Garment Decoration Technologies

There is always a lot of debate in the industry about the various garment decoration technologies and the latest trends. Many people talk to us about the right choice for them, but as always it is never as straight forward as it might seem and there isnt always a clear cut answer.

It can often feel confusing especially as vendors think they have the right solution for you, so we have put together a quick guide on the main technologies to help you make the right decision for your business. Most of our customers have a blend of meet the needs of their customers.

Full details are here  but here is a taster

Garment Decoration Technologies

DTG

  • Constant new developments
  • Great for low volume, photographic multi colour prints
  • Generally requires medium to high investment
  • Good for online, quick turnaround market
  • Consumable cost is high for large volume work
  • But you need to understand the process especially for printing onto darks

Vinyl

  • Great for low volume personalisation
  • Mature market
  • Suitable for low production
  • I don’t like weeding
  • Low investment required to get going
  • Not so versatile
  • Only really suitable for simple artwork
  • Wash ability can be variable

Screen Printing

  • Great for high volume production
  • Very versatile
  • Low investment required to get going
  • Takes time and experience to get the best results especially multi colour complex prints
  • Very cost effective for larger runs
  • Many inks to choose from with varying opacity
  • Not great for low volume unless considering newer digital screen making technologies
  • Perceived to be messy

Embroidery

  • Very common and popular in corporate / uniform market place
  • Not suitable for all garment types or styles of artwork
  • High investment required for high volume production
  • Have to keep up with machine developments to get the most benefits (and to be competitive)

Transfer Printing (DIY)

  • New Colour Lasers with white toner opening up new possibilities
  • Suitable for low production levels
  • Great for photographic work and quick turnaround
  • Generally requires low to medium investment
  • Keep a watch on consumable costs
  • Wash ability can be variable
  • Some papers self weeding, others not so …

Transfer Print

  • Lots of choice from multiple vendors
  • Many of the transfers are screen printed giving the benefits of screen printing inks
  • Good for managing working capital
  • Becoming more popular for printers to create their own transfers
  • Requires low to medium investment

All about discharge inks – Updated

How can I print light designs on a dark garment – All about discharge inks.

I want to print light on dark?

I want a soft touch?

What is a discharge ink?

Here at Wicked Printing Stuff we don’t expect you to know everything and we are happy to explain things. Have you checked out our FREE buyers guide there is lots in there for the Rookie, Intermediate and Professional. Please give us a ring and explain your problem and we will help out. Lastly there are our training courses, designed again for both rookie and advanced printers with basic training or advanced courses.

So back to the problem. You want to print a light colour on a dark garment and you want it to feel soft. Now plastisol inks wrap colour AROUND the threads but gives a rubbery feel (also referred to as hand) but is bright. So ideally you want a water based ink. For those of you that have tried this and I can hear you shouting at the back, but I have tried waterbased inks and I just can’t get a good opaque print, that’s why I use plastisol. Well that’s where the discharge inks come in!

Punk rockerFor the punk rockers out there, remember how you got that bright green hair, that is right you had to bleach out your own hair colour first so the back ground colour was white, only then the colour would take and be vibrant and striking. It is almost the same in screen printing but we use discharge inks that need curing. The discharge ink actually removes the dye.

First off you have to have the right garment fabric, it has to be 100% cotton and it has to be dyed with a dischargeable dye. So check with the manufacturer. If the garment is a mixture of cotton and polyester only the cotton will discharge. Now that might actually suit you but you would need to do a trial run to make sure you get the effect you want.

Discharge processSo having got the right garment now we need the right ink. There are a lot out there and some are more complicated to use than others.

Water based dischargeable inks are the easiest and most eco friendly ones to use. The process works during curing when the discharge removes the original dye and the ink gives the new colour. To do this you add activator to the ink which ensures you get an intense colour.

 

Fuji MagnaColours

We have now introduced two Water based Discharge Ink ranges the patented MagnaPrint® Discharge ULF Ultra range of inks which are Formaldehyde Free and Soil Association Approved and Oeko tex class 1 and class 2 approved. This is the only system which does not stipulate that the garment has to be washed prior to wearing and is low odour compared to over discharge systems. The second system is Sericol TexCharge the largest ink manufacturer, TexCharge is Soil Association approved and also includes a colour matching system.

