Turning the spotlight on UV-litho

October 1, 2012

in Print work

Having recently seen some very interesting printed examples of work printed using UV-cured inks on a litho press, we thought we’d talk about some of the advantages of using this process against conventional litho.

UV or conventional – what’s the difference?

Conventional litho inks are dried by absorption (sinking into the paper) and oxidization (reacting with the air to form a ‘crust’).  The latter can be helped by using infra-red lamps and by adding chemical driers to the inks.  The IR lamps are situated in the delivery end of the press and dry all of the printed colours at the same time.

UV litho inks are dried under ultra-violet lamps, with the lamps being ‘inter-deck’, which means that each colour is dried as it’s printed.

The main advantage of using UV-cured inks means that you can print on a much wider range of substrates.  Where conventional inks require a semi-permeable surface for the inks to adhere and ‘sink’ into, such as the surface of a paper; UV inks can sit on most substrate surfaces.  Polyprop, foiled boards such as Mirriboard, PVC and vinyl are all examples of substrates that can be printed with UV litho.  The advantages of this for the packaging sector are obvious but it also opens a wide range of creative possibilities for brochures, point-of-sale and DM pieces.

The creative benefits

We are often asked by graphic designers on what options are available in adding interesting or more tactile effects to a brochure cover or a postcard.   There are a number of special papers that have surfaces ideally printed using UV-litho including Flockage (a flock-like surface) and Curious Soft Touch; as well as many of the GF Smith papers.

There is also a more subtle advantage of using UV litho and that is when you’re printing onto uncoated papers.  With the absorption of conventional inks, images and colours tend to ‘dull’ down as the ink soaks into the paper surface.  If you printed onto uncoated paper with UV inks then the image sits much higher on the surface, keeping colours bright and clean yet still retaining that uncoated feel.

Why not use UV all the time?

There are some UV-litho printers who would obviously say that you should but conventional litho certainly still has its place for most commercial work.  Most UV-litho presses are only available in B1 size and so many jobs suitable for smaller presses are precluded due to cost implications.  Having said that, it mainly comes down to the fact that many UV-litho printed work has high material costs so the work seems to be more expensive; the equivalent conventional press tends to be similar in per hour costs.

Interested in finding out more?

As is often the case, a blog post can never really show the true benefits of alternative finishes and materials so please do contact us and we’ll be happy to send you some examples of UV-litho work.

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