Screen Printing:

You Can Make Shiny Ink Dull, But…

By Mark Brouillard, Contributing Writer

January 9, 2017

Sheen is the reflection of light from a surface. The smoother the surface, the easier the light reflects, giving it a glossy-sheen look. The more angular or rough a surface is, the harder it is for light to reflect, thus giving it a dull or matte sheen.

Most ink comes in either a matte or glossy finish. You can take a glossy ink finish and add a dulling agent to make it a lower gloss or matte. However, it is difficult to make matte-finish ink look glossy without the addition of a clear gloss coat to smooth out the surface. 

So, the real question is how many screens you want to use versus how many additives you want to use. If you have a matte ink and want to make it not so matte, you are going to need an extra screen to overprint clear gloss ink. If you have a gloss ink and want to make it lower sheen, most companies offer a dulling/matte additive (or a puff additive) that can be added to the ink. The dulling additive will, in effect, roughen up the surface of the ink giving it a lower light refraction and thus a lower sheen.

Typically, dulling agents are added to ink at around 5-7% by weight. What is important to note is that when making lower-sheen ink, you should write down the recipe and label the leftover ink. Also note what percentage the dulling agent was used on the job sheet in case of a re-order, or so that it doesn’t get used on another job where that effect is not desired.

Mark Brouillard is product manager for International Coatings. For more information, visit and read the company’s blog at