Solvent vs Latex Ink: How the Choice Could Impact Your Vehicle Graphics

by McKinley McGinn on August 3, 2016



It’s quick and easy to make a general assumption that just about all printers are the same. However, there are a handful of differences. In the same way that your printer at home is probably smaller than a large copy machine you have at work, the vehicle wrap world has similar differences. The difference between printers here are between latex and solvent printers. To explain the difference, I’ll go through the strength and weaknesses of both, but keep in mind we are a vehicle wrap company so I’ll try and focus on how it will affect your wrap.

What are Solvent Inks and Printers?

Solvent printers use inks made up of pigments suspended in a solvent fluid.  These printers are commonly used in the signs and vehicle wraps industry so it’s important to know the key things to ask about when making your decision about who to work with. These printers use solvent based inks to print on all types of surfaces. This makes solvent printing highly compatible with just about anything a sign company might want to print.

According to  "The process of solvent-based printing is simple: A solvent component mixes with the ink, carries the ink to the media [vehicle wrap vinyl]. The solvent then evaporates, leaving the ink behind to produce a print."  The evaporated solvent vapors are know to be hazardous to people when exposed to high-concentration levels.

These vapors created as the solvents evaporate are regulated by OSHA. And as puts it "It is no secret that shops running wide-format, solvent-based printers experience a level of fumes and odors that can cause health concerns and discomfort for employees and customers."  Companies operating in compliance with OSHA regulations install proper venting for their work places.

Apart from the fumes and their environmental implications, another challenge to using a solvent printer for vehicle graphics is that the solvent needs to evaporate for 24 hours (or gas out) before the print can be laminated.   When a company is pressed for time or attempting to cut costs, they may rush the process and choose to laminate the graphics without waiting the necessary length of time.  As a consequence, the gas becomes trapped under the laminate and has no room to escape.  

After over 17 years of experience, our certified installers know first hand that this effects the quality of the vinyl.  The gas is forced to escape out the back of vinyl_graphics_installation_on_van_Riveting_Wraps_Bellevue_WA.jpgthe vinyl and this damages the air egress channels in the adhesive making installation much more difficult and increasing the risk of bubbles in the vinyl.  There is added risk that after being applied to your vehicle, this gas still needs a way to escape since it’s all trapped against the vehicle and the laminate.  The trapped gas may cause the adhesive to fail and release from the vehicle leaving you to deal with the aftermath.

Although solvent printers have a wide range of uses, it’s very important to make sure that your graphics are being prepared by people who value the investment you are making and not the costs they incur.

What are Latex Inks and Printers?

vehicle_graphics_print_for_contractor_van_Riveting_Wraps_Bellevue_WA.jpgIn an industry experiencing a lot of innovation latex ink printing technology is a big one. HP latex wide format ink printers use water based latex inks.  These environmentally friendly inks produce beautiful vivid colors and produce non-toxic fumes. Programmable dryers are built into the printers to dry and cure the ink once in is printed onto the media.  The print emerges from the printer dry, cured, and beautiful. 

Riveting_Wraps_premium_HP_latex_inks_for_vehicle_graphics_Bellevue_WA.jpgBecause the ink cures in the printing process, they can be laminated immediately as they come off the printer. This improves quality and efficiency throughout the vehicle graphics production process. 

Latex printers are what we use at the Riveting Wraps studio for production. We love using latex printing because it offer a wider range of colors than a solvent printer and we don't have to worry about enironmentally damaging fumes.

Riveting_Wraps_HP_latex_inks_Bellevue_Wa.jpgBecause latex printers are relatively new to the market you will discover companies using both types of printers.  Additionally, we do lots of color management test using our printer to ensure that the colors we are printing more accurately match the exact colors of your company brand.

High Quality Vehicle Graphics Can be Produced On Both Types of Printers

Although there are differences between latex and solvent printers, there really shouldn’t be a reasons to choose a company using one over the other. However, it does mean you, the buyer, need to be aware of how your graphics are being prepared.  Ask the companies quoting your projects if they use solvent printers and verify their procedures for proper handling. Having buyers that are well educated help the wrap companies work more efficiently, and help make sure you get a quality wrap at a decent price.

Quality Only Begins with the Right Materials

New Call-to-actionVehicle wrap companies have learned that many buyers think using the right materials is the only important criteria to evaluate a quality wrap.  And it certainly is an important criteria. But how the material is printed, handled and installed are equally important.  Learn more getting a high quality wrap.

These vehicle wrap failures can come with a very steep price.  Get the straight facts on vehicle wrapping, contact Riveting Wraps at (425) 368-5007 or email us at 

Topics: Wrap It Right

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