Screen Printing Ink

Your Stop for Name Brand Screen Printing Inks

From the outside, screen printing may seem like a simple process. You start by burning your design, placing your ink, squeegeeing your screen, coating with an emulsion, possibly cure your print, and voilà – the process is done! Not so fast. Screen printing is more of an art than you might think, and you need the right components to get the job done correctly.

Not only does the type of fabric you use matter, but the type of ink matters too. To produce the finest, most successful prints, you need to start by gathering the right material and especially the right screen printing ink for your project.

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Why Choose Garston for Your Screen Printing Inks?

affordable pricing

Affordable Prices

After starting strictly as a sign business, we’ve progressed into screen printing, and we still offer the most honest, low prices for all of our screen printing supplies.

customer service

Customer Satisfaction

Here at Garston, we take the time and effort to find the screen printing supplies you desperately need for your project or print shop. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, we’ll point you in the right direction.

screen printing supplies

Name Brand Products

Having a Screen Printing business can be expensive. That’s why we price our products at a low, affordable rate. We also supply most of our products in bulk, saving you more in the long-run. Can’t find what you need? Reach out to us!

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Three Screen Printing Ink Types

Plastisol Screen Printing Inks

For a majority of screen printers, plastisol has been the go-to ink choice. From ease of use to opaqueness to the adhering stage, there are numerous benefits you can gain from using plastisol inks.

This ink type is usually made from two different ingredients: PVC resin (white powder) and plasticizer (thick, clear liquid). It can be printed on almost any surface, while it also adapts to most heat requirements for curing. In fact, they must be heated in order to properly dry, and cannot dry in normal, room temperature. In order to completely cure, it must reach at least 290-330º F (143-166º C).

When you dye a fabric, the process usually contains coloring fibers. When it comes to plastisol inks, the ink will wrap round the fabric and mechanically bond with the fabric, instead of simply coloring or altering its appearance. Due to this characteristic, plastisol inks won’t bond to plastic, metal or glass as well as woven or waterproof nylon material. In order to transfer the image, you would need to use a bonding agent.

Water-Based Screen Printing Inks

Water-based inks are inks that use water as the solvent base. This is a popular choice because instead of simply resting on top of the fibers on your print (like plastisol), this type of ink will saturate the fiber and dye the garment. This results in a softer, more solid print.

RFU Water Based Inks: RFU stands for “ready for use”, which is the most enticing part about this water-based ink type. These inks are pre-mixed and available in a large selection of colors. Use them straight from the container to produce high-quality, vibrant prints onto lighter fabrics. You can also use a white or discharge as a base to produce vibrant prints on dark fabrics.  We have a variety of Nazdar RFU inks available for purchase.

HSA Water-Based Inks: A relatively new creation, HSA (High Solid Acrylic) inks were created to avoid the problems of thin, runny or transparent prints. Although it takes long to dry, HSA inks make up for it by easily stretching and stacking together. You won’t miss out on soft prints either, HSA inks still deliver in that area, similar to most water-based inks!

Water-Based Ink Mixing System: If you’re finding it hard to control the type of water-based ink you’re using, you can turn to a mixing system. Instead of relying on traditional colors, you’ll be able to mix a large range of Pantone® colors with a pre-designed color formula. What are the benefits of mixing your own inks? Better pigment and more control over opacity. Garston offers popular mixing systems such as Wilflex Epic Rio Inks. 

Water-Based Ink Additives: Water-based inks can also be accompanied by water-based additives. This type of formula helps you make further adjustments. Certain additives can extend the use of the water-based ink by allowing it to be printed on different fabrics. Other types of additives can help cure ink at a lower temperature. It all depends on the type you look into Garston carries both Union Additives and Wilflex additives.

Discharge Screen Printing Inks

The last type of ink you can choose from is a discharge ink and it can be offered for both water-based and plastisol options. This type of ink removes the dye (with the help of a discharge agent) that is used to color the garment and replaces it with a more pigmented ink color. After the dye is removed, the discharge ink then re-dyes the area with the color you desire.

If you’ve seen shirts with a soft print that often can be mistaken for natural cotton, you’re looking at a discharge ink. Instead of using an additional layer of white ink, you can achieve better opacity and quality on dark garments as well.

How To Select the Right Screen Printing Ink

Seasoned screen printers understand that fabric matters when it comes to your ink choices. The most successful prints are a combination of ink and fabric.

