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Pad Printing, Pad Printing InkJune 15, 2018

Pad Printing Ink Overview

Pad Printing, Pad Printing Ink
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Pad Printing Ink Overview

 At Inkcups, we strive to deliver the finest quality products. From ground-breaking printing equipment, supplies and solutions to customers in the promotional, apparel and industrial markets worldwide, our goal is to be leaders in the printing industry. To achieve the level of success we have had and want to continue, we need to be unremittingly creative with our product lines. Our production quality and compliance teams work with particular attention to detail on printability and appearance to ensure all products are made to specification and are easy to work with. This overview can be viewed by anyone who is interested in or is already familiar/owns any of our ink products. Our goal is to make our customers and potential customers more educated about our inks through this informative overview.

For those who own any of our tagless products or are looking to purchase any of our tagless printing machines, particularly our pad printers, having quality ink will make a major difference when printing on any application. But why use pad printing? Why use our Sapphire® inks? We will explain it all. Before we get into our ink product line, this overview will serve as an introductory about how pad printing will make a difference when using our inks compared to alternative printing methods such as screen printing or heat transfer for example.

In addition, we would like to highlight all of the ink services that Inkcups provides such as color mixing, matching, and adhesion testing. These services will be most beneficial to anyone who has or is thinking about printing on various items using our inks. This overview will also cover the importance of using auxiliaries when using certain inks. We will lastly want to ensure that our customers will feel comfortable using our inks knowing that our inks are safe and reliable based on our achievements with compliance.

Pad Printing:

Pad Printing has been around since the beginning of the 20th century and has been widely used for various applications such as printing promotional products, automotive and industrial parts, medical equipment, sporting goods, toys, and more. Since 2008, pad printing has become the gold standard for Tagless garments and footwear production. The process for pad printing is a printing method that uses a silicone print pad to pick up ink from an etched cliché (plate) and transfer it to a part. The idea of pad printing is to lay a thin layer of ink onto the plate which leaves a soft touch and most importantly, cuts down the per-label cost. Inkcups offers an extensive line of pad printers that consist of 1, 2, 4 and 6 color seal cup models that are designed to meet a wide range of printing needs.

But why use pad printing and inks over traditional methods of printing such as heat transfer for example? While heat transfer can only put markings on a garment’s surface, pad printing inks such as SB ink, for example, will infiltrate and douse the textile which in turn will lengthen the life of the tag. Along with an enhanced life of the tag, pad printing allows an image to be easily modified in-house which enables cost-effective short run production. However, with heat transfer, labels have to be bought by the thousands which are not nearly as time and cost effective as pad printing. Whether you are starting to use pad printing technology or are experienced, all of our pad printing machines, including the compact tabletop models, have robust compression capability and come with the VersaCup®, our patented universal ink cup.

On to the inks! At Inkcups, we offer a substantial line of inks that will meet pad printing needs. This is where our Sapphire® ink line comes into play. With Sapphire® inks, choose from over eight types of inks that fit your printing needs and numerous colors. Take a more in-depth look below!

Sapphire® Series Inks
  • BA Series: Our BA Series ink is a high gloss, easy to use all-purpose, and fast drying pad printing ink. This ink sticks to a wide range of applications and has outstanding scratch resistance once it dries to a particular substrate. Print on items such as pens, injection molds, wood, packaging and more! Read more about our BA Series here!


  • BT Series: Like the BA Series, our BT Series ink is high gloss, easy to process, and an all-purpose pad printing ink. It also has exceptional abrasion resistance and adheres to a wide range of products that are ideal for both pad printing and screen printing. Print on translucent plastics, ice packs, medical containers and more! Read more about the BT Series here!


  • SB Series: The SB Series is a special pad printing ink that adheres to apparel and rubber-like applications. The exclusive flexibility, high gloss, and opacity of the ink make it the ideal choice for rubberized and soft touch items. Print on apparel, stress balls, soft PVC, sporting goods and more flexible materials! Read more about the SB Series here!


  • CG Series: With the CG Series, print on glass, ceramics, and metals. The print looks opaque and has a satin gloss. This series offers excellent adhesion and dishwasher resistance, has rapid cross-linking and improved resistance with a heat cure after printing. Print on glass bottles, stainless steel mugs, light bulbs and more! Read more about our CG Series here!


  • J3 Series: Looking for a glossy, quick drying, and multipurpose pad printing ink? J3’s high opacity and superior resistance to adhesion and chemicals such as alcohol, acids, and alkali make it the ideal choice for industrial applications and vinyl. Print on medical devices, cosmetics, containers and more! Read more about our J3 Series here!


  • MB Series: The MB Series is the “go to,” high gloss pad printing ink with excellent adhesion to tough substrates which makes it perfect for Medical applications. The ink is easy to use, fast curing opaque ink with superior mechanical and chemical resistance to alcohol, acids, and alkali on metals and hard plastics. Print on promotional products, hard hats, coated materials, and other difficult applications. Read more about the MB Series here!


  • PN Series: Our PN Series is a specialty ink designed for printing on untreated polypropylene where it can print on both metal and plastics. PN is a high gloss, fast drying ink that adheres very well to most polypropylene substrates. The ink has excellent abrasion resistance and can withstand 50 alcohol wipes without hardener and 100 wipes with hardener. Print on promotional products, Frisbees, Tupperware and more. Read more about the PN Series here!


  • SI Series: What is unique about the SI Series is that it is our only ink solely designed to print on silicone rubber parts. Applied by either screen or pad printing, SI ink is opaque, glossy, flexible and particularly resistant to abrasion. Where other solvent-based inks could pose a problem, SI allows you to print on promotional products, wrist bands, buttons for controllers and more silicone products! Read more about the SI Series here!