We also offer MagnaPrint Plascharge additive which you mix 50 / 50 with a plastisol ink, so if you are a plastisol printer you can take advantage of discharge technology.

For the discharge process to work, you do need a tunnel dryer (the longer the better) – typically 90-120 seconds dwell time is needed for a good cure. You can also use a heat press which is great for low production. You also need well ventilated premises and printers should read the MSDS and be aware of any health and safety consideration.
We would be delighted to talk you through this if you have any questions, please contact us.

A simple guide to heat curing

Curing your screen printed garment

When you have printed the garment you need to cure the ink otherwise when the garment goes through the wash you will notice that it fades, cracks and in some circumstances disappears altogether. There are some inks that are air dry but popular inks such as plastisol and waterbased inks need to be cured.

Curing is the actual chemical process by which the ink dries and bonds to the shirt fabric.

We are often asked ‘what is the best equipment to cure screen printing textile ink?’ The simple answer is a tunnel dryer however they can be expensive especially when starting off, so what are the options?

Important: Not all textile ink cure at the same time or temperature. Have a look at ‘The Cure’ which looks into ink curing in some detail.

Always check the documentation that comes with your ink and remember that the best test is always a wash test.

What equipment can be used?

Hair dryer

Hair Dryers – they are not hot enough, they will dry a waterbased ink but not cure it – NOT RECOMMENDED

 

 

IronIron – Don’t give an even heat and most are not hot enough to cure the ink fully. If you are printing T Shirts for your own use and are not worried about the ink gradually disappearing then an iron is an option – NOT RECOMMENDED

Heat GunHeat Guns – With a lot of patience and skill you could cure the ink but you are likely to scorch the garment so be careful. You can use a heat gun to touch dry the ink (the same job as a flash dryer) prior to printing the next colour – NOT RECOMMENDED (limited use)

 

Flash dryersFlash Dryers – normally used for touch drying the ink between prints when printing multi colour, it is possible to use a flash dryer to cure the ink but can be time consuming and requires management to ensure the garment does not burn. Works better for plastisol ink than waterbased ink (which requires longer cure).   LIMITED USE FOR LOW PRODUCTION.

 

 

 

Hand CurerHand Curer – can be used for both touch drying the ink between prints when printing multi colour and comes with a timer making use easier. Can also be used for ink curing as the hand curer uses quartz elements which heat immediately and cool immediately making the equipment safer and more energy efficient than a traditional flash dryer. We use hand curers for exhibitions and training sessions. RECOMMENDED FOR LOW PRODUCTION.

Heat PressHeat Presses – are fine for curing low numbers of garments, most modern presses have timers making it easier to manage. Heat Presses are used for lots of different applications such as vinyl transfer so commonly found in most T Shirt printing shops.

When using a heat press to cure screen printing inks you will need to put some grease proof paper or transfer release paper on the ink first before curing. You will need only a very light pressure and you will need to set the timer according to the ink you are using. Can be used for curing screen printing textile inks

 

Tunnel DryerTunnel Dryers – the best solution to cure large numbers of garments in a short space of time but the most expensive. They can cure potentially hundreds of garments per hour. We make them to all shapes and sizes based on the level of production and the size of garments being used.   If you are printing with waterbased inks choose the longest dryer you can afford to avoid having to put the garment through twice. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

CMYK screen printing explained

What is CMYK?

How do you do this in screen printing?

Is it the same as 4 colour printing?

Think back to school when you were painting and used blue and yellow to get green, that is the theory of the whole process. It is used all over the place and you will see the little symbol on things you use every day!

I don’t want you to rely on pictures too much because your screen or printer will subtly alter these colours. But have a look at this picture from Wiki to get an idea, yes basically it is just like school blue, red and yellow.

Now these colours can be combined to get all the rest of the spectrum

Now as you no doubt remember from school, combining them does give a murky black which is no good for our purposes which is why we have to have black. Saves ink as well.

So that is the inks but how does it work. Well you put the 4 colours onto the substrate (thing you are printing on) in dots and when the dots are on top of each other you get the various colours and your picture.

