Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Perfect Ink for Your Outdoor Printing Needs

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Written By Andrew Lane

Andrew Lane is a Digital Printing Technology Expert with over a decade of experience in the printing industry. With a deep knowledge of the latest printing technologies, Andrew has a keen eye for emerging trends and innovations.

When it comes to outdoor printing, the ink you choose can make or break your project. It’s not just about the vibrant colors or the sharpness of the images, but also about durability and resistance to harsh weather conditions.

Understanding the Challenges of Outdoor Printing

Transitioning from discussing the right ink’s necessity, I’m proceeding to the intricacies of outdoor printing. It’s vital to realize and anticipate the distinctive challenges tied to this type of job. Primary issues arise from weather effects and concerns about durability of the print.

Weather and UV Resistance

Venturing into outdoor printing, one major issue stands out: weather conditions. The print endures a constant battering from changes in temperature, high winds, rain, snow, and even hail. Notwithstanding these, the constant exposure to sunlight presents UV radiation, famous for its destructive properties. UV rays gradually fade printed colors, degrade the print quality, and eventually deteriorate the material. Hence, prioritizing UV resistant inks becomes paramount in combating this challenge.

Durability Concerns

Furthering the discussion, durability is another essential factor. Outdoor prints must withstand the test of time, resisting not just weather, but also physical damage from external factors, such as insects, birds, and even vandalism. In such cases, opting for highly durable inks proves beneficial. These types of inks exhibit greater adhesion levels and exceptional resistance to physical wear and tear, aiding in maintaining the print’s original appearance over extended periods.

Types of Inks Suitable for Outdoor Printing

Exploring the types of inks used in outdoor printing grants valuable insight into the best choices for different projects. Various ink types demonstrate unique characteristics that make them ideal for outdoor signage and prints. In my study of these, three types consistently emerge as most advantageous: Solvent Inks, UV-Curable Inks, and Latex Inks.

Solvent Inks

First in line, you’ll find solvent inks, a constant in the world of outdoor printing. Their two subclasses— hard and eco-friendly— carry different properties. Hard solvent inks, known for their durability, can resist adverse weather conditions, lending a robust print quality. However, they sometimes release hazardous fumes during the printing process, a downside to consider. On the other hand, eco-solvent inks, less aggressive on the environment, present a safer choice. They trade-off on the harshness, though, by requiring heat to dry and solidify. To grasp this, picture a large billboard enduring the winter snow without losing its sharp imagery— thank the solvent ink for such a performance.

UV-Curable Inks

Next in queue are UV-Curable Inks. They’re labeled photo-reactive, meaning they harden when exposed to strong UV light—a prevalent feature during the printing process. This response to UV light also makes them a choice selection for prints exposed to direct sunlight. UV-Curable Inks have the upper hand in terms of durability and resistance to fading. Imagine a brightly colored store banner resisting fading even under the scorching sun for months—here, UV-Curable inks get the credit.

Latex Inks

Lastly, we delve into Latex Inks. If environmentally-friendly inks grab your interest, latex is your go-to option. Latex inks are water-based and contain no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), components often linked to environmental harm. They offer a wide color range, bringing out vibrant and sharp prints. Moreover, they’re resistant to scratching and physical abrasion, making it a sound choice for outdoor applications. It’s as if an eco-activist gallery decided to print majestic, high-quality imagery in its open-air installation— Latex inks would certainly be on their list.

The deliberate choice of ink significantly impacts the longevity and quality of outdoor prints. Recognizing the inherent properties of these types helps pinpoint their suitable applications, enabling us to make informed choices for our outdoor printing needs.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Inks

Navigating ink selection necessitates various considerations: longevity, color vibrancy, and environmental impact. I aim to go over each area in detail, presenting you with an informed perspective on ink choice.

Longevity and Fade Resistance

Longevity and resistance to fading rank high among the factors for choosing inks for outdoor prints. Examining how well an ink withstands harsh weather elements, especially UV rays, assists in gauging its lifespan. For instance, UV-Curable inks, known for their ability to harden under UV light exposure, defy fading, effectively increasing an outdoor print’s life expectancy.

