What kind of inks are used in daily applications of products?

Written by: Anthony Creek

Always wondered what inks are used in the products you touch everyday or see?

Usually for households you are printing paper that is called waterbased pigment ink. This is ink that you use with a photo printer. Offices use this too. This is the worst printer to use if you are just printing paper or copies because its so expensive. If you are printing words on a paper and not photos you are better off buying a laser printer, because it uses toner and toner is cheap to buy and refill. You can also refill your photo printer with ink but its much more costly and requires a little bit of skill to setup.You also have to remember that not all refillable ink has the same quality, so if your colors come off its because the pigments are not close enough to the same color as the OEM’s (original Equipment manufacturer’s).

Solvent ink is ink that is used for outdoor products like banners, vinyl tile and signs. Once the printer shoots it out onto the material printed on it almost dries immediately. It is used in outdoor products because it can hold its strength, durability and light fastness when it comes to being in the sun. There are modified solvent printers that can print on thicker objects or objects that are not flat. They usually print on things like golf balls, wood, glass, or even laptop notebooks.

Sublimation ink is ink that used to put on times that have a special coating that adheres to the ink. The coating is pre-applied to the items that people “Sublimate” onto. The paper has chemicals as well to make sure that the bonding of the ink on the paper bonds with the chemicals that the special coating has on it as well. Anyhow you can make all kinds of things with sublimation ink like coffee mugs, polyester shirts that are light colored (not black) mouse pads, plates. After printed on paper you can grab your paper, tape it to a product like a mug and put it in a special heat press for 4 minutes and after you will have a your design on a mug. You can usually find these products already pre-coated anywhere so you don’t necessarily have to pre-coat everything, only things that aren’t the normal sold items in this market.   

DTG Ink is basically another term for Textile ink. DTG stands for Direct to Garment, which is the type of machines that use this ink. The printers can be a modified photo printer that are gutted out in the middle to fit a t shirt through. Its much more complicated than this but this is the easiest way to put it. You can buy bulk DTG Ink or bagged, some manufacturers sell either ones depending on the type of machine that they sell. Some even have cartridges. The ink is sticky and dries fast so this is another reason bagged and cartridge forms are available (so air doesn’t get in the cartridge or bag and dry it up, which can cause clogging). There is another chemical called pretreatment, which is basically a pre-spray to make the ink adhere to the shirt. A brand called Image Armor Pretreatment makes the chemical.

Flexo inks are bascially inks that are used for packaging. ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING in a grocery store has flexo inks printed on them. This is a high production, low cost ink. As long as the colors are close for the printer, its good enough. Its so cheap and not cost effective sometimes for a company to ship that they often allow for the consumer to make their own ink but pay a royalty for the formula based on the volume made.


I hope this helps your understanding of the different types of inks and what they are used for.