Ink Smearing Issues: Highlighting Blueprints Printed on Inkjet Printers

Highlighting blueprints is a common practice in various industries, including architecture, engineering, and construction. However, when using a highlighter on blueprints printed on inkjet printers, one may encounter the frustrating issue of ink smearing. In this article, we will delve into the causes of this problem and explore recommendations provided by Eastern Engineering’s certified service technicians to help you maintain the clarity and integrity of your important printed documents. Additionally, we will discuss specific printer settings, ink types, and highlighter options that can mitigate ink smearing.

Understanding Inkjet Printing:

Inkjet printers have become increasingly popular due to their affordability and versatility. They work by spraying tiny droplets of ink onto paper, creating precise and detailed prints. While these printers excel in producing vibrant and accurate colors, they have certain limitations that can lead to ink smearing when highlighting blueprints.

The Challenge of Highlighting on Inkjet Prints:

  1. Water-Based Ink: Inkjet printers typically use water-based inks, which are prone to smearing when exposed to moisture. Highlighters often contain water-based inks as well, which can cause the printed lines and text to blur or spread when highlighted.
  2. Absorbent Paper: Blueprint paper, commonly used for technical drawings, tends to be more porous and absorbent than standard printer paper. This absorbency can exacerbate the smearing issue, as the ink from both the printer and the highlighter can seep into the paper fibers.
  3. Drying Time: Inkjet prints take some time to dry completely. If the highlighter is applied too soon after printing, the wet ink can interact with the highlighter ink, leading to smearing and unwanted results.

Mitigating Ink Smearing:

  1. Printer Settings: Eastern Engineering’s certified service technicians recommend adjusting printer settings to reduce ink smearing. For instance, on printers like the HP DesignJet 3600, you can switch the settings on the HPGL2 driver from the default “Normal” to the “Fast” mode. This adjustment allows the printer to use Matte Black ink instead of composite black ink, improving print quality and minimizing smearing.
  2. Ink Types: Eastern Engineering’s experts advise using pigment-based inks for printing blueprints. Pigment inks, composed of solid particles, sit on top of the paper and are less prone to smudging compared to dye-based inks. By utilizing pigment ink cartridges, you can reduce the risk of ink smearing when highlighting blueprints.
  3. Highlighter Options: To further minimize smearing, Eastern Engineering’s technicians recommend using gel-based highlighters. Gel-based formulas dry quickly and have a lower tendency to interact with printed ink, resulting in less smudging on blueprints. Opting for gel-based highlighters can enhance the readability of highlighted areas.
  4. Test and Experiment: Eastern Engineering’s certified service technicians emphasize the importance of conducting tests and experiments. Prior to highlighting an entire blueprint, perform small-scale tests on inconspicuous areas to determine the most compatible and smear-resistant combination of printer settings, ink types, and highlighters.

Here is a test one of our technicians ran on the HP DesignJet 3600 changing the different settings available and the results.

Final Thoughts:

Ink smearing when using a highlighter on blueprints printed on inkjet printers can be a frustrating obstacle for professionals who rely on accurate and legible prints. By following the recommendations of Eastern Engineering’s certified service technicians, including adjusting printer settings, utilizing pigment inks, and opting for gel-based highlighters, you can mitigate the risk of ink smearing and ensure the readability of your highlighted blueprints. Remember to test and experiment with different combinations to find the most effective approach for your specific printer, ink, and highlighter choices. With these strategies in place, you can achieve crisp and professional results.

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