Beyond CMYK: Exploring the World of Specialty Inks

Arquivo em: Map Printing / September 18, 2017

mapprintingFor those new to the printing arena, the wide variety of inks available tends to be somewhat surprising. Expecting a larger-scale version of a desktop printer, which produces prints using a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK), many are amazed at the intricacies of the printing process – and the variety of possibilities for tinkering with the design of their final piece.


Specialty Ink Possibilities for Your Map

There are a nearly endless array of specialty ink options for your map, each option as unique as your project. We’ll cover our most frequently used, available options here…

  • Hexachrome
    Also called 6-color process, hexachrome adds green and orange to CMYK process colors. The added shades result in prints that are cleaner and more vibrant than traditional 4-color process.
  • Pantone (PMS) Colors
    Also called spot colors, the Pantone Matching System (PMS) is used industry-wide to produce consistent color-matching. Varying from process colors, ink tones are similar to paint swatches at the local hardware store, with predetermined formulas to choose from for precise matching every time you print, no matter the locale. Because color is subjective, this takes the guesswork out. But it is not a straight substitute for CMYK printing. Like paint, each swatch produces a single color only. Overlapping does not provide the spectrum of 4-color process. Each color requires ‘cleanup’ before the addition of the next, adding time and cost. PMS colors are best used for logo/branding consistency, colors outside the realm of CMYK capabilities, and consistency and smooth coverage over large areas.
  • Metallic
    Combining metallic powders such as aluminum and bronze mixed with varnish, metallic inks can add a unique luster to your design. There are two options: Leafing inks for added shine (but increased rub-off), and non-leafing inks with slightly less shine (and less rub-off).
  • Fluorescent Ink
    Colored fluorescent inks add attention-grabbing color in normal light, and a unique glow under UV lighting.
  • White Ink
    Unique and unexpected, white ink on rich, colored paper makes information pop off the page, and used as a background color, allows for the printing of vibrant imagery on colored stock.
  • Enhanced Black
    For a deeper, richer black and added contrast, a second round of black ink may be applied, or black added over 50% cyan for a similar effect.
  • Fade-resistant inks:
    If maps such as large, wall-hanging varieties, fade-resistant inks offer added protection against UV sun fading.
  • Gel Inks
    The shiny finish of gel inks is often used to create the look of water or ‘wet’ effects on a page.
  • High Density Options
    Like softer ‘puff’ inks, these provide a harder, raised texture.
  • UV Ink
    As conventional inks dry, images lose their intensity. This effect, called ‘dry back,’ can be reduced with ultraviolet (UV) inks, which require a specialty press. Instantly dried or ‘cured’ under built-in UV lights on the press, the reduction in drying time results in less dot gain, eliminating the need for varnishes and coatings to produce sharper images.
  • Highly-Reactive Ultraviolet (HUV) Ink
    Faster, less labor intensive, and more environmentally friendly than UV inks, HUV inks require minimal light exposure and energy to produce crisp, vibrant color results. Unlike the UV process, which requires spray-on powders (and produces rougher tactile results), HUV inks allow the substrate to retain its original texture while still producing fast, high-quality prints. Paired with environmentally friendly FSC papers, this process allows for the production of some of the most eco-friendly maps on the market.


Should You Journey into the Specialty Ink Arena?

Like each facet of the map design and printing process, venturing into the world of specialty inks will take added time and effort, as well as involve additional cost. The payback, however, can be unimaginable. The finished results of maps produced using specialty inks deliver striking results, earning a ‘wow’ factor you just can’t accomplish with traditional CMYK. Just be sure to discuss these options with your printer in advance, before beginning the design process, to avoid any digital file/color translation snafus.


Discover more ways to make your map stand out, from substrates and specialty ink to folding techniques. Avoid unexpected results and gain unparalleled quality with the help of the experts at MapPrinter. Contact us before setting off on your next project today.