Wide Format Inkjet Printing: the pros and cons of different ink types.

Anyone in the business of digital wide format graphics or CAD printing will know that there is more to wide format printing than meets the eye. There are many different types of wide format printing, including different inks and printing processes which are each suited to different applications. The following is what we hope is a helpful guide as to the key differences, pros and cons of the 5 main types of inks used in wide format printing.


Dye Inks

These are water-based (or ‘aqueous’) inks with the colorant dissolved like sugar in water.

The advantage ofdye inks is that they offer high saturation, because the liquid ink is absorbed into the paper’s fibres.

However, these inks have low UV and Ozone stability, which means the ink will fade more easily if the printed item is exposed to sunlight. Also dye inks are not water-resistant.

Dye inks tend to be used for more basic applications such as printing CAD drawings or indoor posters.

Here are some of the wide format media from our range that is suitable for dye inks:

Aqueous-Based Pigmented Inks

These are also water-based inks, but the colorant is made of tiny, encapsulated particles (pigments) which are suspended in the liquid like chalk. When applied to paper, the tiny particles of colour sit on top of the paper instead of being absorbed into the paper’s fibres like dye inks.

Aqueous-based pigmented inks have high lightfastness and ozone resistance, and are generally water-resistant. However, they offer slightly lower saturation compared to dye inks.

Printers using aqueous-based pigmented inks often use more colours and graduations (up to twelve ink cartridges) in order to compensate for the lower brilliance and to improve overall print quality.

These inks are great for indoor posters and graphics, canvas prints and other fine art applications. They can also be used for short-term outdoor applications, or for long-term outdoor items if additional protection (e.g. lamination) is applied.

Here are some of our top-selling wide format media products for aqueous-based pigment inks:

Solvent Inks

These are also pigmented inks, but unlike the above, the liquid is chemical-based – i.e. solvent.

Solvent inks are more durable and than water-based inks, are waterfast, and can be applied to other materials such as uncoated vinyl and PVC, as well as paper, canvas and other synthetic films.

The disadvantage of solvent inks is the fact that they can be harmful to your health and the environment, due to the various gases released by the chemical-based liquid.

Solvent inks can be used for a wide range of both indoor and outdoor graphic and display applications, including outdoor posters, signs, banners and vehicle wraps. Due to the odour created by these chemical-based inks, they are unsuitable for some indoor applications such as food retailers.

Some of our most popular media for solvent inks include the following:

Latex Inks

Latex inks are like aqueous-based pigmented inks, however the difference is they also contain small particles of latex, which is a form of plastic. Once applied to paper, heat is used to evaporate away the water, leaving just the pigment and latex particles on the paper surface. At the same time, the heat activates, or ‘melts’, the latex particles and this encapsulates and binds the pigments to the surface.

Like solvent inks, latex ink is waterproof, waterfast and can be applied to a range of media such as uncoated vinyl and PVC. However, the benefit of latex ink over against solvent is that it doesn’t produce any harmful gases or odours that are harmful to the environment. Therefore, latex is often viewed as an ‘environmentally friendly’ version of solvent.

The main disadvantages of using latex inks is that, due to the heat involved in the process, there is currently a limited range of media on the market that is suitable for latex printing. Also, because the process involves heat it uses more energy, which of course ultimately has a cost implication.

At DesignDirect we have a big range of wide format media suitable for latex inks, including some of our aqueous poster paper products and most of our solvent range. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

UV-Curable (UVC) Inks

The liquid in UVC inks is aqueous-based, and the colorants are usually pigment-based but can also be dye-based. After printing, the ink is ‘cured’ or dried by exposure to strong ultraviolet (UV) light – hence they are called UV-curable inks.

The key advantage of UVC inks is that they can be applied to pretty much any material you can put through the press – including rigid media such as plastics and foamboard. This is because there is no absorption of ink into the media, and neither is there need for liquid solvents to be left to evaporate. Instead, the ink dries on the surface as soon as it is cured, meaning it can be applied to non-porous substrates as well as paper. UVC inks are also waterproof, meaning they are great for outdoor applications.

