Ink has the ability to look matte or glossy. Sometimes, a print will come out of the dryer looking glossier than expected, or more matte than you’re looking for. Wondering how to adjust the final looks of the ink? Let's look into it.
First, let's check out some general, background information about plastisol inks. Some inks already have a little bit of a puff/blowing agent in them. These inks will always give a semi-matte finish. Some inks are inherently glossy — these inks have no blowing agent in them.
Alright, now let's learn how to adjust your inks to get the look you want.
WHAT MAKES A PRINT LOOK MATTE
When the print's surface is broken up, it doesn’t reflect light as readily, so it looks more matte.
One reason a print looks more matte is due to the shirt’s texture. When a printer prints the ink into the shirt’s fibers more, the ink molds itself to the shirt's fibers, there’s no flat surface. Traditionally printing a vintage print is a great example of a matte print. When printing vintage, the ink goes into the shirt’s fibers. The print looks faded and dull.
Pro Tip: Traditional water-based inks are more semi-matte, and semi-gloss.
RELATED: HOW TO SCREEN PRINT A VINTAGE LOOK
HOW TO ACTIVELY CREATE A MATTE PRINT ON PRESS
To make a print look more matte, you’ll need to add an additive to the ink that breaks up the surface of the print, which inhibits ink from reflecting light.
The best additive to use is either puff or suede additives (a.k.a blowing agents because they puff). You only need to add about 2%-3% (by weight) of puff or suede additive to the ink to achieve the matte finish.
WHAT MAKES A PRINT LOOK GLOSSY
Glossy prints have a smooth surface where the ink sits on top of the shirt. Light can reflect off the ink’s surface, making it look more glossy.
Laying down a heavier ink deposit will also make a print look glossy. The heavy ink deposit will not permit the shirt’s fibers to influence the surface texture of the ink. The smooth, flat surface will be shiny once you pull it out of the dryer.
Athletic apparel typically has a thicker ink deposit. Garments like jerseys usually have sheets of plastisol layered on top of each other. Therefore, athletic apparel is much more shiny compared to other kinds of apparel.
HOW TO ACTIVELY CREATE A GLOSSY PRINT ON PRESS
Remember, the key to getting a glossy print is keeping the ink on top of the fibers to create a smooth surface.
One way is by printing the base white and using a smoothing screen to get the surface super smooth. Now you can over-print the white base, allowing the top colors to be smooth and glossy. Or, you can print-flash-print the colors because the flash will enhance the smoothness of the ink’s surface. Use a smoothing screen to make it even smoother.
LEARN MORE ABOUT SMOOTHING SCREENS
You could also mix in gel gloss to the ink (gel is designed to be glossy and shiny). Or, you could overprint part of the design — or the whole thing — with the gel.
There's one fact that's important to note about inks that are designated as matte: These inks will be very difficult to create or add a gloss since the ink already has dulling agents/additives in the ink. Try adding gel into the ink and testing what works best for you. You can also try overprinting at the end with a gel gloss.
Pro Tip: When printing on synthetic shirts, it’s easier to create a smooth, flat surface because there are no free fibers poking through. If you’re printing on cotton tees, you’ll have to work harder to achieve a flat surface.
Photo by Symmetree Clothing.
Another way to achieve the glossy effect is by curing the print at a higher temperature. Excess heat can affect how the inks look. Running with the heat set high will typically cause the ink to sit at a “melt point” for an extended period of time. Sitting in this high temperature can directly cause the ink to become shiny. It's a viable technique, but not all ink will behave this way unfortunately. Some ink types and brands that will bubble or puff when the ink gets too hot. The print may look mottled. Always test inks before running any kind of production and pick the method that works best for you with your equipment within your shop.
Remember the vintage print? It is possible to make a vintage print a little glossy by using a smoothing screen after a flash or an iron. Utilizing one of those tools will set the ink on top of the shirt, making it more glossy. It’ll still be vintage soft.
USING A HEAT PRESS
As many of us know, you can use a heat press to help fix a rough print. When it’s done, the print will look smooth, and it often can look glossy. The glossiness appears due to the Heat Resistant Non-Stick Sheet pushing the fibers into the print while also creating a smooth surface.
For the opposite effect — getting a matte finish — place craft paper on top of the print and press it. The craft paper will break up the surface to make it more semi-gloss, semi-matte.
Using transfers? Cold peel transfers will always look glossy. Hot peel transfers look semi-glossy, semi-matte because when you lift off the film, it lifts a little of the ink with it, which breaks up the surface.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WHY THE HEAT PRESS IS EVERY PRINTER'S SECRET TOOL
In the end, the ink's surface texture will determine how shiny or dull a print is. With this new information, you'll be able to manipulate prints to look as shiny or as dull as you prefer.