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What is UV printing?

What is UV printing?

While conventional printing allows ink to dry naturally on the paper, UV printing has its own unique process. First off, UV inks are used instead of traditional solvent-based inks.

Also known as ultraviolet printing, UV printing is a printing technique that uses UV curing ink to print on a wide variety of materials. This is an incredibly versatile printing process and is fast, efficient and incredibly effective.

But what is UV printing, how does it work, and what are the benefits of this type of printing?

How does UV printing work?

UV printing is a type of digital printing, where UV lights are used to cure ink as it is printed onto the surface.

Rather than traditional, solvent-based inks, UV printing uses UV inks. As the printer distributes ink on the surface of the material being printed on, a UV light follows close behind, curing the ink instantly.

This instant curing means that dots of wet ink don’t have the opportunity to spread once printed, offering much finer attention to detail.

UV technology explained

Let’s take a closer look at the technology used in UV printing:

Print head

UV printers use piezo print head technology to deliver ultra-precise ink placement.

Microscopic piezoelectric elements are mounted behind the print head nozzles, and an electrical charge is applied. This charge makes the elements flex, causing extremely precise amounts of ink to be ejected with a high level of control.

The print head creates perfectly spherical dots of different sizes, giving incredible control over print quality, colour density, and finish.


UV inks are usually flexible, allowing them to print curved lines or onto elastic materials. During the UV printing process, the UV ink is cured instantly, eliminating the need for a drying stage in the process and allowing the printed object to be used instantly.

UV Lamps

UV lamps are used to instantly cure the UV ink once printed. This speeds up the UV printing process significantly.

The UV lamps are cool-running LED lamps, which are durable, safe, ozone-free, and cost-effective. They also don’t take time to warm up.

What is spot UV printing?

Also known as spot gloss or spot varnish, spot UV printing is a method for coating printed products. A varnish is placed onto the printed material and this is then cured using UV light, to create a clear, shiny layer.

This technique is most effective on colour-printed products, helping to enhance shine while protecting the colour from damage and moisture. It is often used to pick out particular elements of the design to create contrast and impact. Spot colours are used to identify the specific area of the design that needs to be coated.

What materials can UV print on?

One of the appeals of UV printing is that it can be used to print on a wide range of materials and products. In fact, this printing method can be used to print on almost any material – excluding waterproofed and oil-surfaced materials.

Here are just some of the materials that can be used in UV printing:

UV printing on wood

UV printers can be used to print directly onto wood and wooden products, from photo frames and drumsticks, through to doors and tables.

UV printing on glass

UV printers can print onto glass surfaces, ranging from bottles to window panes. Primer layers are often used when UV printing onto glass.

UV printing on canvas

UV printers can print designs onto canvas, creating quirky tote bags and clothing, and cherished memories.

UV printing on ceramic

This printing technique is often used to print on ceramics, including tiles and ornaments. A primer is often used when UV printing on ceramics.

UV printing on leather

One of the benefits of UV printing is that UV inks are flexible, meaning they can print on leather as well as leather alternatives. This means UV printing can be used on leather bags, shoes, clothing, and interiors.

UV printing on metal

UV printing techniques can be used to print onto metal, including everything from pet tags and accessories, to water bottles and drinks packaging.

The benefits of UV printing

UV printing offers a number of benefits over other types of printing, including:

Print on most materials

First and foremost, UV printing is better for the environment because no solvents are being released into the air, helping your business reduce its emissions. Another advantage is the fact that you can print on nonporous materials like plastic, glass and metals. Essentially, if you can fit the material into the printing press, you can print on it with UV ink.

Quicker than conventional printing

It’s also far quicker than conventional printing. You no longer need to wait for the ink on your pieces to dry, as the UV ink dries through a photomechanical process. It’s almost instantaneous, so you can get more done in less time.


Because of its speed, UV printing is also an incredibly cost-effective method. Think about it; you’re clearly saving money through the faster drying times. However, there are also big savings to be made by removing the need for aqueous coatings, which are necessary for conventional ink to dry faster and not smear. UV printing requires no coatings.

Vibrant finish

In addition, UV printing often provides a more vibrant finish, as the UV lights give the ink no time to soak into the paper. Photorealistic printing is more than achievable, so whether you’re creating an external sign or a stack of beautiful business cards, your customers are sure to be pleased with the final result.

Changes in the UV printing industry

The UV printing industry is experiencing rapid growth, with UV inks and printing processes evolving and becoming more accessible.

And, as technology advances, UV printers are producing graphics with increasingly high resolutions, making the quality of print far better than it could ever be with more traditional printing methods, such as screen printing.

Of course, UV printing is versatile and can be used for a wide variety of jobs, from branding bottle beers to creating lavish business cards, and everything in between. Ultimately, if you need to print on unusual or uncoated materials, UV printing is the most effective way to get fantastic results.

Purchase a UV printer today

Whether you’re looking for a brand-new flatbed UV printer or fancy picking up a used model, we’ve got what you need here at Perfect Colours. If you aren’t sure which model or type of UV printer would be best for your needs and would like some advice, please get in touch today.

Note* - Post updated and corrected July 2022

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