Printing without ink

‘A tactile and visible printed image or text, without the use of ink’

Durable, visual and tactile printing effects have appeal!
Printing without ink sounds unreal, but is definitely possible. By merely adding relief to paper or cardboard, a tactile and visible image or text appears. The relief is three-dimensional and plays with light, shadows, textures and the position of the viewer. The 3D relief effect is not dependent on colour. The material and (packaging) design, thus, speak for themselves.

Packaging without ink printing, whereby one merely communicates through shape and relief, is a relatively new phenomenon within the packaging industry. It generates a pure delicate 'look and feel' with a focus on material and a visual and tactile appeal. In the interests of people, the environment and society, it is important to mention that printing without ink is an environmentally friendly option, because it does not require any ink.

How do we print images or texts without ink?
To print an image or text without using ink, we use the technique of embossing. Embossing can be done with or without ink. When no ink is used during the embossing, this is referred to as blind embossing.

With embossing, paper or cardboard is pressed between two clichés. These fit together, deform the paper or cardboard, and ensure a sharp print. The relief that is created gives a 3D effect. The three-dimensional relief can be formed upwards or downwards. We call this embossing and debossing. The difference between embossing and debossing is that embossing creates an image or text that rises up from a certain material, while debossing pushes the 3D relief down into a material. Here too, we use blind embossing or blind debossing if we don't use ink in this process. Embossing results can vary greatly between paper types. 

How many different 3D relief effects can be printed?
A great number of different 3D relief effects can be printed without the use of ink. When no ink is printed and the relief effect forms the means of communication on a packaging or label, it is important to consider how you want to communicate using light, shadows and textures during the design process.

First of all, a choice has to be made with regard to the type of embossing: blind embossing or blind debossing. In addition, it is possible to print relief with the same height (single-layer) or with multi-level heights. With single-layer relief, the depth or height is the same throughout the entire image. With multi-level relief, various depths or heights are printed. In both cases, a 3D effect is created.
It is also important which paper or cardboard type is used. Per paper type, the 3D effects can vary greatly.

Can images or texts without ink be printed on all paper and cardboard types?
No, not all types of paper and cardboard are suitable. The composition of the paper or cardboard, your design, and the chosen production technique (blind embossing or blind debossing) determine the result. Naturally, we have a large collection of (thin) paper and (thicker) cardboard, on which great 3D relief effects can be applied.

Is printing without ink durable?
Blind embossing is perhaps the most environmentally friendly option because it does not require any ink. Ideal when sustainability is a priority.

Is printing without ink suitable for labels and packaging?
3D relief print effects are, in principle, suitable for all labels and packaging. Keep in mind that without using ink, the design has to be right to get the communication message across. Printing without ink can achieve wonderful results, and will greatly enhance the visual appeal of your brand. Check out our examples!

Does the relief effect combine well with other print effects?
When choosing to print without ink, it is useful to know whether you prefer this due to its 'look and feel' or whether you opt for this from a sustainability point of view. If you are going for a special and attractive packaging or label with a natural, tone-on-tone, pure 'look and feel', you can supplement the printing with transparent (colourless) matte and glossy effects, Spot UV, a Soft touch or laminate the printed material. Whatever you choose, the look of the packaging or label will be brought to a higher level.

Design tips

  • We distinguish two types of printing techniques; embossing and debossing. Embossing creates an image or text that rises up from a certain material, while debossing pushes the 3D relief down into a material
  • When no ink is printed, it is important to consider in advance how you want to communicate using light, shadows and textures
  • Per paper type, the 3D effects can vary greatly
  • Blind embossing is the ideal way to make certain parts of the printed material stand out, without losing tranquillity within the design
  • Printing without ink creates an enchanting and luxurious feel to your packaging or label
  • 3D relief effects can be applied all-over or in specific details to the printed matter


Return to overview print effects

Vragen over drukken zonder inkt?

Heeft u vragen over de mogelijkheden van drukken zonder inkt? Op zoek naar deskundig bedrukkingsadvies voor nieuwe of bestaande productverpakkingen? Heeft u vragen over welke drukwerk effecten goed combineren? Neem gerust contact met ons op.

Naar Contactformulier