white ink, black stock

Letterpress compañeros…..

Had a request from a customer for something I’m not having much luck working out, and wondered if you all had any suggestions.

Job calls for white type (in the form, in this case, of a big 7 x 7 cut) printed on black cover stock. I’ve cranked up the impression and the amount of ink as much as I dare, and still getting an impression that looks sort of mottled and gray.

You all know any tricks I can try? Thanks!

Ben Sargent

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White ink on black or dark stock is tough. You might want to run silver ink on it first (like a primer) then go back and lay the white ink on top of that. Its alot of work but does give a nice result.
Good luck.

Even two hits of opaque white will still look gray and mottled. “Cover White” will do a little better—a pound is about half the volume of opaque white so it is more densely pigmented. It is available from some ink manufacturers, for example Kramer in LA. A very similar product is Graphic Chemical’s “Lithographic Ink Opaque White #1000”, which I found in the printmaking section of Blick’s Art Store.
Neither is going to going to have as much contrast as hot stamping in white foil, or printing a reverse in black ink on white stock (if the image and press can handle it).

Thanks, friends….Fifty years in the trade and this had never come up before….but I will try your excellent suggestions.


Printing a light/white ink on a dark paper is tough. you can run it in 2 passes, but you better have great registration, and I’d never try it on a hand fed press.
Since dark papers with light/white ink is getting more popular, I’m surprised more people aren’t getting hip to foil. Most people, when you say foil, think of cheesey Christmas cards. That is far from what foil can do. I’ve had clients come to me after being told by other letterpress shops that a white ink won’t work, I show them a white foil sample and they’re sold.
Although you can’t match a PMS color with foil there are plenty of pigment colors to choose from.
There is alot more to what a letterpress can do than just hitting it hard!

Hi there,

White ink on black card stock can be done by double printing it. Problems you can find is ink viscosity. It can also work by printing silver first and them white. Wherever way you choose to do it, it will never be absolut white, it will be something like 5% black.
Don’t forget to double bill the job as well. Best of luck.

Ben i don’t have as many years as you in the trade, just 49, but there is one thing that can help you with this job, NO. i’ve never had much luck with white ink on dark stock, foil stamping comes out the best. I always say no to white ink. Dick G.

Someone suggested this already, but if it suits the job you could try reversing the image and printing black on white. I’m just mentioning it because I recently was given a business card printed this way and it’s gorgeous. The white text is slightly raised; some of it is 8- or 10-point, and it came out nice and clear, even under a loupe.


While reversing a solid color and knocking out the text would work, it’s tricky.
Even with polymer plates, a good solid color with no ghosting takes a good press and operator, the right ink and stock.
Foil shouldn’t be too cost prohibitive…my prices are pretty much the same for print as foil and the end result is a lot better looking and causes a lot less stress on the press.

Okay….so I’ve only been a letterpress operator for only 25 yrs…but I tend to go with dickg…just say no…ha ha

When we were considering doing this for a friend another printer suggested that we mix silver into our white. The only advantage I can think of doing this over using silver as the “primer” is that you wouldn’t have to stop to clean off silver before switching to white, therefore easing the issue of great registration. We haven’t gotten around to trying it though, so I can’t speak to its effectiveness personally.