Design and Print on Almost Anything

Author: Mary Schilling, Inkjet Insight

Designers love to push the boundaries and take risks. The challenge is bringing these ideas to life and producing them.  Sometimes the design goes beyond what can be realistically manufactured.

However, inkjet printing technology is changing all that. It has opened up new areas of opportunity for both design and the printing industry. The design community might be surprised to learn of that inkjet printing is all around us and its WAY more than paper. Inkjet has become the leading technology for small runs and personalization.

Custom printed 2’x2’ acoustic ceiling tile from Unicorn Graphics

As founder of InkjetInsights, I’m a huge fan of inkjet and regularly meet with different inkjet printers. Over the years, I have seen firsthand the amazing things they can produce. These printers are producing everything from the tile at our feet to the beer we drink.

One inkjet printer that continues to push the creative boundaries is Unicorn Graphics.  They began in New York as a humble calendar printer in 1985 and expanded into a multi-million-dollar creative print company offering a wide array of printed products. Located in Garden City, offer traditional printing, folding carton, digital, wide format and inkjet. Yes, many companies offer these same services, but Unicorn is unique. They bring products to market using material which we don’t normally think about printing on.



While most buildings and offices have the boring white acoustic ceiling tiles above their heads. Unicorn offers custom printed artwork on acoustical ceiling tile using UV flatbed inkjet technology. And the folks at Unicorn Graphics are helping designers make these tiles stand out.

Using just poster board and foam core Unicorn has a series of print customization offers such as ceiling tiles. The company works with builders, architects and designers to customize common 2’x2’ and 2’x4’ sized tiles. Customers can submit their own art or have custom work designed by the Unicorn creative team. The artwork is printed with robust CMYK process UV ink directly onto the tiles as shown in the example below.



Using inkjet designers can think beyond custom ceiling tiles, to print on almost any substrate. For example, Unicorn offers what they call Spatial Printing. Spatial is a unique art form based on inkjetting directly onto nontraditional products, regardless of their surface roughness.  This typically involves adding unusual or recycled items to substrate backing before printing to create a 3D print.  This can include using food, pennies, sand, or anything else as the substrate. For designers, there is no limit and company’s using spatial printing make sure it looks great.

Just look at these examples from Unicorn.  It’s their bread and jelly (literally).

For designers and brand owners, there is an opportunity to use inkjet to create unique branded items that will make customers stop and look. In many ways the items become pieces of art.



In talking with Unicorn Graphics, they will print on just about anything – wine corks, cereal, M&M’s, peanuts and nails. Though some items require a pre-treatment to ensure the compatibility of the UV ink and substrate. Once thing is clear, Unicorn embodies the spirit of creativity and works with designers to transform conventional flat surfaces into dimensionally attractive displays.

Inkjet technology is changing the way may designers think about print and what is possible. This technology allows brand owners and creatives to take greater risks in design and imagine new types of displays, signage, décor and artwork.  You can use everyday materials in innovative ways.  What was once considered unthinkable to print on can now be used in design and printed on.


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