We’re label makers, and sometimes, we need to print white to create a gorgeous custom label for you. Here’s the who, what, where, when, why, and how of white plates. 

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What is a white plate?

In the digital world, where we’ve outgrown the actual plate, a white plate is also known as white ink, white ink separation, or underlying ink. No matter what you call it, at the most basic level, a white plate is the white ink we use as a primer. It’s applied to metallic or clear stocks to make your ink visible.

Simply put, your white plate shows us what is supposed to be clear or metallic, and what isn’t. If you are using a clear stock (like a clear BOPP) or a metallic stock (like a met BOPP), you’re going to need a white plate.

In this blog post, we’re going to chat about why you need a white plate and explain the stocks and printing processes involved.


Why white plates are important

The first thing that you need to understand when it comes to white plates, is the stocks that require them—and how ink shows up on these stocks.


Metallic stocks

Metallic BOPP (or met BOPP as it’s commonly referred to) is a metallic stock which is typically used to create a reflective metallic colour— like gold, rose gold, or silver, in your label. What’s critical here, is that the ink does not make this stock metallic, the stock itself is metallic.


Clear stocks

Clear BOPP is a transparent stock. It’s typically used for labels that have see-through cut-outs or sections, or for creating the look of specialty shapes without the custom dies. What’s vital here is the stock itself is transparent.


How white plates work

When printing on one of these stocks, it’s important to remember what it’s made from. When printing on met BOPP for instance, you’re printing on a grey material, so any ink you place on top may come out duller and darker than you intended. Also, if printed directly on the stock, they may also have a metallic sheen to them.

That’s where white ink comes in.

Acting the same as a primer over a bright coloured wall, white ink puts an opaque layer over the metallic stock, so when you print on top of this primer, your colours turn out how you intended. The more hits of white ink you add, the more opaque your colours will appear.


White plates in the printing process

Flexographic printing occurs in layers, one at a time: the colours (CMYK and white) are printed over each other to replicate your artwork. When printing, white ink goes on first and CMYK inks (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) print next. This is where the term white plate originated.

For us as digital printers, each layer of ink goes down at the same time so we need to let the machine know where you want each colour printed. For more on the differences between flexo and digital printing check out our tell all blog here

At the end of the day, it’s essential to indicate your white plates in your artwork because you want the printer to understand where you need the primer, where the colours go, which areas are to remain metallic (no ink) and which are meant to be coloured metallics (gold ink without the white primer underneath).

To learn how to set up your white plates, check out our step-by-step tutorial here.