Category Archives: CAD

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:

Aqueous versus Solvent

A Brief Guide to Some Key Points of Wide Format Inkjet Printing

The inkjet printer is a relatively new invention, replacing dot matrix only 15 to 20 years ago (although the first thermal inkjet printer was actually developed in 1977). Over the last 15 years, inkjet printing technology has seen an explosion in innovation to the point where it now seems that almost anything is but the choice of technologies can be overwhelming for print service providers (PSP), never mind your everyday customer. Inkjet works on the principle of a drop of ink being propelled from the ink printhead and onto the media at precisely the right time to produce an identifiable image at increasingly impressive speeds.

What does it actually mean?

Firstly, let’s cover some of the technical differences…Aqueous (which means it is water-based) inks are dissolved in water which is a polar substance. Solvent inks are dissolved in a solvent which is a non-polar substance. Now let’s align this with substrates…paper is polar & plastic is non-polar. Aqueous inks absorb well into paper because both are polar. Likewise, solvent inks adhere well to plastic media such as vinyl banners because both are non-polar.


Therefore, if you want your finished product for interior display (such as poster or fine art photography prints) you can use a water based aqueous printer which will create extremely detailed images. Modern pigment inks can often be defined as archival which means that under the right conditions the quality of the print can be expected to last up to 200 years! The scale of water-based prints is usually limited to 60 inches width.

Aqueous inks produce beautiful results on paper but cannot stick to plastic unless the media is coated. This involves lining the vinyl or plastic material with a thin emulsion (giclee inkjet coating) that will accept the aqueous solution; this can be expensive procedure and therefore this is sometimes reflected in the price of the water based rolls. These banner and vinyl materials can be recognized by the clay-like feeling of their surfaces. As the ink is water-based the emulsion is easily scratched, prone to kinking and doesn’t really appreciate water, which in turn limits the outdoor life of some products to about 6 months. To overcome this these prints can be laminated to improve their resistance to moisture and scratching.

Here is a brief list* of some of the common aqueous printers:

  • Canon: IPF Series 6000, 8000, 9000 & 9100; W Series 6400, 7200, 8200 & 8400
  • HP: Dye & UV/Pigment 500, 75X, 800, 2500, 3500, 5000 & 5500; Z Series (Vivera) 2100, 3100, 3200 & 6100
  • Epson: Ultrachrome 74xx, 76xx, 78xx, 94xx, 96xx, 98xx, 10600 & 11880; Colourfast 75xx, 95xx & 10000
  • Encad: 500, 600, 700, 750, 850 & 1000I
  • Kodak: 1200I
  • Xerox: 7142, 8142 & 8160

HP Z6800



Is your print going to be exhibited in an exposed exterior environment? As a rule of thumb, things that might get wet need to be waterproof and this also applies to printing. Therefore both the media and the ink need to stand up to weathering, which requires an aggressive ink chemistry known as solvent or eco solvent printing.

These inks allow you to print directly onto uncoated plastics and there is a wide range of cheap PVC and paper based medias, which are used to produce anything from banners to vehicle wraps. The life of these prints is usually up to 3 years unlaminated. Another plus point of the solvent equipment is that size is commonly known up to 5 meters wide, allowing you to create prints on a huge scale.

Solvent printers are a relatively recent development in inkjet technology and one downside to them is that they are a much larger investment than their aqueous siblings. There is an environmental question over solvent ink & media however it is the solvent inks’ ability to print directly onto banner vinyls and other plastics at production speeds that makes them so valuable. One technician pointed out that a solvent printer is unique in that it heats up the media being printed upon to allow the solvent to actually penetrate the plastic, leaving the ink embedded in the media! This means that solvent-printed vinyl medias are very scratch resistant and can be exposed to water and weather for years without harm.