The main disadvantages of UVC inks is that they are expensive, the curing module required for the printer is also expensive, and the print quality is not as good as conventional water-based and solvent inks. Also, because of there is a high volume of ink on the surface, UVC inks are sometimes susceptible to cracking if applied to a flexible substrate.

UVC inks are often used in flatbed printers whichprint directly onto rigid substrates, and are becoming increasingly used in “hybrid” printers to print onto flexible media such as paper and vinyl, as well as rigid substrates. Typical applications of UVC inks are for stiff media, outdoor graphics and general display and signage.

Most of our Solvent and Latex media range can be used with UV or SUV (combination of solvent ink and UV hardening ink), the following are some examples:

Student Equipment Kits

If you are a student undertaking an Art, Design, Engineering, or other Technical Drawing related course, finding all the equipment you need to complete your course can be time consuming, confusing and expensive.

Likewise, if you are a tutor or technician running an Art, Design or Engineering course at a college or university, buying all the equipment and materials for your students can be a big task, and expensive too – especially with budgets that only seem to get smaller every year!

The solution? – Student Equipment Kits.

Kit No2

Student Equipment Kits allow you to buy all the essentials you’ll need for your course in one practical kit, at a discounted price compared to purchasing all the items separately.

At DesignDirect, we offer a range of ‘off-the-shelf’ kits for a variety of courses such as Architecture, Garden Design and Construction. These kits are made of the most popular items used by students doing these courses.

However, if these don’t contain the items you’re looking for, you can go for a Bespoke Student Kit containing the specific items that you require for your course.

If you are ordering for a college or university, we can upload your Bespoke Kit as a product on our website so that your students can purchase it directly from our website. Alternatively, we can process as a bulk order and deliver all kits directly to the address of your choice. Bulk discounts are available – please contact us.

If you are interested in a Bespoke Student Equipment Kit, get in touch today to request a quote! Just list the items that you would like in your kit and please remember to give us a note of the quantity that you require.

Special offer on the Xyron Pro1255 Machine and Cartridges

XRN 2500 Machine 1XRN 1255 Machine 2

XyronPro is a cold (pressure sensitive) lamination and adhesive application system that allows you to instantly apply laminate or adhesive to items without heat, odour or waiting for it to warm up!

  • Ideal for advertising agencies, design studios, photographers, printers, colleges & other creative professionals
  • No heat or electricity required – instantly ready for use
  • Perfect edge-to-edge dry adhesive transfer – no messy or flammable spray!
  • Simply insert your artwork, turn the handle and trim!
  • No smell, no mess, no waste – safe for users and the environment

There are 2 models of machine available – the Pro1255 machine is the smaller machine which takes items up to 11.75” wide. The Pro2500 machine for larger items up to 25” wide.

There are also 2 different refill cartridges available for both machines – the permanent adhesive cartridge, and the repositionable adhesive cartridge.

The permanent adhesive refill cartridge applies an extremely aggressive, high tack, acid-free adhesive from edge-to-edge, instantly creating a permanent bond. The repositionable adhesive refill cartridge applies edge-to-edge acid-free adhesive which can be removed easily from glass, walls, paper and most other surfaces*, allowing items to be repositioned over and over again. Both are great for mock-ups, storyboards, presentations and more.

At Design Direct we currently have an offer on the Pro1255 system, whereby you get a free Pro1255 machine when you order 5 of the A3/A4 size cartridges for this machine!*

Click here for the A3/A4 size permanent adhesive refill cartridge for use in the Pro1255 machine.

Click here for the A3/A4 size repositionable adhesive refill cartridge for use in the Pro1255 machine.

Click here for the Pro1255 machine.

For further details or assistance please call our team on 0800 013 2514 or email sales@designdirectsupplies.com!

*While stocks last.
Latex vs Solvent

Latex versus Solvent

Solvent inkjet has been around for many years but latex is gaining ever more traction, so which is the best choice? 