Now remember the way screen printing works, the ink is pushed through the mesh in dots! The finer the mesh the closer together the dots are so you can’t see the background colour.

Basically your brain has the illusion into thinking you see a solid colour when in fact what you see is lots of dots. All screen printing works on that principle.

The ink is normally applied in that colour order Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black although that can vary with some printers.

There is actually a principle behind the process called “subtractive”. Because you are printing on white, you are subtracting, with the inks, the amount of white(brightness) your eye sees. Now if you don’t fill in all the dots you get to see more white and that gives you paler colours, which can also be mixed and matched to get the full range. This bit is called “half tones”.

Honestly the principle is as simple as that, any water colour artist would see it immediately although they may not know what it is called.

So that is the theory, 4 inks printed in dots, here is an early example from 1902

Now how do you do this?

You have to separate your final image artwork into its CMYK elements.

If you check Photoshop all the colours show what percentage of these colours comprise the colour you see.

Photoshop automatically separates the CMYK colors into channels. Just open the channels palette and select “split channels” from the palettes flyout panel options. You will get four grayscale files, one for each channel. So you need 4 screens that have the required separate colours which when combined will give your final picture.
Be aware, however, that this is NOT how you separate artwork for screen printing. If you are printing the job as a 4 color process on white shirts, all you want are printouts of the separate channels, just print the file as “separations” with a course line screen (35 to 55 lpi) and the following angles – C: 55 degrees, M: 22 degrees, Y: 5 degrees, K: 80 degrees. Not doing this right gives you the Moire effect (it looks blurred). Other angles can be used for example.

There are literally nearly 80,000 videos on the internet describing exactly how to do this and I suggest you watch a few, several times until you feel completely confident you understand the process.

In order for all this to work you need a very high mesh count so you get lots of dots which give your brain the illusion correctly. We have kits with all you need to try this, have a look at http://www.wickedprintingstuff.com/inks_and_additives/plastisol_ink_and_additives/union_inks/trutone_range/wps_uniontrutone_process_printing_pack_P1145.html

The Trutone Process Printing Pack Contents are ;-

  • 4 x Aluminium Screens 16 x 20inches 120T
  • 4 x Wooden Squeegees with a Hard Square Cut Blade
  • 1 x PRPL-2080 Process Yellow 250ml
  • 1 x PRPL-3082 Process Magenta 250ml
  • 1 x PRPL-5080 Process Cyan 250ml
  • 1 x PRPL-8080 Process Black 250ml

This pack contains all of the essentials you need to try out the fantastic Trutone process inks at an affordable price. As ever we are completely happy to give you the benefit of our 30 years of experience so please contact us with any questions.

Here is an example of a finished product, the screens were produced using the Riso QS200.

20140909_112710

The images on my screens are not washing out correctly, why?

This question is taken from our FAQ’s. At Wicked Printing Stuff we pride ourselves on helping our customers. We don’t sell you stuff and leave you to it. We WANT to help you, whoever you are, from hobbiest to professional business. So please check out our buyers guide, FAQ’s, product sheets or ring us with any questions.

The images on my screens are not washing out correctly, why?

This can be for a number of reasons, here are a few things to watch out for:

  • That you are doing all parts of the emulsion and exposure process in a light safe environment with NO outside or bright light. This includes mixing your emulsion, coating your screens, drying screens, exposure, and washout.
  • That you are not coating your emulsion too thick. One coat both sides should do it, with a nice even spread. There are sometimes where you may need some extra coats e.g. printing transfers and printing white onto a dark garment but you will need to adjust the exposure time.
  • That your film positive is very opaque and dark. If you hold it up to a light and can see through it, you need to double print your film to achieve a more opaque image.
  • That there is positive contact between your screen mesh and your positive film. If the film is not pressed completely against your mesh then you will get light reflection between your positive and your screen which will result in a blurry and not clear image. That’s why the glass is so important.
  • That you are exposing your screen for the correct amount of time, which will depend on the exposure system you are using. If you are unclear on exposure times please feel free to ask us. The simple run of thumb is – if the emulsions washes off too easily and you start to lose the stencil then the screen is underexposed and if after prolonged washing the stencil does not come through they you are likely to have overexposed the screen.

via Wicked Printing Stuff, your home for screen printing equipment and supplies – FAQs.