Comprehending Our Sapphire® Inks:

The Sapphire® ink line is run by Inkcups pad printing machines which print images onto a wide range of surfaces. We provide numerous variants of inks, contingent on the color, grade or surface preferred. But what does this mean? How can you know or understand which color, grade or surface you want to use based on the eight Sapphire® inks? Our inks are recognized using a formula that articulates the exact details of each ink. They are branded by two letters followed by a sequence of numbers and/or letters. The first two letters indicate the ink series. The series shows the characteristics and functions of the ink. Based on the description mentioned above, the SB series ink works best on rubbery and textile surfaces which is important in determining what type of ink to purchase. The same goes for any ink series so you know exactly what each ink is capable of.

Next is observing the ink number/letter sequence. Standard colors are written in the arrangement XX 1##, with the XX signifying the series and the ## displaying the color number. For example, the ink SB 165 is one of the many variations of inks we offer as it is the black standard color in the SB series. Standard colors are ready to be printed with no mixing required. With mixing colors, they are written in the form XX ##, so the ink SB 60 is a white mixing color. Mixing colors are made specifically to be mixed with other inks to create custom colors. Another form is our high-density inks, which are written as XX 1##HD, meaning the ink SB 160 HD is a white high-density ink in the SB series. High-density colors are more opaque than standard colors, which leaves a more solid finish. Our method of classifying pad printing inks allows for a simple way to determine which ink to use for a certain product and allows the customer to ensure the highest quality of results.

Color Matching:

In addition to our eight series of inks, Inkcups’ easy to use, cost-effective and fast Sapphire® color matching system, gives you the flexibility to produce any color, anytime! We offer 12 different colors that allow you to mix and match pad printing/screen printing inks and to create both standard Sapphire® color as well as any popular numerical color shade. This process is very simple and beneficial if you are looking to color match. Simply identify the chosen color you are looking to create as well as the quantity, then our spreadsheet will calculate the mixing formula for you. It’s that easy!

Harmony Color Mixing:

Some customers may prefer not to make PMS colors themselves, which is totally okay! Inkcups provides same-day color mixing services. We offer customers the option to provide us with either the color number (from any of the popular numerical scales) or send an imprinted product to be color matched. This method is simple and by utilizing our color mixing card and color calculating spreadsheet, our customers have to simply choose their desired color and enter the quantity of ink they need. From here, our spreadsheet will show which of the 12 main Sapphire® mixing colors are needed and in which quantities.

Adhesion Testing:

Another benefit of Inkcups pad printing services is our complimentary adhesion testing. You may be asking, why would someone want to have their product tested through this method? If a customer of ours has a product that is difficult to print on through pad, screen or inkjet printing, we offer free adhesion testing that will detail exactly what series of ink is right for them. The ink technicians at Inkcups will then test multiple inks and test for abrasion resistance to confirm the ink meets the adhesion needs of the product.


How can using auxiliaries be beneficial to your printing needs? Auxiliaries are used to support all aspects of printing, pre-press, and post-press operations. From solvents to hardeners, to primers, they all play a big role to provide the best process control and improved production output. To start is the hardeners. Inkcups carries 4 separate hardeners, the 1000-H, 1000 HGL, 1000 HN, and the 1000 HNX. Each provides different functions. For most of the Sapphire® series inks, the hardener used is the 1000-H. A hardener’s main function is to increase adhesion and chemical resistance.

Looking at solvents, Inkcups carries nine various solvents that are used for fine tuning inks to any printing situation. They have been specially prepared to reduce evaporative variations, deliver process balance and improve manufacturing output. Depending on the environment/climate where the solvent is curing, makes a big difference when drying. For example, an ink that has solvent applied will evaporate at different speeds in a warmer climate as opposed to a frigid climate. To slow evaporation rates, Inkcups also providers retarders. We also, supply custom ink solvents that our chemists are able to prepare that meet unique process demands. A quick look at our nine solvents are listed below:

  • Type M
  • Type MS
  • Type SB-M
  • Type G
  • Type SB-MS
  • Type EB
  • Type S3
  • Type SI-S
  • Type F

An ideal time to use one of our solvents would be once a hardener is applied to one of the series of inks. Sticking with the SB series, for example, once the 1000H hardener is applied, the mixture should be thinned to a printing thickness with 10% – 30% SB-M or SB-MS by weight. Adding solvent will make the ink less viscous (sticky) and dry slower.


Safety is most important, especially when using ink. Our customers who use our inks will feel confident knowing that all of our inks they are using are certified and compliant with industry standards. Through Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), all of our Sapphire® ink products are non-toxic and compliant with all current US regulations as well as European toy safety (EN-71) and RoHS regulations. Every one of our Sapphire inks have certificates from Bureau Veritas and other independent laboratories confirming the absence of lead, restricted phthalates, carcinogenic and dangerous substances as demanded by The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (also known as CPSIA) and The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (also known as California Proposition 65). The MB and J3 series are Class VI certified, meeting strict medical safety standards and can be applied to devices in direct contact with the human body. The Sapphire SB series ink is also certified by Oeko-Tex and Bureau Veritas to not contain Azo dyes, restricted metals, and PVC. In addition, the SB ink is certified by NAMSA to not cause skin irritation. Tests by Govmark Inc. demonstrated that the ink withstands at least 50 industrial washes.

To Conclude:

In conclusion, we hope that you find this overview of our inks and the many processes associated with them insightful and helpful. Whether you are new or experienced handling inks, this overview is ideal as it covers all of the areas you need to be familiar with when dealing with Inkcups’ inks.

Want to Learn More about pad printing? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Pad Printing Machines

In addition to our inks for printing on promotional materials, we also offer inks for apparel. Learn more about why companies should switch to printed garment tags.

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