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Revisiting Water-Based Inks

Posted by Caleb Morgan on 9/27/2018
This article originally appeared in a July 2018 article written by Allen Wesson and has been modified with additional content.

        Matsui Color has built a reputation for itself in becoming an industry leader in water-based printing products. With the recent introduction of their ready-for-use water-based ink system, they have taken the guess work out of the equation and given printers a user-friendly and approachable solution for these often-portrayed-as difficult inks. More appealing to printers should be the affordability of the Infinity RFU system, as there is virtually no significant cost difference compared to conventional plastisol inks.

        But what makes water-based inks so special, anyway? First, consider the market. Most customers demand soft-hand prints on their shirts. Basically, they’re saying, “we want you to screen-print these but don’t make it feel like you screen-printed them.” That can put a lot of apparel decorators in a tight spot. With water-based inks, you can easily achieve a soft-hand print if done properly. If you imprint more than just apparel, water-based inks work great on high-nap fabric substrates like towels because of the inks ability to wick into the thick fabric.

        Regarding Matsuis Infinity RFU ink series it’s important to note that this system is in fact ready-for-use. There are no additional additives or steps required other than mixing your colors with the RFU system, a stark contrast to other water-based inks which do require multiple additives before printing. Speaking of mixing your colors, Matsuis system includes a set of 14 standard colors which are press ready right out of the container. The ability to mix nearly any color in the Pantone spectrum using only the 14 included inks may nominate this system as a game changer. With simple measuring and mixing you can satisfy any color requirements your customers may have.

        Matsui provides a comprehensive yet simple guide for PMS Ink Mixing. If you have your Pantone color book on hand, use it as a reference and get the mix ratios provided by Matsui. The water-based inks are easily mixed by hand, compared to some rather thick plastisol inks. The Infinity RFU inks may easily be stored for future use as well. A few additional deliberations must be made when working with these water-based inks, such as a formulated emulsion that can withstand the water-soluble effects of water-based products. Photopolymer emulsions are a good place to start, and some dual-cure emulsions also work well with water-based inks. It’s also recommended to additionally ’set’ the emulsion onto the screen by post exposing them once washout is complete to prevent further emulsion breakdown, specifically during large print jobs.

        Keeping your screen flooded between prints using water-based inks must be the most talked about consideration when working with these inks. Because water-based inks utilize water as the main evaporative solvent, they can air dry much quicker than conventional plastisol inks. therefore, it’s important to keep those screens flooded between prints. Experienced water-base printers are always conscious of how long a screen has sat between prints to prevent the ink from “drying in”. Although Matsui has specifically formulated its Infinity series to be less prone to air-drying, it still occurs and is important to mention regardless. The company offers optional additives – a softening agent to help prevent mesh clogging, a fixing agent – which further helps bind the ink to your substrate, and a retarder – to extend the time it takes the water to evaporate, extending your on-screen time for the ink. Keep in mind, these additives are purely optional, unnecessary for printing and will only help increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the Infinity RFU ink series. These additives also come pre-mixed in the proper ratios in containers for ease of use. You will also need an accurate scale if you intend to create your own ink colors from the 14 provided.

        Texsource offers all colors in the RFU series individually, but we implore you to take full advantage of the efficiency and affordability of this line and get the Matsui RFU Ink Kit. With the base kit, you may add to your loadout with proper emulsion, a scale or color chart additionally. We hope you found this article helpful in making the implementation of water-based inks less intimidating.  

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