Digital Screen Makers (DSM) versus Direct to Screen(DTS) / Computer to Screen(CTS) Technologies

Digital Screen Makers (DSM) versus Direct to Screen(DTS) / Computer to Screen(CTS) Technologies

  • Easier stencil production for screen printers.
  • Improve production times
  • Improve screen quality

Over the last few years various new pieces of equipment have come into the marketplace promising a revolution in stencil production. We thought we would take time out and look at the different technologies, consider the promises made and give a view about how they work, the pros and the cons, and if these technologies would suit your business.

DSM v DTS

We are going to look at the

  • Digital Screen Makers (DSM) from RISO
    • Goccopro 100
    • Goccpro QS200
  • Direct to Screen or Computer to Screen (DTS or CTS) Systems –
    • Exile FREEStyler
    • Exile Spyder II system.

There are plenty of other DTS or CTS systems but we are focussing on the most popular in the UK.

The fundamental difference between DSM and DTS (sorry about the use of abbreviations!) is that DSM uses a silicon coated mesh (RISO refer to the Mesh as Media), the DSM machines have a thermal print head which burns off the silicon film leaving the stencil. The DTS systems print directly to a photo sensitive emulsion standard screen printing screen using ink jet or wax head technologies. Hope you are keeping up at the back!

 

 

Digital Screen Makers (RISO Goccopro 100 / QS200) Direct to Screen (CTS) (Exile FREEStyler / SPYDER II)
Pro Con Pro Con
Creates the stencil without the traditional process of using of screen degreasing, photo sensitive emulsion, dark room, film positives and washout. Simplifying and giving a clean process (which is a big Pro)

 

Good for quick turnaround low volume printing. Ideal for printers with no previous screen printing experience.

 

Work like a computer printer so relatively easy to install and implement. It does not need a RIP.

 

Lower foot print – they do not take much space.

 

You do not need a huge stock of frames.

 

 

Use proprietary mesh which is expensive and limited in options (currently 4 mesh counts available equivalent to 80T / 72T (Goccopro 100 only) / 48T and 28T).  Need to budget £7.00 – £15 per screen not including stretching cost.

 

Mesh is not as robust as traditional mesh so print runs are limited for 400 or so prints before the mesh starts to break down. Some printers use silicon oil or a mesh hardener to extend life.

 

Limited stencil versatility e.g. printing plastisol transfer is very tricky as you can’t do much about stencil depth.

 

Mesh not suited for all solvent inks

 

After you have printed 9 times out of 10 the mesh goes in the bin. There are some techniques to keep prints but don’t bank on it.

 

Machines are not maintenance free, thermal heads do need to be kept clean.

 

Thermal approach is simple and effective however ash can get left in the stencil reducing ink opacity. The remedy is to use a mesh cleaner.

Ideal for established printers looking to increase throughput and productivity. Targeted at printers using 20 – 30 screens per day. Uses the traditional approach using photo sensitive emulsion, exposing and wash out.

 

Replaces the need for film positive printing (especially when using inkjet printers) which can be expensive, slow and error prone.

 

Aids registration as units normally have standard automatic printing registration methods e.g. MHM pin system / M & R Triloc

 

Produces very high quality stencils which would be very difficult to achieve using traditional film positive process. Resolution from 600 – 2400 dpi, 55 – 60 to 110 lpi depending on the system

 

Takes advantage of current assets e.g. exposure units, screen printing frames and washout. Existing printers may find this technology easier to embed.

 

Works with all inks and mesh types.

Initial purchase price for the bigger units is very high so making DTS cost prohibitive to smaller or mid-market printers.

 

DTS requires consumables so there is an ongoing running cost Typically ranging from 0.25p to 0.70p depending on chosen system.

 

More evolution than revolution.

Some DTS systems use inkjet technology which generally speaking does not give the same level of quality of a wax ink based system used in higher end systems

 

 

 

Goccopro 100

GocoproHow does it work? Similar to a computer printer, you load the Goccopro 100 with a roll of mesh, you then output the artwork directly to the Goccopro 100 which creates the stencil and automatic cuts the mesh. Take the mesh and stretch it on to a quick stretch frame (there are some different frame options some very innovative), register on your carousel and print. When you have finished you discard the mesh and start again.

