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What is Reverse Printing?

Organic food store logo printed as a reverse in green ink on white substrate

Reverse Printing

In order for printed text to be clear and readable, there has to be a sufficient level of contrast between the color of the text and the color of its background. Hence, a dark colored ink on light colored paper is a popular choice for print materials because this combination provides high contrast.

In order to help explain the concept of Reverse Printing, we'll be using the high contrast example of black ink on white paper. Plus, we'll imagine ourselves designing and printing a promotional flyer with a large heading that reads "SALE!"

If we use a traditional design format, the text will be printed in black ink and the white paper will provide the contrasting background (see Illustration A). However, if we use a Reverse format, the area surrounding the text will be printed in black ink and the text itself will be formed by the white paper that is left unprinted (see Illustration B).

The word SALE printed in black ink
Illustration A: Black ink on White substrate - printed in a Traditional format

Reverse Printing is a simple but creative design technique

In addition to text, simple graphics, such as company logos, are commonly printed as a reverse.

Also, reverse printing is sometimes referred to as Knockout printing because the text or graphic is "knocked out" of the ink impression. This allows the underlying paper stock to provide the contrasting color needed for the reverse, whether the stock is white, natural, a pastel, or other color.

The word SALE printed as a Reverse with Black ink
Illustration B: Black ink on White substrate - printed in a Reverse format

Below are some general guidelines for Reverse Printing:

> Reverse printing works best with darker ink colors. This is because darker inks provide more sharpness and definition around the perimeter of the text or graphic.

> The reverse printing technique also works best with simple, sans serif styles of text. Plus, it works best with larger text, such as boldface headings and titles. Any text that is too small or intricate risks having some of the finer details filled in by ink.

> In addition to text, simple graphics and logos can be printed as a reverse. Just like with text, graphics that contain intricate details are not a good candidate for being printed as a reverse.

> The use of a reverse is not limited to a solid background color. For example, a reverse could be used within a photo or a patterned design. However, color variations might affect the sharpness of the outline. In this case, a drop shadow might be needed to help define the perimeter of the text or graphic.

> If reverse printing is used to draw attention and add emphasis to specific headings or phrases, it should be used sparingly so as not to diminish its effectiveness.

> Reverses can be used on just about any type or size of printed product, from posters to business cards.

Examples of a Logo printed as a Reverse and as a Traditional image
An example of a Company Logo printed as a Reverse (top) and as a Traditionally printed image (bottom)

Color Vision is your one-stop source for quality printing!

The Reverse technique can enhance your print materials and help them leave a lasting impression. So let us know if you have any questions about this technique or any other print-related topic.

Color Vision has been producing quality printing since 1984. We can assist with just about any print project you may have - manuals, catalogs, comic books, brochures, flyers, postcards, maps, calendars and more!

So whenever a need for custom printing arises, just give us a call at 800-543-6299 to discuss your project. Or, use our simple Quote Request form to submit your specifications and we will email you a quote.

As always, we look forward to assisting with your custom printing needs!

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