Getting into water based printing isn’t as hard as most long-time plastisol printers think. I’ve been printing with water based inks since 2008 and have helped hundreds of printers successfully transition over. If you step into it the right way, water based printing can actually be easier and save you time and money, versus printing plastisol. You can even create a better t-shirt and a happier customer!
Why is water based printing scary?
If you look at old school water based printing, it was complex. Special screens. Extra cleaning steps. Ink that you didn’t have much control over. We should ALL thank plastisol for changing the screen printing game. Before plastisol came along, there was only old school water based ink for printing on fabric. It dried fast. It was thin and not opaque. Frankly, it was a pain to print with. When plastisol came around, it solved all of those problems. But, due to the nature of plastisol (plastic) ink it never quite caught up to the soft feeling that water based printing leaves on the fabric.
Since the plastisol revolution, newer forms of water based inks, aka HSA (High Solids Acrylic) ink, have caught up with the user-friendly nature of plastisol inks. These new water based inks are opaque but still soft, lasts longer in the screen, and are printable on a much wider variety of garments than old school water based printing allowed. Our Green Galaxy Water Based Inks work especially well for this. Made with 20% opaque HSA base, they allow the ink to sit on top of the shirt fibers versus falling into the fibers. This gives the shirt more of a plastisol look, helps the hold its boldness longer, but still feels nice and soft to your customer.
With these new inks, water based printing doesn’t have to be scary!
Still nervous? Here’s how to start water based printing without drowning:
Start with simple stuff.
Begin by printing water based ink only on your light colored garments, using dark colored inks.
Stepping into water based printing this way is fairly easy. Since water based ink is thinner than plastisol, you will need to use a higher mesh and print wet on wet instead of flashing in-between. Water based ink actually makes this easier! Since the ink is thinner, it sits into the garment more than plastisol and doesn’t pick up as much on the back of the screen. You can move the squeegees faster as well. This typically speeds up the printing process and uses less ink because of the lower cost of water based ink, and a thinner amount of ink deposited on the shirt through higher mesh printing. The result is effective production and a shirt that looks and feels great for your customer.
To accomplish simple one color water based prints on light garments, you will need…
- HSA water based inks
- Water resistant emulsion or emulsion hardener
- Warp drive (If you are concerned about cure temp)
- Higher mesh screens 200-280
Some videos you can refer to:
How to Screen Print Water Based Ink from Green Galaxy
Green Galaxy Water Based Ink, Screen Printing 10 Colors Wet on Wet
Screen Printing Ugly Christmas Sweaters w/ Green Galaxy Waterbase Ink On The S.Roque
Wet On Wet Screen Printing With Booster Water Based Fluorescent Inks
Stepping into more complex prints.
Take your next step in water based printing. Try printing simulated process and on dark athletic garments.
I recommend starting with simulated process printing, before trying athletic style or spot color vector prints. The reason being, simulated process printing typically requires higher mesh screens, wet on wet printing, and contains more detail. Typically, I print a 70% halftone under base first. Then the highlight white and the colors. We often add a flash at the end before the highlight white. The halftone under base allows the ink to bite into the fabric, and the additional flashes prevent the final print from picking the rest of the ink. Because water based ink is thinner, it does not stick as well to a solid white under base as plastisol does.
Printing vector images with bold block colors on dark athletic garments is more complex. You have to be very particular with your squeegee pressure and angle, making sure to lay the ink on top of the under base versus driving it into the under base which will thin out the ink. You will also need to flash between almost every color to avoid pickup. Dark Polyester garments add even more complexity with their risk of dye migration. This can be avoided by using under base blockers and Warp Drive, Green Galaxy’s low cure additive, to lower the curing temperature. The print still feels amazing, but it takes longer to accomplish. You can get around this by using more of an opaque/HSA water based ink, as explained below in some of the videos.
For both types of printing, the Green Galaxy Fusion Mixing system would be useful to have. It allows you to control the consistency and color of the ink a lot more than the RFU inks which are great to start with, but harder to use in this application.
Some videos you can refer to for more complex water based printing techniques:
How To Screen Print on Moisture Wicking Performance Garments by Hanes
How To Use The Online Fusion Ink Mixing App For Screen Printing
How To Mix Custom Pantone Screen Printing Colors With Fusion
Create Custom Water Based Screen Printing Inks w/ Fusion!
Screen Printing With the Green Galaxy Fusion Mixing System
Green Galaxy Booster Fluorescent Inks for Screen Printing & Mixing
If you follow these steps, water based printing can be easy and not scary. As you start to see more success with the more basic water based printing techniques, you will be motivated to learn more, try more, and advance to the more difficult printing types. Plus, if you use our Green Galaxy Inks and Ink Systems, you’ll likely save money over more expensive plastisol inks. Trust me, your customers will like your prints better.
Go get ‘em!
Just dipping your toes into the realm of water based printing? Perhaps you’re looking for more information on its pros and cons? Unique benefits and limitations? Requirements and rewards?….Or maybe simply, how to print with water based ink?