 

DSM ProcessSource: RISO website

What is good about it? Compact, quick, easy to use, the quickest way I have ever made a stencil – 5 minutes in total. Ideal for point of sale applications and very quick, simple, ideal low volume work.

What is not so good about it? Small print width (11.69” wide and up to 31.5” long), only useful for single colour jobs or lose aligned multi-colour work (this is the drawback of having to stretch the screen after the Goccopro 100 creates the stencil). It has limited mesh counts. Printing onto dark garments using the quick stretch screen is challenging, as classic ‘print / flash / print’ steps to build up the ink deposit to be opaque enough is difficult, some of the more robust stretch screens could give a better result – you might need to use a discharge ink. Not suitable for printing plastisol transfers.

Goccpro QS200

Goccopro QS200

The big brother to the Goccopro 100, but works slightly differently. You create a stretched screen first either using a quick stretch frames (there are many options out there) or a self-stretching screen like a Newman frame. You can glue the RISO mesh to a standard aluminium frame, but this is very tricky compared to re-stretching traditional mesh. You load the stretched frame on the bay, select print from your computer and the QS200 will create the stencil. You then register the screen on your carousel and print as per normal. When you have finished you discard the mesh.

DSM process 2Source: RISO website

What is good about it? Easy to use. Supports frames up to A2 size so works with 23 x 31” screen sizes, you can use it for multi-colour work, and you can use different frame types interchangeably. Good for low production printing. Quick, the fastest I have created an A4 sized stencil from start to finish is around 10 minutes (larger artwork will take longer) including stretching the screen.   Ideal for point of sale applications, good low to medium production e.g. 20 – 400 prints. Typical profile would be a DTG or Vinyl / Laser Transfer printer wanting to increase margin, screen printing 50 T Shirts with the same design would be quicker, faster and more profitable than using other technologies.

What is not so good about it? Limited mesh counts, a busy printer will experience head alignment and cleaning issues – some dirt on the print head will ruin the stencil and waste mesh. You don’t achieve high tensions on self-stretch screens, up to 19 ncm (newtons per cm) (but ok for manual printing) if you are lucky compared to 25 ncm on a brand new stretched tradition frame, so you might have to adjust print technique.   You would need to use a Newman style frame if using the machine on a fully automatic carousel and use tape to reinforce the mesh. Not suitable for printing plastisol transfers.

FREESTyler Direct to Screen

FreeStyler

 

How does it work?   You place an emulsion coated screen on the flat bed of the FREEStyler (it comes with various clamps that came be used to aid registration), you then control how the stencil is printed using RIP software that comes with the system. It replaces the Film Positive printing process, the FREEStyler uses inkjet technology to print the artwork directly on the screen with a quick drying ink which is water soluble.   When completed you expose the screen (just like normal) and washout. You don’t need to use a vacuum or glass on your exposure unit.

What is good about it? Designed for the small and midmarket with an appropriate pricing structure, supports frames up to 36” x 26”, (creates stunning stencils Resolution from 600 – 2400 dpi, 55 – 60 lpi) which would be difficult to achieve accurately with film positives printed with an inkjet printer. Opens up a new host of opportunities for the small / midmarket printers creating 30-40 screens per day (probably will do a lot more than that but note that the consumable costs will mount up and the bigger systems might be better choice) likely to have an automatic carousel or a number of manual / semi-automatic carousels. Takes between 3 – 12 minutes to make a screen depending on what settings you are using. Uses a clamp system to enable quick accurate registration. Makes use of existing investments of screens and equipment.

What is not so good about it? There is an ongoing consumable cost for the ink (typical £0.70p per screen), it does not replace the process but complements it so not exactly revolutionary. It is a brand new system so it is a bit too early to know if there are drawbacks.

SPYDER II Direct to ScreenSpider

How does it work? Similar concept to the FREEStyler, you place a coated screen in the SPYDER. The stencil is printed using RIP software and uses prints wax ink which is water soluble. When completed you expose the screen (just like normal) and washout. You don’t need to use a vacuum or glass. The system uses bi-drectional printing and is very fast – approx 1 minute to create the screen mask.

