When it comes to screen printing, the most commonly used ink is plastisol ink. Here we break it down so you have all the information needed before printing with the ink:
- Has a great screen life
- Adheres to almost anything that can withstand the curing temperature
- Will not dry out
- Almost never goes bad
- Requires strong chemicals to clean after use
- Can be difficult to mix
- Beware of fibrillation (when the fibers of the garment show through a print or ink deposit, giving the fabric a faded or hairy-like look (typically appears when printing on white)
If you’re having issues with ink hardening or oils separating, there’s a good chance it might just need to be mixed. We often hear plastisol ink is too thick. We cannot stress it enough, the more you mix, the more the ink will return to its normal, creamy state. When in doubt, mix again! Cooler temperatures can also make it difficult to mix. If your ink is stiff, warm up it up. Plastisol can handle a lot, which is another reason why it’s so popular. You can warm up your ink through any of the following methods.
How the Soften Plastisol Ink:
- Set it on the flash dryer
- Set it on top of a home dryer
- Stick it in the sunshine
- DO NOT put it in your microwave
- Plastisol Ink reducer - this is a chemical that can be added to soften your ink. We only recommend this product for people with experience using plastisol ink, too much of this product can ruin the ink color and vibrancy.
Plastisol will work on almost any fabric but be weary of dye migration when printing on 50/50 tri-blends that contain polyester. For example, if you use a normal white ink for your standard cotton shirt and you print on a polyester, the shirt’s color can tint the white ink over time.
For Polyester Blends we highly recommend our Rapid Cure inks they are low bleed plastisol inks that cure at a lower temperature to avoid dye migration and garment scorching. Our Rapid Cure Poly White is No Bleed. To simplify, can you use plastisol ink on polyester? Yes!
Find our Rapid Cure Plastisol Ink for purchase here.
Generally, it will take 5-10 washes to fully test the cure, but if the ink is seriously under-cured, the print will show deterioration after only 1-3 washes. Another way to test your print quickly is doing the “Stretch Test” stretch the print roughly 2/3 of the T-Shirt; if the print cracks and does not retract back it means you under-cured.
For standard plastisol inks, the cure temperature is 320°. Our Rapid Cure line of plastisol inks cures at a lower temperature of 270°. As previously mentioned, this low cure temp helps with dye migration and scorching prevention. Rapid Cure can also be cured at 320° if needed and there will be no adverse effect to the garment.
Rapid Cure Plastisol Ink Cure/Flash Temps
- Cure at 132° C/270° F
- Flash at 82-104° C/180-200°F - 7-10 seconds
Ecotex® Plastisol Ink Cure/Flash Temps
- Cure at 160°C /320°F
- Flash at 105°C/220°F - 7 - 12 seconds
Plastisol Ink cannot be removed with soap and water, you will just make a bigger mess… we promise this from experience. Cleaning plastisol ink off screen requires an ink cleaner. Use the following plastisol ink removers to clean your screen.
- On the press: Ecotex® Screen Printing Plastisol Press Wash/Ink Degradant
- In the sink: Ecotex® Screen Printing Plastisol Screen Wash/Ink Degradant
New to screen printing? Grab our Plastisol Ink Kit - It's a great kit for starters and has all the standard colors you need to get some solid prints in the shop. In addition we only product phthalate-free plastisol inks.
For a breakdown of when to use screen wash and when to use press wash see this blog post.
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