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How to print on transparent plastic

Updated July 20, 2017

Printing on transparent plastic can be done on any home printer except laser printers, the heat from which will prevent ink particles from sticking to the sheet properly. Special inks are not needed, and plastic printing sheets are available commercially for this purpose. Some printers will require their own brand of plastic sheet for the best quality. Prices for plastic sheets average from £9 to £39 per 50 sheets depending on the brand and smudge resistance. Another name for a printed plastic sheet is a "transparency."

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  1. Find clear plastic sheets made for printing at office supply stores and check the package to make sure they are designed for home printers. The sheet size should be 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches for standard printers. Plastic print sheets have a rough side to them, which helps the ink adhere to the surface. Printing on the shiny side causes the ink to bead up, dry slowly and smear more easily.

  2. Place the transparent plastic sheet on the print tray with the rough side of the print sheet facing down, or right side up if it is a nonbending printer. Some plastic sheet brands will have a removable white tab along the top of the sheet. This helps the printer to grab onto the sheet to pull it in, and helps newer printers judge the opacity of the surface. When printing, place this white tab at the mouth of the printer.

  3. Check your print and printer settings. In the computer program you are printing from, check to see that the page is set to 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches. Check that the printer has sufficient ink, for even a small amount of ink shortage can wash out a transparent print.

  4. Print test sheets to check that colours and designs are showing up on the sheet as desired. The white background on a regular sheet of paper enhances colour, and the ink will not be as strong on the transparent plastic as it would be on paper.

  5. Take your final printed transparent plastic sheet away from the print tray and place it on a flat surface, ink side up. Ink will take 5 to 15 minutes to dry and should not be touched.

  6. Tip

    Because some printers are not designed to handle plastic sheets, it is recommended you only print one sheet at a time to reduce the risk of multiple sheets being pulled in at once. When drying your printed plastic sheet, do not place other materials on top of the print to soak up excess ink or make it dry faster; this will only remove ink. Place sheets of waxed paper over and between dried, printed sheets of transparent plastic to prevent damage. Do not bend, fold, or roll sheets when transporting. Keep them in flat and sturdy folders or portfolios where they are at a minimal risk of rubbing or scratching. Keep prints away from direct sun exposure to reduce fading.

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Things You'll Need

  • Plastic printing sheets
  • Printer
  • Ink
  • Computer
  • Waxed paper

About the Author

From Ann Arbor, Mich., Caitlin Goodwin began writing in 2006. Her first published article was in "Cicada Magazine," and she has recently written several articles for her college website. Goodwin enjoys writing about women's health, home improvement, landscaping, and pet care.

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