What is good about it? Its quick, creates stunning stencils (it has a 1200 dpi and supports up to 110 lpi). It is targeted and designed for large commercial printers with challenging requirements creating large numbers of screens on a daily basis typically might have 2 or more automatic machines. Ongoing consumable cost is low approx. £0.25p per screen.

What is not so good about it? Reassuringly expensive

They are a number of CTS / DTS systems in the market place e.g. M&R i-Image ST Computer to Screen Imaging System, CST GmbH (more high end solutions for industrial printers rather than the textile market) all of them having their own pros and cons but work on a similar concept. Some solutions have an integrated LED exposure unit which offers some advantages in optimising the process. However in some respects a CTS without exposure unit is a better solution as you would be able to produce screens faster if in a high production environment than with the integrated solution.

In conclusion

Digital Screen Makers and Direct to Screen systems are a very different proposition, it is a little like comparing apples and pears. The key thing is around being clear about your requirements and business objectives before making investments in either technologies. The Digital Screen Makers are niche products which for some printers will open up new opportunities e.g. a DTG printer wanting to provide limited screen printing options. Outside of that niche the traditional approach using a Direct to Screen technology might be the better bet as you will also gain from the versatility of the traditional process. You might actually have a need for both, using the more modern technology at a trade show or exhibition where turn round speeds are vital.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements and we can help you to find the right solution for your needs.

What heat press should I buy?

WPS 4000 Heat Transfer Press Product Ref: QR1283

What heat press should I buy?

A common question but the answer is rarely straight forward as there are many factors to consider.

What is a heat press.

A heat press is a machine engineered to imprint a design or graphic on a substrate, such as a t-shirt, with the application of heat and pressure for a preset period of time.

Where does it fit in the process.

1, Choose an image to put on a product like a t-shirt
2. Print onto heat transfer paper
3. Lay the image on your t shirt
4. Use a heat press to transfer the image on the t shirt.

Which heat press should you buy

What are you going to use it for?  Garments (T Shirts, Hoodies, Caps), promotional items (mouse maps, phone cases etc) , DTG preparation and curing, sublimation, Vinyl, Plastisol transfers etc   Heat Presses are involved in all of these process however there are a few areas to consider before parting with your money

So here are some of our views …
Accurate Heat – to get the best results a heat press needs to maintain accurate and consistent heat across the platen. Too little heat may not activate the adhesives to fully fix the graphic to the garment, too much heat can affect the graphic quality, reducing opacity or not giving an even cure.

Digital control – needed to ensure you have accurate temperature you don’t want fluctuating temperatures, you need accurate timings and therefore consistent results. Many digital controllers come with timers and safety features such as auto shutdown and alarms.

Even pressure – uneven pressure will lead to poor adhesion and inconsistent curing of ink therefore always choose a press which you can adjust and set for different thickness of substrates.   Some presses have pressure gauges which are ideal for ensuring consistent results.

Size of the Heat Press – there are many sizes to choose from and a key question to ask when buying a press is ‘What is the largest size of garment / substrate will I be using?’ It normally makes good sense to buy a press that can accommodate future needs.  It’s also easier to align garments on a larger press. Some presses come with interchangeable platens which gives you much more flexibility.

WPS 4500 Sport Heat Transfer Press Product Ref: QR1279

Clam or swing away?

  • A clam has a smaller footprint, when using a swing away you need to give space for the swing which on the bigger units can be quite significant
  • A clam is typically less expensive than a swing away and less moving parts
  • It is easier to see what is going on with a clam, if a garment has gone out of alignment you can do something about it
  • Clam presses are typically more portable
  • Swing aways different from a clam with the heating element lifting up parallel and swings completely out of the way.
  • It is often stated that with a clam press to increase the chances of burned knuckles with the clam however with a swing away it is just as easy to get the fingers in the way. Quality clam presses open wide enough to reduce the chance of accidents.
  • Swing aways are often more popular with DTG printers but you can also use a Clam
  • Swings aways typically can be set to give more pressure than a clam, we have found that some transfer papers don’t work well on clams
  • You can debate this but it really does come back to personal preference and budget.  The simple answer is choose the press that suits your needs.