Color Brightness and Quality

Apart from durability, attention to ink’s color brightness and quality proves instrumental in creating eye-catching outdoor prints. Solvent inks stand out in this regard. Popular for their vibrant colors and sharp images, they strike a balance between durability and color vibrancy. However, a challenge you might face pertains to potential fume emissions with solvent inks, a concept to consider when choosing an ink type.

Environmental Impact and Safety

In progressing with outdoor printing, negligence of environmental impact and safety isn’t an option. Latex inks, relatively new to the market, make an excellent choice. They’re eco-friendly, minimizing harm to the environment, and scratch-resistant, proving to be safe for outdoor use. Scrutinizing ink’s safety and environmental influence underlines a responsibility towards both the print’s end user and our planet.

Recommended Brands and Products

Armed with the understanding of different ink types and their properties, let’s now delve into some of the top brands and products in the market that cater to the specific needs of outdoor printing.

Industry Leaders in Outdoor Printing Inks

  1. Epson: A trusted name in the printing industry, Epson offers UltraChrome GS3 Solvent Ink. It’s renowned for its color vibrancy, durability, fast drying times, and less harmful chemical component.
  2. HP: HP’s Latex Inks are popular choices. They’re noted for their eco-friendliness, scratch resistance, and ability to produce sharp, vivid images in outdoor conditions.
  3. Mimaki: Mimaki’s PR-200 UV-Curable Ink is recognized in the market for its resistance to weathering and fading, thereby making it ideal for outdoor printing.
  1. Roland: Roland’s Eco-Sol MAX 2 Inks are preferred by small businesses. These inks offer excellent image quality and color fidelity at a fraction of the cost of other premium brands.
  2. Mutoh: Mutoh’s ValueJet Eco-Ultra Inks also provide good quality prints without costing an arm and a leg, which is great for small businesses with budget constraints.

Investing wisely in the right ink from trusted brands ensures not only quality results in outdoor printing projects but also potential cost savings, particularly for small businesses.

Maintenance Tips for Outdoor Prints

Given the significance of selecting optimal inks for outdoor printing, maintaining the longevity and quality of the prints is equally important. This section provides detailed protocols to ensure that prints retain their vibrancy and quality, counteracting the various environmental elements they encounter.

Regular Cleaning and Care

Consistent care and cleaning operations preserve the vibrancy and longevity of outdoor prints. Dust accumulation reduces the vibrancy of colors while also hastening the fading process. Gentle cleaning using non-abrasive materials, such as a soft brush or microfiber cloth, eliminates dust without damaging the print. Avoid chemical cleaners that may react negatively with the ink. It’s recommended, on months with severe weather conditions, to implement a weekly cleaning schedule.

For instance, a restaurant utilizing outdoor prints for their menu should implement a routine cleaning every Monday to start the week fresh. On the other hand, a realty company might opt to clean their outdoor banners every two weeks, given less exposure to foot traffic.

Protective Coatings and Laminates

Another effective method for preserving outdoor prints includes the application of protective coatings or laminates. These barriers protect prints from exposure to UV radiation, water, or color fading elements, enhancing their durability. A variety of options exist, each suited to specific environmental conditions. UV protective coatings guard against harmful UV rays, perfect for areas experiencing high sunlight exposure. Conversely, waterproof laminates best serve areas with frequent rainfall.

Consider the large billboard ads typically seen alongside highways. They often utilize UV protective coatings due to extensive sun exposure. In contrast, outdoor prints in rainy areas, like Seattle, might find more use in waterproof laminates.


Choosing the right ink for outdoor printing isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. It’s your first line of defense against weather impact and fading. UV-resistant inks like Solvent, UV-Curable, and Latex Inks are your best bet for vibrant, sharp, and durable prints. But remember, it doesn’t stop at the ink. Regular maintenance and protective measures also play a crucial role in preserving your prints. So, don’t overlook the importance of cleaning with non-abrasive materials and applying protective coatings or laminates. With the right ink and care, your outdoor prints can withstand the test of time and elements. It’s all about choosing wisely and caring adequately. After all, your outdoor prints are a reflection of your brand, and you want them to shine as brightly as possible.