Getting The Best White Means Following The Best Process
Printing a great white on black garments is something that every screen printer strives to perfect. In today’s post we’re going to share some tips for mastering white on black using Epic Lava Plastisol White by Wilflex.
We’re going to break the process down by looking at the following criteria:
The substrate – what you are printing on.
The ink – types and what to look for.
The screen – mesh and tension.
The stencil – emulsion and coating.
The settings on the press – off contact and squeegee angle.
The print – speed and sheer, and how to adjust or modify the process to achieve better results.
Follow along our brand new video and dive into the details of white on black printing below!
The better quality garment you print on, the better quality print you create. Ring spun or combed cotton garments have a tighter weave and smoother printing surface and will always result in a better looking print. If you want a heavier weight, carded cotton shirt, it is still a good idea to go with a higher quality one like the Fruit of the Loom Ultra Cotton HD or a Hanes Nano T.
Low cost, low end tees, as well as harder to print thicker sweatshirts can still achieve great white prints but the screen, stencil, and press settings, which we cover below, become even more important.
If you are printing on 100% or garments with a high amount of cotton you can use thinner, more cost effective ink. For today’s discussion we will be using Ryonet’s new Epic Lava Meteor White by Wilflex.
If you are going on a blended garment that contains polyester fabric, you will want to use a low bleed ink like Ryonet’s new Epic Lava Low-Bleed White by Wilflex.
Prior to printing it is always a great idea to modulate the white ink by stirring it. You can do this by hand or with a mixing drill. You will find that Wilflex Lava inks tend to need less mixing and modulation prior to printing because they have higher thixotropic properties (less viscous). Thixotropy is a time-dependent shear thinning property. Certain gels or fluids that are thick (viscous) under static conditions will flow (become thin, less viscous) over time when shaken, agitated, or otherwise stressed (time dependent viscosity). They then take a fixed time to return to a more viscous state. This just means that Lava inks need less agitation to reach that creamy state we all love.
The mesh count of your screen or how many threads cross per inch will determine how much ink passes through onto your garment. For white ink on a dark garment, you’ll generally want to use a 110-200 mesh screen.
Thread diameter of your mesh can also affect your finished print. Lower cost screens tend to have larger thread which reduces the amount of ink laid down when printing. There are higher end thin thread meshes which let more ink through in the same relative mesh size. thile these threads can be more susceptible to breaking, they provide huge ink savings since you end up using less ink but get a brighter result.
Screen tension is also very important. Thicker white inks require tighter screens that pop back up after the squeegee passes, leaving a good ink deposit on your garment. If you can get a higher tension screen for your white print runs, they will go a lot smoother. Low tension screens may leave the ink looking rough or blurry. 20+ newtons is recommended, but new static frames typically can come in at 25+ and Solid-Loc or Newman screens can go up to 30+ which is optimal.
The thickness of your emulsion aka Emulsion Over Mesh (EOM) dictates the ink well and the ink deposit onto the garment. To lay more ink, create a thicker stencil. Higher solid content photopolymer emulsions like HiFi and CryoCoat typically work better because their high solid content assist in making a better, thicker stencil for ink deposit. When coating emulsion for a white print, I typically recommend at least using a 2/1 or 3/2 coat with the round side of the scoop coater. This lays more emulsion down, which lays more ink down. More ink down means less passes!
When setting up your press, off contact is important, however the higher your tension is and the thinner your ink, the lower off contact you need. For this manual print we want about 1/8th inch off contact.
For the squeegee, on the manual we are using a standard 70 duro and on the ROQ automatic we are using a triple durometer. This allows the press to perform faster with a softer edge in order to control the ink, but a stiff squeegee center to maintain the integrity at a slightly lower angle.
Our blade angle is lower and we’re using medium pressure. A 15-20% angle off 90% center point works well with medium print pressure between 35-50 lbs on the ROQ. You don’t want too much pressure because you can push ink through the garment and it won’t help matte the fibers down. The goal here is one squeegee stroke with a nice fiber matte down for a smooth base.
For this example print on the ROQ we are at 5mm off contact, 17% angle, and 35 PSI, the ink clears beautifully after one pass with medium/fast print speed. The ink will also flow better if you do a few test prints first and warm your pallets. If your squeegee angle, pressure, screen tension, or EOM is not ideal for white printing this can mean multiple passes which will slow production and waste product.
On our Riley Hopkins we will be printing the same shirts using Lava Meteor White. We will use a 70 degree angle and medium pressure, once again. I personally like to pull white ink because I feel I have more control over the ink deposit but pushing is OK as well.
Just like on the auto, our goal is one pass, quick flash, and a clean 2nd pass. The New Wilflex version of Meteor White flashes faster than before and does an awesome job matting the fabric down with a nice flat and matte look.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you’re dialing in your prints:
1. First and foremost: fiber matte down is king.
If your ink looks fuzzy, here are some things to look at.
2. Remember the goal is proper deposit and release from the screen.
If your screen is tight, you have good off contact, and a good emulsion stencil, then you should see your screen pop up after making a print stroke. As the screen pops up it leaves your ink deposit on the garment below. This is why screen tension is so key.
3. Try different squeegee angles and pressures.
Remember too much pressure drives the ink into the garment, passing the fibers, so it leaves them sticking up through the ink. Too little pressure won’t release the ink from the screen all the way leaving an incomplete print.
4. Warm your pallets before printing and be sure to modulate your ink.
Both of these will help your ink flow smoothly as you print.
5. Add a second pass to ensure your print is bright and bold.
6. Get a better garment.
If you are using a lower-end shirt, try doing the same print on a higher quality shirt.
7. Try adding a roller squeegee with a teflon screen to flatten the base and start with an amazing underbase first.
Even better if you’re on a ROQ, try using the ROQ Iron which not only flattens the print but uses heat! This makes just about any base and top coat look amazing!
Your end result should be a soft, smooth white print.
Make sure to watch our new video “How to Screen Print White Ink on Dark Garments” and take your prints to new heights!