Ink Highlight: Reflective and Gel Specialty Inks

June 2, 2016 at 4:00 am Leave a comment


This print uses gel gloss ink. Adding this type of ink over a print can inject depth and interest into a design

Impressions recently published a quick sidebar tip from Kieth Stevens on reflective and gel inks as part of their Ink Market Trends, Part 2 article:


I have received more calls regarding this type of product than any other. Reflective inks [such as International Coatings’ Optilux® 505 or 507] typically contain microscopic beads, some with a metal backing to reflect light when a focused beam shines onto the print. The resulting effect can appear almost holographic and certainly enhances nighttime visibility of the design.

When printing reflective inks, be sure not to under base this product, so that the ink (which is acting as an adhesive) can penetrate the substrate and hold the beads securely in place. Print with a good amount of pressure to push the clear adhesive into the garment. This will allow the coated glass beads to be filtered to the surface of the garment and get the best reflectivity.  Again, a longer cure time may be required due to the reflective nature of the ink.

Clear gel

Adding a glossy gel [such as the Special FX Clear 3809] over a print can be an easy way of adding depth and interest to a design. Printing an entire design just using gel can create a nifty look, or try using it by making water drops on a soda bottle stand out, for example.

Of course this is just a partial list of specialty inks and I could add at least 10 more, but if for getting started offering some cool effects to your customers, this is a good place to start.

Don’t be intimidated by specialty inks and start playing with additives to get a better understanding of how they work. This will enable you to print them more efficiently, quote the job better, and ultimately, get paid more.

Note: Image above was printed using the same Gellusion technique as shown in our “how to” video on IC TV’s YouTube Channel

Kieth Stevens is the Western regional sales manager for International Coatings. He has been screen printing for over 37 years, teaching screen printing for more than 12 years and is a regular contributor to International Coatings’ blogs. He also won a 2014 Golden Image Award from SGIA. For more information, visit

International Coatings manufactures a complete line of non-phthalate screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whites, specialty inks, special effects inks, color matching systems, additives and reducers. For more information on our products, please visit our website at


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