Plastisol ink is a popular ink choice. From beginner to auto shops, plastisol ink is a game changer. But do you know when it’s really ready to use? Do you find yourself pulling out a glob of ink thick enough to rival cement? Here’s how to be sure it’s ready for production.
Photo by Press or Dye
MODULATE YOUR INK
Using properly modulated ink use is a huge factor in determining the success of a print. There are a few misconceptions regarding inks. The most common mistake people make happens when ink is used straight out of the container. Maybe you’re thinking, “But the ink manufacturer says the ink is Ready For Use (RFU)! Shouldn’t I be able to take it straight from the bucket to the screen?”
In short, the answer is “not really.” Most plastisol inks off the shelf tend to be a little too thick. The first thing you’re going to need to do when you pull the lid off any ink container is give it a nice stir.
Plastisol ink has a lot of body (it thickens up) when it sits dormant for a while. Think of plastisol ink like natural peanut butter. When it's been sitting for a while, it's stiffer than usual and may have a little bit of oil on top. When mixed well, it develops a nice, creamy texture. Inks work in a similar way.
Over time, some chemistry in the ink will settle out a little bit. You’ll notice if it has settled when there’s liquid on top of your ink. Stirring the ink will help mix everything back together, warm it up, and make it ready for production.
Plastisol ink needs to hit 80°F before you start printing. There are a few options for you to pursue to achieve this that doesn’t involve heating up your entire shop or spending time and energy stirring your inks.
METHOD 1: LEAVE IT OVERNIGHT
If you know you'll be printing with that ink the next day, leave it in a warm room overnight. A darkroom would work great (since it's supposed to be warm). If you're doing laundry that night, bring it in that room. Wherever you know it is warm, stick the ink in there to help heat it up.
METHOD 2: USE YOUR PLATENS
Another way to warm up the ink is to put the cold ink on the screen, flood it, warm up the platen to 150°F, and lower the screen over the heat-radiating platen. The only issue with this method is when you put more ink on the screen, you have to go through the process again.
METHOD 3: USE YOUR DRYER
PRO TIP: Do not store inks against a wall that faces the outdoors. The outside temperature will cool down the walls, and the walls will pull heat away from the ink.
Photo by Salt & Pine Co.
MONITOR SHOP TEMPERATURE
The temperature of your shop matters. Have you noticed that everything in your shop seems to work a little better on warm days? The platens heat up quicker, inks become creamier faster, and you can probably open a window or two to let some fresh air in without freezing.
Because plastisol ink performs best at around 80℉, keeping your shop warm is important. A warmer shop means your ink will be easier to use, and you probably won’t have to stir or modulate your ink as much. You should stir the plastisol ink before printing, though. It helps loosen the ink and makes it extra creamy.
If you live in a colder climate, try to keep your shop warm. Sometimes, all you need is the heat coming from your flash unit or conveyor dryer, while others may want to invest in a space heater. You’ll need to stir your ink a lot more, especially in winter months.
So start your job off right: stir that ink and keep your shop warm during cold months. Your arms and prints will thank you for it.