Looking for your prints to have a soft hand feel? There are three products that seem pretty similar: Extender Base, Curable Reducer, and soft hand additive. While they may look the same, they have different functions. Let’s take a look at all three and discover which ink gives prints the softest feel.
USE A SOFT PLASTISOL INK
First of all, printers looking for soft plastisol prints should start by using soft plastisol ink. FN-INK™ provides a softer feel from the start. Why is this?
All inks have resins, which bind and hold the ink to the garment. Various types of resins exist, but each has a different property. The harder the resins are, the more stiff the ink will be. FN-INK™ has more pliable resins. This creates a soft plastisol ink that’s great for fashion prints.
While you don’t need to add a curable reducer to FN-INK™ to make it soft, it’s always an option. Take white, for example. White ink is usually thicker in viscosity than most inks. To make it super soft, add a Curable Reducer to the ink.
A curable reducer is an ink viscosity reducer that is curable on its own. It works great with thick inks like white, or with inks like FN-INK™ Gold that have a large metallic flake. FN-INK™ Curable Reducer helps thick inks become softer and easier to print through high mesh counts.
Adding a curable reducer to ink will make the hand feel softer, and is great for creating vintage prints. Though this is not a dedicated soft hand additive, it’s, as Bob Ross would say, a “happy accident.” The soft feel when using a curable reducer in the ink is an unintended byproduct of reducing the ink’s thickness.
Want to make an ink super soft? Try a soft hand base.
SOFT HAND BASE
Remember that every ink uses different resins? Soft hand bases use softer resins and have a little less viscosity. This is specifically engineered to give a print a soft hand feel.
Let’s talk a little more about resins in ink. Think of ink resins like a squeegee durometer. The durometer of the squeegee will dictate how flexible it is. A 70 durometer squeegee would be like a regular plastisol ink. FN-INK™, on the other hand, would be more like a 65 durometer squeegee: it’s more pliable and can flex farther. A soft hand base is like a 60 durometer squeegee. It’s supposed to give a ton of flexibility. The ink will be super soft.
Since soft hand bases have a super soft hand, they generally have a lower viscosity than a normal clear ink, like Extender Base (more on that in a minute). Make sure to test the colors you mix with soft hand bases to get the exact color you’re looking for.
SOFT HAND ADDITIVE
What’s the difference between a soft hand base and a soft hand additive? Soft hand base can be printed completely on its own. A soft hand additive is meant to make a plastisol ink feel softer on the shirt. These are fully curable inks but are meant to be used as additives rather than bases. Examples of soft hand additives include Fashion Soft, Sentri Clear, and Chino Base.
Think of soft hand additives as improved, softer versions of Curable Reducer. They can cure on their own, like curable reducer, but make an ink buttery soft.
Want a fully-finished clear ink? Check out FN-INK™ Extender Base.
FN-INK™ Extender Base is essentially FN-INK™ without any pigment. It’s completely clear but has the same body and the same viscosity as standard FN-INK™ colors. While it isn’t a soft hand base, it does have softer properties because of the resins in the ink.
Extender base can be used in a variety of ways. Add it to ink colors to “extend” the ink. Here’s an example: say you need two gallons of black ink for a job, but you only have one gallon. However, you’ve got a gallon of FN-INK™ Extender Base sitting on your shelf. You cannot get more black ink before the job is due. What do you do? Add an extender base to the ink.
Create awesome tonal prints by adding a bit of color to an extender base. This creates a watermark effect across the print and can be used in a ton of creative ways. Finally, use an extender base to create vintage colors. Depending on the ink color, brand of ink, and type of ink, you may add as little as 10% or as much as 80% of FN-INK™ Extender Base to the ink to reach the desired effect.
Again, extender base isn’t intended to make prints softer, but it is already a softer plastisol ink because it uses the same soft resins in FN-INK™.
Each type of ink has its own unique use. These inks have some similarities, but ultimately the one you choose comes down to what you’re trying to achieve with a print. Whether you’re going for silky smooth prints or soft, vintage colors, knowing which base or additive to pull off the shelf will give you a leg up.