The screen printing industry isn’t known for its eco-friendly practices. But there are some ways that screen printers everywhere can do a little better for their shop and environment. Ryan Moor, CEO and founder of Ryonet, believes in the power of helping the environment and the community one t-shirt at a time. That’s why we chose to screen print volunteer shirts using water-based ink for a great organization just around the corner from our Vancouver, Washington, warehouse.
Ryan printed 40 shirts for The Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington on Allmade recycled garments. This organization seeks to clean Southwest Washington’s waterways and restore the ecosystem. What better way to use our resources than to print them some shirts for free, and host a fundraiser?
The garments Ryan chose to print on are Allmade Apparel’s Remade Grey Heather Recycled Blend Tee. This t-shirt uses scraps from the cutting floor, turning junk into a comfortable t-shirt that reduces waste.
Printed on the garment is a design provided by The Watershed Alliance. It features hands holding a plant, with foliage and water designs around words that read “Watershed Alliance of SW Washington.”
Printing these garments during a live stream is cool and all, but why? Well, live printing is a great way to show off your skill, provide a service for a community, event, or organization you care about, and bring more awareness to both the trade of screen printing and the event you’re printing at. Besides, it’s just plain awesome for customers to see their shirts come to life before their eyes.
PRINTING THE GARMENTS
In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of screen printing, Ryan prints with Green Galaxy water-based ink. This ink is opaque and bold, without being super harmful to the environment. Water-based inks are created with — you guessed it — water, so their environmental impact is less than plastisol ink. It’s the perfect choice for these shirts.
What is the best thing about printing with water-based inks? By adding Warp Drive to the ink, the garment will chemically cure within 48 hours. This makes printing with water-based ink great for all types of shops and all types of situations. Live screen printing with water-based ink? Add Warp Drive and eliminate the need for a dryer to cure the garments. Simply flash them to get them dry to the touch and you’re good to go!
Pro Tip: When live printing with water-based inks and Warp Drive, make sure to tell customers not to wash their shirts during the chemical curing process of 48 hours. This can cause the ink to wash off the garment, as it hasn’t fully cured yet.
SQUEEGEES & SCREENS
Ryan is printing this design with a 156 mesh count screen. This mesh count is the most popular mesh count because it’s easy to print through and still keeps tons of great detail.
Let’s talk squeegees. Using a traditional wooden handle squeegee is a time-honored tradition in manual screen printing. However, using an ergonomic squeegee like the EZ Grip allows printers to save their wrists and shoulders while pulling.
The EZ Grip Squeegee also features an ink protection system. Built-in braces support the squeegee to prevent time-consuming ink messes and clean up, on or off the screen. An elongated support rod located at the end of each handle keeps the grips away from ink when the holder is placed on the screen.
At the end of the print run, Ryan noticed he had transferred a bit of ink onto the platen. This can happen for two main reasons. The first is squeegee pressure. Water-based ink is thin, and you don’t need much pressure to transfer it from the screen to the garment. Because the ink soaks into the shirt instead of sitting on top as plastisol ink does, ink can transfer all the way through to the platen if you’re pressing too hard with a squeegee.
The other reason ink can transfer to the platen is due to mesh count. Again, since water-based ink is thinner than plastisol, it can be printed through high mesh counts. If the mesh count of a screen is too low, water-based ink can transfer too much, leaving behind an image on your platen. Low mesh counts can also cause water-based designs to smash out on the garment because too much ink is being transferred. If you notice this happening to your platens, consider using screens with a higher mesh count, around 200.
BRINGING IT FULL CIRCLE
Ryan printed 40 t-shirts for The Watershed Alliance. During the live streams on YouTube and Instagram, Ryonet hosted fundraisers to support the organization’s work. Altogether, we raised over $250!
Now, it’s time to hand over the shirts to The Watershed Alliance. Ryan Moor and the team headed to The Watershed Alliance headquarters, where a member of Allmade’s marketing team joined the crew.
For many non-profit organizations, ordering shirts is just one of many tasks waiting to be fulfilled. The team had run into some trouble in the past when ordering quality shirts. To have soft garments hand-printed with soft ink? It doesn’t get much better than that.
“These shirts are so soft!” The Watershed Alliance team exclaimed.
By aligning values of conservation, sustainability, and supporting the local community, Ryonet, Allmade, and The Watershed Alliance were able to bring more awareness to a local organization, just with a t-shirt.
Want to volunteer? There are tons of opportunities to get outside and get involved. Check out The Watershed Alliance’s website for a list of volunteer opportunities and events.
Using your screen printing talents and equipment for a cause you care about helps support local businesses, the environment, and the community you live in. We loved providing these t-shirts for The Watershed Alliance and supporting an organization’s work in making every day feel like Earth Day.