Find the End of the Rainbow with Four Color Process Inks
Four color process inks allow a screen printer to recreate full color images with amazing photographic quality and pristine detail if they are separated, imaged, and printed correctly. So let’s take on the if of four color process printing so we can set you up for success using our new Wilflex Epic Four Color Process inks.
Four color process uses CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) inks to create over a million different color shades. By mixing the different colors together, using gradient halftones to control the intensity of the color, you are able to replicate full color photographs and illustrations with just four screens. Newspapers, books, magazines, and many of the posters that you see are printed CMYK process inks, as well as just about every inkjet printer in the world that utilizes the CMYK color cartridges. The CMYK color set was developed in the late 1800’s and perfected in the early 1900’s. Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow come together with the KEY plate of black, thus the K in the CMYK is born. These transparent inks mix together, wet on wet, and create over a million different colors on your substrate. You will find some limitations with CMYK inks in their opacity and body, which means they need to be printed directly onto their receiving substrate in a wet on wet fashion. The setting of each color does shift the color scale, so printing on dark garments with an opaque white underbase is very difficult in this model.
Choosing your process for your art is fairly simple once you get the hang of it. The type of art that provides the best results in this medium is full color, natural artwork. This is something created by hand, whether analog or digital, a photograph or a replication of a photograph, or some other type of full color, raster art with gradient blends. The art background or art itself typically dictates the garment you are printing on which often dictates the printing process. Remember, four color process works great on whites and OK on pastel garments but does not come across properly on dark garments. Spot Process inks are designed for darker substrates.
For best results, we recommend CMYK color separating in Adobe Photoshop using the correct color, CSF color profile. For a proper separation, start with your full color image in RGB mode, load the Wilflex-Process-Adobe-Profile.csf color profile (edit>color settings>load), then change the color mode to CMYK (image>mode). The correct color profile can be found on the product page on screenprinting.com.
When printing four color process, we want to make sure our color profiles match to 305 mesh screens. This high mesh count also will hold the detail you want to retain out of your image. We recommend using 305 mesh, coated using a 2/1 coating method to ensure the emulsion works its way around the knuckles of the mesh. When creating films, it’s imperative to create a good, quality halftone by choosing the right dot size that will expose well onto our screen and reduce complications on press. After much research, testing and advice from Charlie Facini (the creator of AccuRIP and Separation Studio), we have found that the Flamenco method of halftone dots avoids moire and is easier to screen print. I like using a 55-65 line halftone, with a round dot, at a 22.5 degree angle (which are AccuRIP’s default settings). Also, it’s very important to use labels on your films so you know which color you are printing. Include printing calibration bars on the sides of your film so you can easily see if your halftones expose well. If your calibration bar does not expose, modify the exposure or lower the dot so that it does.
A better shirt helps to make a better print! A higher end, ring spun shirt will always be best for high-end, fine detail printing like this!
This is where the Wilflex Epic Process Inks shine. They are smooth, the colors blend extremely well, and they do not build up on the squeegee. Over all this makes your prints look more consistent, hold better color, and maintain better detail. Remember, when printing CMYK process, always print from light to dark (YMCK). Always take careful notes as to how many times you pull or push each squeegee in your job so that this can be replicated on every garment. Do a few sample runs before going to production to get the ink flowing and color where you want it, then go for it!