Budget – always choose a press with a lifetime heater warranty, with CE certification (real Certification (beware some of the cheap China imports are not made with high quality components and may not be actually certified compared to European / US presses). It’s better to buy the right equipment first time out rather than the cheapest – quality equipment is designed to last years with warranty backup if there is a problem. You will often find broken low quality heat presses lurking in the back of many print shops.  If your business is reliant on the equipment then consider the impact of the heat press breaking.

If you have questions at all please contact us to discuss your requirements

How can I print light designs on a dark garment – All about discharge inks.

I want to print light on dark?

I want a soft touch?

What is a discharge ink?

Here at Wicked Printing Stuff we don’t expect you to know everything and we are happy to explain things. Have you checked out our FREE buyers guide there is lots in there for the Rookie, Intermediate and Professional. Please give us a ring and explain your problem and we will help out. Lastly there are our training courses, designed again for both rookie and advanced printers with basic training or advanced courses.

So back to the problem. You want to print a light colour on a dark garment and you want it to feel soft. Now plastisol inks wrap colour AROUND the threads but gives a rubbery feel (also referred to as hand) but is bright. So ideally you want a water based ink. For those of you that have tried this and I can hear you shouting at the back, but I have tried waterbased inks and I just can’t get a good opaque print, that’s why I use plastisol. Well that’s where the discharge inks come in!

Punk Rockers

For the punk rockers out there, remember how you got that bright green hair, that is right you had to bleach out your own hair colour first so the back ground colour was white, only then the colour would take and be vibrant and striking. It is almost the same in screen printing but we use discharge inks that need curing. The discharge ink actually removes the dye.

First off you have to have the right garment fabric, it has to be 100% cotton and it has to be dyed with a dischargeable dye. So check with the manufacturer. If the garment is a mixture of cotton and polyester only the cotton will discharge. Now that might actually suit you but you would need to do a trial run to make sure you get the effect you want.

Discharge InksSo having got the right garment now we need the right ink. There are a lot out there and some are more complicated to use than others.

Water based dischargeable inks are the easiest and most eco friendly ones to use. The process works during curing when the discharge removes the original dye and the ink gives the new colour. To do this you add activator to the ink which ensures you get an intense colour.

At Wicked Printing Stuff we have researched the products extensively and as a consequence we recommend the following ink Unico  The ink has been developed to meet the most recent ecological requirements. We also supply the Rutland Best of Brands discharge ink which works with both the Unico and the Union activator. Additionally we offer Union plasticharge which is a great way of using existing plastisol inks you may have and turning them into a discharge ink.

For the discharge process to work, you do need a tunnel dryer (the longer the better) – typically 90-120 seconds dwell time is needed for a good cure. You can also use a heat press which is great for low production. You also need well ventilated premises and printers should read the MSDS and be aware of any health and safety consideration.
We would be delighted to talk you through this if you have any questions, please contact us.

Wicked Tip – Comparing Curing Technologies

Top Tip to Save Money

Low volume production can double up two process on one piece of equipment. A flash dryer or a hand curer can be used for drying between colours AND curing.

It can be difficult deciding what equipment to buy for flash drying and curing your prints. We know that your budget can also dictate what type of curing equipment you have. So to help you decide, we put together a quick guide to what works and what doesn’t when flash drying and curing your prints.

Starting at the top is the lowest cost option right through to the higher end of heat presses and tunnel dryers. Although the entry level range for these machines can be extremely cost effective.

Curing Technologies

Creating a screen using traditional exposure methods

Where does exposure fit in the screen printing process?

What emulsion should I use?

How long can I keep emulsion?

How do you get rid of pin holes?

How long should I dry my screen?

Main banner

Let’s go back to basics. Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of polyester or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced into the mesh openings of the mesh by the fill blade or squeegee and onto the printing surface during the squeegee stroke.

Emulsion is the means of making impermeable substance. Light sensitive, thick liquid which coats the screen. When the screen is exposed the emulsion hardens and unexposed areas drop out to leave the stencil.

So you have your positive artwork

Making Your Artwork Positive.

Making Your Artwork Positive.

