White: A Surprisingly Complex Color

The color white can symbolize many emotions, from peace to hope to newness and a fresh start. The science behind printing it is no less complex.

White represents many contradictory feelings: fear and hope, celebrating new beginnings and mourning the dead, sand and snow, and other opposites. “The more you talk about white, the more complicated it gets,” says Rhode Island School of Design professor, James Goggin.

"We turn to white when things are extreme, when they're big,” adds Jeff Goodby, founder of the advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. He knows the color well—he came up with the iconic “Got Milk?” ads. “White might be the most evocative color because it can take on so many different forms,” says Goodby.

In digital printing, Xerox white toner brings incredible versatility to the page. You can layer it on top of color paper stock for spot embellishments, put CMYK on top of it, and mix it with specialty colors to create an entirely new color. “Our white opens it up for artists and designers to do a lot,” says Xerox scientist Yat Ming-Wong.

Xerox’s white toner also makes a statement. “We have the brightest white,” says Xerox Color Imaging Manager Beatriz Custode. That is achieved by putting down three times as much ink mass as competitors. On the numerical measurement scale, a blinding white is 100 and paper white is in the 90s. “We measure around the 80s,” says Custode. “Competitive products measure around the 70s.”

Among artists, designers, and storytellers, the blank white page can induce anxiety, that element you must inevitably wrestle with to bring your creative ideas to life. Goody recommends taking a different, contradictory view: welcome the empty space and embrace the constraints. “It's a wonderful thing to jump in and give it character and color,” he says. “Or to just leave it alone and let it breathe.

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