• Home > The Do’s and Don’ts of Screen Printing with Water-based Inks

    The Do’s and Don’ts of Screen Printing with Water-based Inks

    For the experienced plastisol screen printer, getting to grips with water-based inks for the first time may feel challenging. Plastisol inks essentially only dry at high temperatures, so it’s almost impossible for screens to get blocked by drying inks.

When it comes to the nature of water-based ink, the clue is really in the name – rather than PVC or plasticizer, water acts as the main solvent for carrying pigment, so there’s always the risk of it evaporating from the ink if screens are left idle during production. But that’s not to say they are harder to use. Water-based inks just can’t be treated in the same way as plastisol.

When it comes to softness of print and handle, water-based inks can’t be matched. In this article Melvin Hall, Print Technician at MagnaColours, provides some helpful “dos and don’ts” for any screen printer looking to reap the benefits of making the switch.

Do… use a water-resistant emulsion to coat your screens

There are few things more frustrating than freshly made screens breaking down soon after you’ve started printing on the press. You can avoid this happening with water-based inks by using a water-resistant emulsion and dialling in your exposure times beforehand.

Don’t… forget to flood your screens when taking breaks in printing

It’s a simple process but something that’s easy to forget. If you’re taking a quick break, be sure to leave your screens flooded, keeping ink over the image area at all times. If you’re taking a prolonged break in production, clean the image area with a little water and dry with a clean cloth. Making sure that no ink is able to clog up your screens will solve a lot of headaches down the line.

Do… keep on top of your ink management

A little love and care with your ink management goes a long way when it comes to amazing results when working with water-based inks. Keep on top of the freshness of your inks, maintain a viscosity that’s close to fresh ink, and top up your screens little and often. This will ensure print quality and consistency as well minimal wastage.

Don’t… forget about your heat management

We’ve mentioned ink management, but heat management is just as important for achieving print runs that process like a dream. It all starts with pre-heating your pallets before your production run. We recommend aiming for a consistent temperature of 70°C/158°F on your pallets. This will ensure optimum ink performance, flash times, and prevent the ink from drying in the screen. If your pallets become too hot, this can have the opposite effect and screens may become clogged.

Do… select the right water-based ink type for the right job

Vector vs. raster artwork. Light vs. dark garments. Polyester vs. cotton. So many factors can dictate what type of water-based ink you should use for a specific print run. High solids are great for large blocky, vector artwork areas and dark coloured backgrounds. Low solids inks are more suited to half-tone printing and light backgrounds.

Don’t… forget to have fun!

When you’re comfortable with your knowledge of water-based inks and churning out run after run of super-soft handle garments that delight your customers it’s a great feeling. Remember to make use of the huge range of water-based special effects available to you that just aren’t possible with plastisol inks, including metallics, pearls, and two-tones and much more.

Share via
Copy link