Here is a brief list* of some of the common solvent printers:

  • Mimaki: JV3, 130SL, 160(SP), 250SP(F), 75SP(II), JV33, 130, 160, JV5, 130S, 160S, 260S & 320S
  • Mutoh: Rockhopper 38, 46 & 62; Rockhopper II 50, 64 & 87; Rockhopper III 65 & 90; Spitfire 65, 90 & 100; ValueJet 1204, 1304 & 1604; Phoenix E 3.3; Toucan
  • Roland: Advanced Jet 740 & 1000; Soljet SJ500 & SJ600; Soljet Pro II SC540(EX), SC545EX, SJ540(EX), SJ640EX, SJ645EX, SJ740(EX), SJ745EX, SJ10000EX; Soljet Pro III XC540, XJ640 & XJ740; VersaCAMM SP300(V), SP540V, VP300 & VP540
  • Seiko: Colorpainter 64s & 100s
  • Uniform: Grenadier 54, 74 & GFX; Cadet SP750C & SP1400C; Brigadier 1270 & 1625
  • Xerox: 8254E, 8265(E), 8290, 8365, 8390
  • Colorspan: 72S(I) & 98SI
  • Gerber: Jetster
  • Oce: 9050, 9065, 9090, 9160, 9265, 9290
  • Epson: GS6000
  • Agfa: Grand Sherpa Universal 50, 65 & 87
  • HP: Designjet 8000, 9000(S/SF) & 10000S

Mutoh ValueJet 1638 Printer


You will note that the industry has made a move from traditional solvent inks to ‘eco-solvent’ inks which are more environmentally friendly. Patty Juric, PR supervisor at Roland DGA, says “Eco-solvent sales are not falling off. They’re still extremely popular and very viable within the market.” However, a further move is taking shape in the way of HP Latex technology with a rapidly growing market! Keep an eye on our blog for an article about the innovative Latex technology…

Designdirect Supplies was established in 1975 and has more than 40 years experience all over the UK. Whether it be Glasgow, London, Aberdeen, Leeds, Edinburgh, Manchester, Dundee, Liverpool, Isle of Skye, Doncaster, Inverness, Isle of Man, Southampton or Isle of Wight we can deliver plotter paper to all 4 corners of the British Isles! We specialise in supplying Plan Printer/Copier, CAD/GIS Inkjet, Aqueous, Solvent & Latex materials. View our range online – we will be launching some exciting new products in the next couple of months…watch this space!

* The printer market is a fast-changing market and this is just a brief list of some common printers. Keep in mind that manufactures will be adding to this list all the time and that they discontinue older models.

Has CAD Killed the Manual Drafting Art Form?

There can be no doubt that Computer Aided Design (CAD) has revolutionised the way designers create the latest masterpieces. Whether a 300ft skyscraper or the tiniest mechanical instrument, CAD allows the user a fully rotatable 3D digital model of his product, allowing a clear view down to the very smallest detail. With CAD’s wealth of advanced editing and visualisation features, why would anyone choose to design their products by hand? Has Manual Drafting been completely outdone?

In short, no.

Many top designers recognise the unique benefits of the manual design art form. While most utilise the many benefits of CAD, they are often used side by side with the more expressive design methods of hand drawing, offering them the opportunity to create a far more personal product design. Watch a video of what you could achieve!

There’s no undo button! 90% of the time, mistakes are a bad thing. We wish we could simply undo and carry on. This isn’t an option with pen and paper; when a designer inevitably makes a mistake, he is forced to adapt. Suddenly an accidental squiggle becomes a quirky design feature, a wonky line becomes an abstract idea. Hand drawing promotes evolution of our designs, allowing us to create new, unique products that may never have been born with a computer.

Tip from the college days when your drawing slipped off the edge of the table and fell upside down – suddenly you realised that it was showing you a different aspect to the design. Try drawing your plan on tracing paper and then turning sheet over and looking the mirror image!

The Personal Touch

Like your handwriting, every designer has their own unique style. Technical drawings created with the human touch often feature an individual flair that can’t be achieved with computers. They may not have the pinpoint accuracy, but there is often emotion portrayed in a hand drawn piece, something impossible to achieve with a machine.

Lastly, manual drafting takes skill! An incredible amount of patience, a steady hand and an eye for detail are all vital in producing high quality technical drawings. When you produce the perfect drawing that meets your vision though, the sense of achievement and satisfaction you feel is nothing short of incredible. Why not give it a try?

With a huge range of craft materials, high quality technical pens, pencils and drawing boards from all the major graphic design brands, Designdirect supply everything you’ll need to get started!

Check out what this artist can do! -