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Ink Difficulties Demystified

Posted by Caleb Morgan on 9/5/2018

There’s such a wide variety of inks on the market today. Coupled with the rapid advancement in technology, one would think their problems with ink are over. Unfortunately, there are still challenges to be dealt with. However, most of these problems are common and easily resolved. Let’s discuss the most commonly used inks, a few challenges you may face when using them and how to prevent them. Plastisol is the most favored and highly used by printers due to its ease of use, so let’s start there.


Although plastisols are more than user friendly and durable, this comes with a drawback. Occasionally printers find themselves with a bulletproof vest for a shirt, an analogy often used in the industry. The “hand” feel of a shirt refers to how soft or hard a shirt feels, a result of the amount of ink deposited on the substrate. To achieve a soft hand and reduce the hardness, or harshness rather, of a plastisol ink, consider using a plastisol softener which can be mixed into your inks at a specific ratio determined by your ink manufacturer, or simply order a pre-mixed soft hand ink. We offer a fantastic soft hand base available here.  Also consider the type of mesh you’re using. The higher the mesh count, the less ink is put down after each pass; the finer the mesh, the finer the detail. A good strategy to start with when wanting to achieve a softer print is to go with a higher mesh count than normal and use a soft hand ink with a dye blocking underbase first; and just put down less ink. Obviously, circumstances vary greatly print to print, so be sure to refer to the ink manufacturers recommendations on compatible substrates and curing times to ensure a quality print.


Now let’s discuss discharge and water-based inks. Two of the most common challenges printers encounter when using these inks are ink drying up on the screen and the screen breaking down during the printing process. Why would water-based inks dry so quickly? Well, the water in the ink simply evaporates too quickly. If you work in a humid environment, you’re in luck. However, we’ll be mentioning additives once again.  Retarder is the name of the game here, this additive helps to extend the open time for water-based inks, preventing the ink from drying too quickly. We carry Matsui brand Retarder MG available here. Another important factor to consider when using water-based inks; your emulsion. These inks must have an emulsion that doesn’t break down with water like your photopolymers do. Dual cure emulsions are a great place to start. Check them out here.  If your emulsion is still breaking down and you’re sure you are using the right one, then the emulsion has been underexposed. If your cure times have not been properly dialed in or your image doesn’t have enough pressure between the mesh and exposure unit, the emulsion will not properly cure, causing it to break down faster. If you’re unsure about curing time, invest in a good exposure calculator and run some tests.


Finally, let’s put the puff back into puff inks. Do remember, this ink has caused headaches for many a printer. Nonetheless, it’s become increasingly popular in streetwear and fashion brands recently due to its affordability and relatively ease of use. Puff reacts to heat, if you overheat it, it can puff up and subsequently deflate. Be sure the temperature in your dryer reaches 320 degrees and not much more. With any puff or special effect ink, if you have adequate coverage, you’re golden.  When faced with challenges in screenprinting, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We hope this discussion on ink difficulties gives you a little more clarity and confidence to print successfully.


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