ignoring the print speed, users would still be unable to offer same-day turnaround due to the ink needing to ‘gas off’ appropriately (usually 24 hours) before it’s cut, laminated or applied to avoid shrinkage, curling or adhesion issues.

  • Finally, Solvent White ink is less opaque than the alternatives, and as a result, less punchy when presented on a darker surface

As a result of the points we’ve flagged, we would typically advise against Solvent as a White solution, but for those who decide to introduce their Solvent Printer to White ink, our typical advice would be to run the White ink regularly to help with circulation. If not, there’s a higher risk of clogged nozzles and printhead issues.

With that in mind, the rest of this post focuses on the features and differences between Latex and UV, both of which are instant cure technologies, allowing you to offer clients a same-day turnaround.

Mimaki Solvent with White ink

Mimaki CJV150 Printer / Cutter four sizes available

Mimaki CJV300-160Plus Printer / Cutter high-production

Mimaki CJV330-160 Printer / Cutter high-production

Mimaki JV100-160 Printer

Mimaki JV330-160 Printer high-production

Roland Solvent with White ink

Roland VG3 Printer / Cutter two sizes available


Advantages of UV (configured with White ink)

UV has long been the more popular route for sign makers expanding into Window Graphics.

The UV range is available in multiple different sizes to suit the user (these are typically 30, 54 and 64-inches) and is also available at different tiers to suit lower volume and high production print studios as well as clients wanting to offer Spot UV effects or print to an unconventional substrate. 

UV is cured immediately without any heat using permanent LED Lamps, resulting in much lower energy consumption and the ability to print on more heat-sensitive stock. It’s also an extremely versatile ink, which can adhere to virtually any substrate so long as it feeds through and isn’t too porous.

For both of these reasons, UV can be used to print on a much wider range of weird and wonderful materials compared to Solvent and Latex, which are more reliant on the material being ‘digitally certified’ and made for printing.

UV also has the fastest production speed available when printing white ink. Other technologies do still stand out when it comes to your typical colour printing, but in White is a key component for you multi-layer print speeds are a step ahead.

These Printers are also available with an integrated Vinyl Cutter to reduce investment as well as floorspace – this can be especially important if you’re working in a confined print room and don’t have space for two separate machines.

Because UV ink is cured as it prints, it is capable of printing any number of layers in order to achieve textures, braille effects and unique double-sided graphics. With the addition of an optional Clear Varnish, you can also offer Spot UV effects with a high-contrast gloss or matte finish to make certain areas of your graphics really stand out.

Mimaki UV with White ink

Mimaki UJV100 Printer

Mimaki UCJV300 Printer / Cutter three sizes available

Mimaki UCJV330 Printer / Cutter high-production

Roland UV with White ink

Roland MG Printer / Cutter two sizes available

Roland LG Printer / Cutter three sizes available, high-production

Advantages of Latex (configured with White ink)

If we turn our attention to Latex, one of the most valuable assets is the ink itself. Latex ink is a water-based, non-toxic ink that is completely odourless with the lowest carbon footprint. This environmentally conscious approach is often preferred by schools / hospitals / government bodies, especially for interior displays, as there are no restrictions or odours to worry about.

Replaceable printheads remove the need to perform regular cleaning procedures, which are usually required to maintain a permanent printhead, which is at risk of ink build-up and blockages over time. With a replaceable printhead, these can be simply popped in and out when there are any signs of a drop in quality.

The White printheads can also be removed and ‘parked’ when they’re not being used for prolonged lengths of time, reducing unnecessary waste that would otherwise take place during cleaning cycles.

Latex ink has a very high elasticity, making it an ideal solution for vehicle graphics and full wraps.

The ink can be layered and is capable of printing up to five layers to achieve unique double-sided graphics, or three layers (also known as a sandwich layer) in order to present the same graphic on both sides.

Although a separate Vinyl Cutter would be required to produce decals and stickers, the Latex Printers are front-loading, which means the Printer doesn’t need additional space for rear access and can be positioned up against a wall.

Finally, Latex ink claims to offer the ‘Whitest White’ ink available, which isn’t susceptible to yellowing over time.

HP Latex 4th Generation with White ink

HP Latex 630W Printer

HP Latex 630W Print and Cut Solution

HP Latex 700W Printer high-production

HP Latex 800W Printer high-production with Bulk ink


UV vs Latex - the results

From a visual perspective, the difference between the UV and Latex will depend heavily on the substrate and types of graphics you plan to print.

UV ink will sit on the surface of the material, enabling textured finishes but also leaving a consistent matt finish that isn’t to everyone’s taste - as an example, if you were printing to a self-adhesive Gloss vinyl, the printed areas would appear Matt, while the unprinted areas of the vinyl remain glossy.

Latex ink also sits on the surface, but the water used to carry the colour pigments and latex particles is evaporated under high heat, leaving a thinner layer that adopts the finish of the substrate.

If the natural finish of UV ink isn’t something you can live with, it can be cloaked by applying a gloss over-laminate film to your printed vinyl, which would require a separate roll-fed Laminator. Over-laminates also increase the longevity of prints, especially those being displayed outdoors.

Whether it’s Solvent, Latex or UV, un-laminated prints exposed to the elements are likely to start fading after 9-12 months as a result of UV exposure and weathering - the application of over-laminate can increase this from three years all the way up to seven years (depending on the grade of vinyl and laminate used).

If you expect your main application to be window graphics, the finish of UV shouldn’t matter too much given most window displays are printed in reverse and applied to the inside of the window. The matt finish of UV ink won’t be recognisable through glass or clear acrylic and plays no part in the overall quality or durability of the print.


I hope this Blog was useful, but if you have any further questions please get in touch with our Hardware Team.

We are an authorised UK reseller based in Preston and have access to Solvent, Latex and UV Printers from HP, Roland and Mimaki. We are always happy to discuss your specific workflow and give our honest feedback on which solution is likely to tick the most boxes.

If you’d be keen to put any of the technologies to the test, contact us today to arrange a discussion and one-to-one demonstration in our showroom.

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