Guidelines for Printing on Nylon

Nylon fabric usually shrinks when heated, so it’s best to run your nylon garment through a dryer before you begin printing. It’s also good to test a production sample before you print your entire project. This way, you can see if the amount of heat will cure the ink.

There are many ink types that are also fit for nylon or specifically made to be printed on nylon. If you routinely work with nylon, we’d advise that you invest in an ink that’s formatted specifically for this fabric.

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screen printing equipment

Guidelines for Printing on Dark Colors

When it comes to printing on dark fabric, you’ll need to use an underbase. An underbase is a layer of ink (could be white or a light color) that’s printed as a ‘base’ to a dark garment. This helps give the print a more vibrant appeal. The underbase shouldn’t be a considered a color of the design, it should simply be a minimal layering of ink that provides an opaque base.

Guidelines for Printing on Cotton

Cotton is one of the most popular fibers for clothing and used in screen printing. There are a variety of inks you can use on cotton, but you’ll have to decide between the two main inks for textile printing, plastisol and water-based. Using 100% cotton tees is a good option for printing because they hold ink longer than most fabrics.

Avoid Dye Migration

Sometimes in screen printing, you might come across dye migration. This is when small dye particles transport from a fabric to another ink. This will cause a tint or change to the ink color.

To avoid dye migration on polyester, it’s best to have an ink that’s specifically for printing on polyester. You can also add a low-cure additive to the ink. Overall, the best kind of ink for avoiding dye migration happens to be ones that cure at lower temperatures.

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Screen Printing Ink FAQ

What Is An Ink Additive?

Ink additives are good for altering the property of your current ink and allowing special effects printing. Certain types of additives will only work with specific types of inks, so you need to be careful with what you choose. Don’t use a plastisol additive with a water-based ink, and don’t use a water-based additive for a plastisol ink.

Why Has My Ink Become Thick?

If you happen to leave the can open, the ink will become thicker because it contains a natural thinner evaporation. After you use your ink, it’s best to make sure that the lid is closed tightly.

Inks will naturally settle when it’s stored, but if you use certain inks far more than others, it’s also good practice to stir the ink before you dispense it.

Why Is My Ink Curing Incorrectly?

The reasons your ink hasn’t cured correctly can range from too low of a temperature, not enough time curing or the ink was never properly thinned. You need to make sure your machine is around 150°C, and that it cures for about 2-3 minutes. You must also make sure that you haven’t added too much thinner that could be compromising the stability of your ink.

Why Has The Ink Dried In My Screen?

There could be a few different reasons why the ink has dried on your screen. You could be working with too high of a temperature. To fix this, you’ll need to use the lowest power on the drying fans once your machine is set. You may have also forgotten to cover your graphic or drawing with the ink while your machine is off.

How Long Does An Open Ink Last?

If stored correctly and in a cool dry area, an open plastisol ink container can last a few years. If you’re using two-part inks like a nylon ink mixed with a catalyst, they’ll last only a few hours. A few other notes to understand:

  • Plastisol inks need to be stirred before being applied. They’re thixotropic in nature, meaning that the move movement, the better the results. When you stir the ink before printing, it’ll result in better quality.
  • If Ink separation occurs, you can blend it back together by stirring

What Do I Use To Clean Ink From My Screen?

When you’d like to re-use a screen, you’ll need to know the proper steps to cleaning off ink. You can use a press wash or wash out booth to help your inks evaporate quickly and not leave any residue behind.

You need to properly dispose of your ink by using a filtration system to filter out any solids before it goes down the drain. The filters that catch the ink solids can either be cured or sent to a nearby waste treatment facility to make sure that they’re disposed of the right way. To understand the correct disposal rules for your area, it’s best to contact your local city or state regulations to understand the correct procedures.

Are Plastisol Inks Hazardous?

When you use plastisol inks in the correct manner, they are considered “non-hazardous”. It’s safe to use lead-free plastisol inks on children’s garments, and most plastisol inks are phthalate compliant or phthalate free.

Why Is My Print Not Soft?

To improve the quality of your print, you’ll need to choose the right ink selection. Water-based inks usually result in soft prints. There could also be a problem with your ink preparation. To improve it, you can use an additive.

Garston, Sign Screen & Digital

Honest, Fair Prices On All Screen Printing Inks

There are hundreds of screen printing suppliers in the industry, but what sets Garston apart is our excellent customer service and selection of quality screen printing inks. With six decades of experience, we can supply you with expert advice and the products to get through each of your printing jobs.

To start your order or ask us questions, give us a call at 800-966-9626