Inkjet’s Favorite Drink

If you are like me, you had a favorite drink growing up.

It was 90-95% water, came in various colors and flavors, was inexpensive, easy to make and was available in two kinds: sugar and sugar-free.

Although it is not a simple mixture, nor recommended to drink or inexpensive, the new revolution of high-speed inkjet printing ink reminds me of my favorite childhood drink—Kool-Aid.

Most aqueous dye or pigment ink is 90-95% water. When jetted on uncoated papers, the ink “dives” into the fibers of the sheet and dry by absorption. When this ink dives, the colorant of the ink takes on the paper color, which dulls and dirties up the printed color.

A large percentage of aqueous inkjet machines are purchased for the direct mail and transactional/ billing markets, which require a very low cost sheet. Uncoated offset and opaque grades certainly fit this cost niche, but are not suitable for heavy coverage, corporate identity or color matching.

Creative designers who are required to use uncoated paper grades for these markets are working in Adobe Creative Suite programs to a larger color space, uncoated SWOP. Aqueous dye and pigment inks—“Kool-Aid”—printed on uncoated paper grades produce a much smaller color gamut than uncoated SWOP, thus causing quite a bit of confusion in the creative community.

Not having a smaller color space than uncoated SWOP makes it difficult to design and proof properly, let alone have predictable color expectations of the final printed piece. Soft proofing using the machine’s output profile or device link helps with certain color shifts, but absorption causes other issues with predictable color and print quality that is not easy to view on the monitor.

Until there is an inkjet fluid that dries quickly and stays on the uncoated paper surface, designers wanting to design to the machine color space will have to require the printer to “fingerprint” the machine on the uncoated paper, as well as request the output profile for soft proofing. We can call this proofing profile “Uncoated Kool-Aid.”

Mary Schilling works with all the elements of the digital process-from conventional and inkjet technologies to fluids and substrates-and provides technical support to print providers on optimizing print quality while lowering total print cost. Understanding the dynamics of the digital marketplace, and the incredible growth and advancements in inkjet technology, Mary provides customers with print quality, color gamut, fluid consumption, machine and print quality analysis, utilizing G7 methodology. She also works with inkjet fluid and machine developers to align paper development of new, innovative inkjet substrates. As the owner of Schilling Inkjet Consulting, she consults with fluid and inkjet machinery suppliers and end users on how to improve color and print quality for paper, plastics, metal, fabric and glass with UV, solvent and aqueous inkjet fluids. Mary received Innovator of the Year awards from the Flexographic Technical Association and from Xplor International for her efforts in closing the gap between document printing and digital packaging. She is G7 certified and a member of the IDEAlliance Print Properties Committee.
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