On the face of it latex and solvent printers appeal to the same people – those using flexible roll-fed materials for banners, posters, general display signage and vehicle graphics. There’s a lot of overlap between the two technologies, which offer similar levels of performance in terms of image quality and outdoor performance. So, how to choose between them?

The major advantage of latex is that the prints are dry as soon as they come out of the printer with no need to set them aside for degassing. There’s no need to laminate the prints, which last three years outdoors unlaminated or up to five years if laminated. Nor is there any smell from latex inks, unlike solvent inks, which have a distinct odour that doesn’t matter for outdoor signage but isn’t suitable for some applications such as indoor retail units, particularly for food retailers.

Jane Rixon, HP’s business manager for large-format in the UK, says that latex has a different finish than solvent prints, with a more natural feel to it “so a glossy substrate gives you a glossy finish.” She also claims that latex printers need less maintenance and have automated cleaning so that there’s nothing for the operators to do.

There is a greater choice of substrates for use with solvent printers but Rixon says that the media manufacturers have worked to develop latex compatible substrates so that there’s now a large range of media available, including 3M matched components.

However, it’s still the case that solvent printing is more widespread than latex, and there are some good reasons for this.

Latex vs Solvent 2

Phil Donoghue, business development manager for Colourgen, says that the major advantage of solvent printing is that it’s a tried and tested technology that’s well supported. Solvent printing also potentially offers greater economies, as Mike Horsten, Mimaki’s European marketing manager, notes: “The solvent inks are less expensive and the latex consumption is higher.” For this reason Horsten thinks that most experienced customers will opt for solvent printers.

Just to confuse matters further, Mimaki does also have a hybrid ink technology, SUV, which uses UV- curable inks suspended in a water-based solvent so there are no hazardous VOCs emitted. The prints are fully dry as they leave the printer and still have a glossy finish.


Most vendors concede that a PSP doing a lot of vehicle wrapping and needing to turn jobs around quickly would be better off with latex. However, Donoghue points out that some users have found that some cast vinyls can be laminated straight away explaining: “With some media, the backing sheet is capable of allowing the gas to escape through the back of the media rather than through the front.” He warns that this isn’t recommended by the ink manufacturers though it is allowing some PSPs to earn higher profit margins by turning jobs around faster.

Browse our own range of Wide-Format Inkjet Media here.

Presentation Portfolios & Cases

Welcome to 2016!

And what a start to the year with our fantastic offers on Diploma Presentation Portfolios! Manufactured in the UK, these Portfolios are high quality and excellent value for money – the perfect choice for artists, designers or students.

Whether you’re starting a new college course, a new project, or simply looking to present your latest designs to potential clients, we’re sure to have the perfect solution.

Click here to shop our range of Presentation Portfolios, Art Cases and other Document Protection and Display products.

If you’re a College or University looking to purchase Portfolios for your students, contact us on 0800 013 2514 to discuss bulk discounts, or email your enquiry to sales@designdirectsupplies.com.

Mapac Quartz Portfolio Open15420011

The genius of Drafting Tables!

Is your classroom or studio limited in space? Are you catering for a number of subjects in the one classroom? 

Look no further than our Flip Top Drawing Board Tables! Featuring a vertically-rotating ‘flip’ top, they can be an ordinary table one minute and a high quality drafting table the next! A must have for mixed subject classrooms.

Flip tops

Click on the image to expand.

UK manufactured, these tables are specially designed for lasting durability. The drawing board features a reliable parallel motion unit and adjustable support, allowing you to achieve the most accurate technical drawings with maximum ease.

Flip Top Tables are especially popular with colleges and universities. Check out these pictures of A2 Straight Leg Flip Top Tables we recently supplied and installed into classrooms at a Scottish college:

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Contact us today for a no obligation quote! Bespoke pricing and quantity discounts available.

Available in A1 and A2, with options on Straight Leg Frame or Cantilever Frame.