Screen Printing Inks
Basically every inch of a screen printed design can be customized – the lettering, the imagery, the process, even the ink! Yep, it’s true: there are dozens and dozens of screen printing inks you can choose from, and each one delivers a different look and feel, depending on the fabric and design you’ve chosen.
Let’s take a look at some of the screen printing ink options you can choose from:
- Waterbased inks – These inks can only be used on 100-percent cotton products. Polyester or another synthetic fabric will reject the dye, and you won’t have any design printed at all! Waterbased inks are also known for being very soft to the touch – you can’t even feel the print once it’s applied. One thing to note: these inks are essentially a dye, so they typically aren’t as vibrant as plastisol ones are.
- Plastisol inks – These are some the most popular inks in screen printing. They can be opaque on dark fabrics, and they work with almost any textile. They must be heated up to dry, as the ink doesn’t soak into the fibers – instead, it wraps around the fabric and forms a mechanical bond. They don’t work well with plastic, metal, glass or thick, woven materials.
- High-opacity inks – If you’re choosing a medium or dark-toned fabric, you’ll want this type of ink. It ensures the fabric cannot be seen through the ink once it has dried. You can also use high-opacity white inks as a base. Then, you have the freedom to use virtually any ink on top – no matter how opaque it is.
- Low-bleed inks – Dye migration – which is when nearby dyes begin to run into one another and sometimes even change color - is a common problem on polyester materials, as well as highly intricate designs where colors are extremely close. Low-bleed inks prevent this migration from happening and ensure the integrity of the design.
- Soft-hand inks – Soft-hand inks give you a barely-there print. Perfect for jersey knit T-shirts, you can barely feel the ink once it’s applied. This is great for athletic and sleep wear, too.
- Process inks – These inks are used exclusively in process-color printing, and they ensure each individual dot of ink is as sharp and detailed as possible. They’re ideal if you have a highly detailed design.
- Athletic inks – Design specifically for athletic uniforms (and the materials they come in), these inks have a durable, high-glass finish that ensures visibility even at a distance. They typically come in minimal colors and hues (white and black are the most commonly used.) They even work on stretchy fabrics like Lycra.
- Special effect inks – Want a print that glows in the dark, shimmers or is reflective for safety reasons? These inks are your answer. They work on a variety of fabrics and come in a number of color options. They’re perfect if your items will be used at night!
When screen printing an item, you have to be careful when choosing the fabric and inks you’ll be using. If these two don’t mesh, your items probably won’t turn out as you imagined or, what’s worse, they might be ruined completely! Always consult a screen printing expert about your design before finalizing your order or submitting payment.