Garment selection is much more important when printing with water based ink, than in plastisol printing. Since water based inks are traditionally a little thinner, they do not cover fabric as well as a thicker ink, like plastisol, does. When you are printing with high quality garments, like 100% combed and ring-spun cotton, this won’t matter. However, there will be times when you have to print on low quality cotton shirts, and you may find that your print isn’t laying nearly as smooth and as evenly as you would like it to. Here’s what you need to know to get the best print on low quality cotton shirts.
Ring Spun vs. Carded Cotton
The quality of the cotton used to make a ringspun shirt is much higher than carded cotton. Carded cotton is like your standard low-end 6.1 or 5.5-ounce fabric. The thread is lower quality in these garments and the weave of the fabric is less fine. This creates a rougher and more uneven surface to lay your print on, and you will find that low quality cotton shirts tend to fray and wear out much faster. Since the surface of the fabric is so rough, you often have to use more ink to get a nice smooth surface on your print. This is because thinner inks, like non-HSA water based inks, tend to sit into the weave of the fabric instead of sitting on top, like a plastisol print. This can cause the the ink to look more faded and washed out, when in reality it is not! It’s actually the fibers of the shirt peeking through the ink layer.
There are two ways to avoid this when printing water based ink on low quality cotton shirts:
1. Use a good water based ink as an underbase.
Printing on top of an opaque underbase print matts down most of the fibers in the ink, allowing the next layer to sit up on top of the garment instead of in the fibers. We recommend using Green Galaxy Comet White HSA Water Based Ink since its thicker formula gives it more body and prevents the ink from sinking in as much.
2. Add additional opaque base in your ink mixing.
If you mix your own water based inks, use more opaque base in the mixture. The opaque base will allow the ink to sit on top of the garment versus in the fibers. We recommend using Green Galaxy Opaque Core HSA Water Based Ink Mixing Base. Standard FRU mixtures use a 20% opaque base in the formula. This is plenty to sit on top of the fabric and help your ink to last the test of time without looking washed out and faded.
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?