Cool Stuff: Inkjet as Unique as a Unicorn

By Mary Schilling / Published:

Every day, more of the things that surround us can, or are, being printed with inkjet. Using single pass or scan printing, inkjet jet is touching our lives in many unexpected ways from the tile at our feet to  the beer we drink. Inkjet has become the leading technology for small runs and personalization.  But, sometimes inkjet goes over our heads. I mean actually over our heads.

While most buildings and offices have the boring white acoustic ceiling tiles above their heads. Printing custom artwork on acoustical ceiling tile is a wonderful opportunity to use UV flatbed inkjet technology. If you have a UV inkjet flatbed which can adjust to ¾-2” Z-direction in head height, you can add a new market to your print offering. And the folks at Unicorn Graphics figured that out an ran with it.

Making a Business of Looking UP

Unicorn Graphics began in New York as a humble calendar printer in 1985 and has expanded into a multi-million-dollar creative print company offering a wide array of printed products. Located in Garden City, their menu contains traditional printing, folding carton, digital, wide format and inkjet. Other companies provide those services as well, but Unicorn isn’t just a name- they are a unicorn among printers. They have raised the bar on the creative use of inkjet printing – raised it Way UP.

Looking beyond inkjet technology as a print service, Unicorn Graphics is bringing products to market using material which we don’t normally don’t think about printing on. Using just poster board and foam core they have launched a series of print customization offers such as ceiling tiles. Unicorn 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.

Unicorn Custom printed 2’x2’ acoustic ceiling tile

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

Printing Anything but Normal

In addition to custom ceiling tiles, 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. Adding unusual or recycled items to substrate backing before printing creates a wonderful 3D print utilizing a company’s very own product. It seems like Unicorn can print on anything and make it look good. In fact you could say that’s their bread and jelly.

And this is Unicorn printing a jelly jar on bread.

Picture of Smucker's Jelly jar printed on bread

Printing on bread by Unicorn Graphics

Can they print a picture of a jar of spaghetti sauce directly on uncooked spaghetti? Check.

Picture of Ragu sauce jar printed on dry spaghetti

Printing on dry spaghetti by Unicorn Graphics

A graphic of Bob Marley printed on gummy bears? Done that.

Picture of Bob Marley printed on Gummy bears

Printing on Gummy Bears by Unicorn Graphics

And don’t forget wine corks, cereal, M&M’s, peanuts and nails, oh my! It’s crazy right?

When You Can Print on Anything – Anything Goes!

Unicorn Graphics will print on just about anything. Though some items require a pretreatment to ensure the compatibility of the UV ink and substrate, rest assured, they will try to make it work. This company embodies the spirit of creativity in the way they have transformed conventional flat surfaces into dimensionally attractive displays of materials which have long been considered unprintable.

Developing products as unique as unicorns, they have lived up to their name.

Want more Cool Stuff. See Mary’s previous posts on custom garage doors and direct-to-skin printing. Have a cool inkjet application to tell us about? Drop us a note and we hope this gives you something to smile about.

About the Author

Mary Schilling


Mary Schilling writes about technical inkjet industry articles, provides RIP and workflow training, manages print quality analysis evaluation, ink management and color management for OEM’s and end users for pre and post machine installs. Mary Schilling consults with paper mills, fluid and inkjet machinery suppliers on how to improve color and print quality for high speed and industrial inkjet involving paper, plastics, metal, fabric and glass with UV and aqueous inkjet fluids. This experience led her to receive Innovator of the Year awards from the Flexographic Technical Association and from Xplor International for her efforts in closing the gap between inkjet printing for document, and digital corrugated packaging. She is the owner of Schilling Inkjet Consulting, Published Author and Certified ColorGate Color Trainer and Distributor. Her latest published works can be found

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