Now this process is one of the most tricky in screen printing and needs to be done thoroughly and carefully. Never skip on any step especially drying.

The first step is to degrease your screen

It is very important to degrease the screen prior to coating the screen with emulsion and exposing the artwork. A screen that is not degreased will have problems exposing and increase the chance of pinholes, the emulsion will not adhere to the screen properly and might washout before the image can be seen. The emulsion could also not wash out at all. Make sure you let it dry thoroughly before you coat it with emulsion.

Choosing your emulsion

There are many emulsions on the market and every printer will have their preferred type and brand. Some emulsions come pre sensitised and ready for use and some will need mixing. Our emulsion is a 2 part emulsion, its comes with sensitizer.

Shelf life is different depending on when the sensitizer is added . Separately both parts can last from 12-24 months. Once mixed the emulsion lasts 6-8 weeks (its life can be prolonged slightly if it is stored in a cold place, like the fridge).
Always make sure you have chosen the right emulsion if you are using Plastisol inks / Solvent inks you need a Solvent resistant emulsion like Ulano Proclaim or if you are using Waterbased inks you need a water resistant emulsion like Ulano 925wr. We also sell Autosol emulsion, which is a good dual purpose emulsion, it can be used with both waterbased and solvent inks.

Location

Make sure you are doing all parts of the emulsion and exposure process in a light safe environment with NO outside or bright light. This includes mixing your emulsion, coating your screens, drying screens, exposure, and washout (as soon as screen is exposed as long as you wash it out straight away this is not a problem)..

A costing trough is the best way to get an even coverage of emulsion. Always check to make sure the coating trough has a straight edge and no damage otherwise you will get poor coverage and you can snag the mesh.

Here are a few things to watch out for if your images are not washing out correctly:
That you are not coating your emulsion too thick. One coat both sides should do it, with a nice even spread. There are sometimes where you may need some extra coats e.g. printing transfers and printing white onto a dark garment but you will need to adjust the exposure time.

Coating Your Screen

Coating Your Screen

That your film positive is very opaque and dark. If you hold it up to a light and can see through it, you need to double print your film to achieve a more opaque image.
That there is positive contact between your screen mesh and your positive film. If the film is not pressed completely against your mesh then you will get light reflection between your positive and your screen which will result in a blurry and not clear image. That’s why the glass is so important.
That you are exposing your screen for the correct amount of time, which will depend on the exposure system you are using. If you are unclear on exposure times please feel free to ask us. The simple run of thumb is – if the emulsions washes off too easily and you start to lose the stencil then the screen is underexposed and if after prolonged washing the stencil does not come through they you are likely to have overexposed the screen.
After you coat your screen, you want it to be COMPLETELY dry  before you expose the screen.

Exposing the image

Exposing Your Screen

Exposing Your Screen

To transfer your image onto your screen you will need to use an exposure unit. There are many different exposure unit set ups on the market and each has a different light source. Each having different light sources. UV, halide and halogen are very popular in the UK. Our Wicked exposure lamp has a 1000 watt halogen light source and is provided will all waterbased and Plastisol kits.

We also sell Actinic and Metal Halide exposure units which are able to expose quicker (typical exposure time is 2 minutes for an Actinic unit and 16 minutes for the lamp depending on size of the screen) than the cheaper lamp solution. Some units include built in drying cabinets making the whole process a lot faster.

A very large part of your decision if you are new to screen printing will be your budget and space. Exposure units vary dramatically in price. The WPS Lamp is small and compact,

After exposing and rinsing out your exposure, you want your screen to thoroughly dry (and ideally harden your screen, by exposing it to the sun or your exposure unit) before inking and printing. This process is often called double baking.

Before inking you need to use blocking tape (can use brown tape or professional blocking tape) to cover up areas on the screen not covered by the emulsion. Also fix any pinholes either using blocking tape or using screen filler which is a liquid emulsion, make sure you choose the right one as there are different versions for solvent and water resistant stencils.

Now you are ready to print

Registering Your Print

Registering Your Print

When you get bigger there are other options like the Revolutionary Riso QS200 Designed for the Professional Printer which prints directly from your computer onto a screen. Then the whole process takes under 5 minutes!