making metallic ink look metallic


wondering if anyone has any pointers on making metallic ink look more metallic. we have a client that wants silver to print as silver on gray rives bfk. i feel like i’ve seen some successful print jobs where the metallic really has a nice sheen to it but we’ve never had much luck with that, especially on such a soft uncoated stock. we typically use van son rubber or oil based inks. this particular job will not allow us to print white first and then silver on top…i’ve thought about it, but there’s a lot of fine lines involved and it’s a pretty large quantity.

any input would be greatly appreciated.


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Others may have different opinions or special tricks, but unless the client is willing to pay for foil stamping, I don’t believe it’s possible to get a really “metallic” look on an uncoated stock, especially a soft one. (Actually, for some jobs, thermograving with a metallic power might be an option, but probably not for this job.) There are various techniques like the double-bumping you mention (whether the first color is white, silver, or dry) to help smooth, flatten, and “burnish” the paper and/or the printed image, but the simple fact is that metallic inks really only look best on coated stock. My understanding is that this has to do with the smoothness of the substrate needed to allow the majority of the tiny, tiny metallic flakes to align flat enough to reflect lots of light back at you.

My recommendation would be to print a sample (not necessarily their job) on the stock they want with PMS 877 (or the best silver you have or can find), explain and show it to the client to see if this will meet their expectations, and if they decide it looks acceptable, be sure to have them sign off (and/or pay up front) before you run the job. You might also show them a sample of foil stamping and have a cost estimate.


Underprint it with a gloss varnish. It will seal the paper a bit more and help the metallic to pick up more shine. You might need to do that a second time depending on the paper stock. Or under coat with white. You couls even try a varnish over the silver whe nit is all done.

Otherwise experiment with coated stocks. On of the cheapest is the chipboard with the one side that has the white coated paper attached.


I don’t think you can, unless, as Dave suggested you go with foil. There were some two part metallics maybe twenty years or so ago that worked well. Johnson and Bloy I think.

I’ve done something recently using much older bronzing powders and it turned out quite well. Not sure this is quite the thing for a client based project though or even for your health (there is a very good reason you cannot obtain these materials any longer).

At any rate, most of the metallic inks you can buy today simply are not going to shine as you hope.


I had a similar problem printing silver on paper that I had dyed a dark blue with indigo. The two things that helped immensely were 1) printing on damp paper and 2) double inking (i.e. ink the press in trip between each run). This still was not the silver look of a foil, but it did keep it from just looking like a dull grey.

I’m not sure if I am repeating Gerald, but we have experimented in the past with gold powder. We have an old unmarked can of “rich gold powder”. After printing the job in gold with way more ink than I am comfortable with, we sprinkled the gold powder over it, the gold sticking to the ink and not the paper. Just like you are writing your name in glue and sprinkling glitter on it. It would come out all right, but not what we would consider commercially acceptable (or worth the effort).

More commonly, we would print first in opaque white, then the metallic for silver, and print yellow under the gold.

Most commonly, we will double or triple strike the job to bring the color up.

Another, less altruistic approach, is to think of metallic inks as additives. Start with an opaque white. Add some color to it. Generally a light yellow. You want a pastel look. Dependent upon the color of your paper, red, blue, green, will also work. Once the ink is stiff enough, with that addition of magnesium carbonate, then add a bit of the metallic.

You will be quite surprised.