How to Print on Glass: Techniques and Options Explained

Printing on glass can enhance its uses and value, expanding the possibilities for surface designs that are both beautiful and functional, and for a wide range of applications.

Printing on glass can enhance the uses and value of glass, expanding the possibilities for surface designs that are both beautiful and functional, and for a wide range of applications; industrial, commercial, automotive, interior design, and architectural. Glass is a traditional material that has become a contemporary medium for decorative purposes. Someone wondering about how do you print on glass will discover that there are various options and techniques to choose from.

Advanced technologies for printing on glass offer not only the promise of design potential, but also serve to enhance flexibility, durability, and sustainability for exterior as well as interior surfaces. The two main approaches to printing on glass are screen printing and digital ceramic glass printing. Both methods offer excellent results and benefits, with different degrees of versatility and cost, using different techniques, types of equipment, and inks. A third option is digital UV printing, which offers the advantages of digital printing, but typically cannot match the high durability provided by screen printing or digital ceramic printing.

Main printing options

Screen printing on glass

The screen printing method is actually a traditional technique that has been used successfully for many decades. Screen printing is suitable for both interior and exterior surfaces, and is highly durable. This method uses a stencil and a mesh screen to create the design. Ink is spread across the screen with a squeegee; while the stencil blocks certain areas of glass, leaving others open to let the ink through. The result is a high-quality image, pattern, or design element. The ink is then “fired” to adhere to the glass. Screen printing on glass is limited to a maximum of four colors. Each color requires a long setup and preparation time, and high fixed costs. Screen printing is ideal for high-volume glass printing production in commercial, industrial, and architectural applications.

Digital printing on glass

The flexibility of digital printing on glass opens a new world of options, and compelling advantages for glass processors, architects, and designers.

There are two methods for digital printing on glass: UV-curable printing, and digital ceramic printing.

• Digital UV printing technology uses organic inks and employs ultraviolet light to cure (dry) the ink on the glass surface. The technology enables unlimited color combinations. Digital UV printing is a fast and economical method for printing high-quality, customizable images on glass for short-run architectural and interior design applications. However, durability and scratch-resistance are limited and there is a lack of functional inks.

• Digital ceramic printing on glass takes a different approach to that of digital UV. With digital ceramic printing, the inks contain ceramic frit (basically Nano-particles of glass mixed with colored pigments) and are fused into the glass after printing, so that the inks become an integral part of the printed glass. In comparison, digital UV inks are not fused into the glass; rather they are laid down on top of the glass and then cured, creating an ultra-thin printed layer over the glass surface.

Digital ceramic glass printing technology – innovative and versatile

Digital ceramic glass printing offers expanded opportunities and versatile solutions with unlimited design flexibility, and the ability to incorporate creativity with high functionality for design applications on any scale. Add to that low setup costs and time, and this innovative technology is a great way to incorporate vivid color and style for customized print runs, and for functional applications, such as automotive glass. Another benefit of digital ceramic glass printing technology is the capability to produce unique products that can incorporate natural effects, with an unlimited color palette.

Digital ceramic inks, such as those developed by Dip-Tech, are the most innovative and versatile inks for printing on glass. They offer added functionality for interior and exterior applications, such as solar control, resistance to glare and reflection, and light diffusion and light transmission control that comply with industry standards and durability requirements.

An increasingly important concern to address the question of how do you print on glass is environmental performance. In this area too, digital ceramic printing shines. Dedicated software tools, such as the Dip-Energy Printed Glass Performance Calculator, make it easy to calculate the energy-saving performance of surface designs before printing. And when it comes to design – the only limit is your imagination!

The strong market demand for environmentally friendly, creative, and decorative capabilities in surface design on glass gives digital ceramic printing on glass a vital competitive edge that offers new opportunities, with infinite surface design potential for architectural and decorative glass, as well as for industrial and commercial applications.