Setting up your press for water based printing shouldn’t be too hard, as the process isn’t too terribly different from printing with plastisol ink. The devil is in the details though. You’ll need to make some adjustments to your supplies, off contact and tilt, and overall setup to accommodate for the minor differences in the process. First, you’ll want to start by making sure your screen is prepared for the rigors of water based printing. Then you can get down to business to set up your press for water based printing.
Here’s a list of tips to help you set up your press for water based printing:
Use adhesives that work well in high-moisture environments.
When choosing an adhesive, make sure you’re using one that works well with the amount of moisture water-based inks emit when heated. This is most important when flashing. Water-based adhesives work well, as they are reactivated with water. But spray adhesives may lose their tack a lot faster. When setting up for water-based prints, your goal is to print wet-on-wet as much as possible. Understanding your tack is key to avoid any unnecessary movement.
Avoid getting “washed away” with tapes and block outs.
If you’re going to use blockout, be sure to get a water-resistant blockout like Aqua-Block, to avoid “washing it away” during the print process. You might even consider putting a piece of tape over the pinhole after using the blockout to ensure it won’t bleed through; especially on a long run. Choosing the right tape is important as well. Using a quality tape that won’t lift during the print process is key. Be sure when you tape the screen that you’re vigilant that all the edges are pressed down so that the ink won’t slip up under the tape and loosen it during printing.
Get up off the printing surface with off contact and tilt.
Setting up your press is the same for water-based as it is plastisol, except that the you will need to adjust your off-contact a bit differently. For water based printing off-contact and tilt need to be level and about 1/8th inch off the printing surface. Notice we did not say “off the pallet.” When setting up off contact, maintain approximately 1/8th inch off the substrate. Sweatshirts are thicker than tees, so you’ll need to raise the screen to accommodate them and maintain proper off contact. You can do this by putting the substrate or garment on the platen and then placing a piece of ⅛” masonite or cardboard on top of it. You can loosen all the levers on your print head and set it evenly down on the flat surface. Once it’s flat on the cardboard, hold it in place and begin to tighten your levers. Once everything it tight, you can then remove the cardboard and double check for the distance and level of the screen. Repeat this process for all heads on the press.
Set up your press for water based printing success.
Once the screen and off contact is set, you can begin to register your design. The first thing you’ll want to do is draw a line on the pallet you’ll be using for set up. Be sure that all pallets are the same distance from the center of the press and tightened on the press arms. If they’re different distances you can have placement issues when using a rotary press. The center line will aid you in lining up to the center of the pallet, acting as a visual guide for loading shirts. Line up the center marks of the image on center line of pallet. Lock in the screen and you’re ready to go.
Put ink in the screen and do a test print. This can be done on a pellon or an old shirt. Be sure to flood the screen after printing so the image area does not dry out as you go through the setup process.
Once you have the initial screen set up, you‘re ready to set up the other colors in the design. Using a pellon can be helpful for a lot of reasons. Not only is it an economical way to do test prints, but it’s also useful when you go to setup the other colors. Before bringing the next screen in to line up, you can save time in the process by creating a “dry erase board” on your pallet. To do this, use clear tape and cover the test print. This creates a see-through, protected surface to begin lining up screens. Now you are ready to place the other screen in your press and begin registering them.
For each additional color you can bring the screen down over the initial setup print. Line up the registration marks and lock in the screen. Ink up the screen and print. When you lift the screen you’ll see if it’s lined up. If so, move onto the next screen. If not, just wipe away the print on the tape and re-register the print. Do this repeatedly until you get it right. By using the “dry-erase method,” you can avoid wasting any pellons and t-shirts on registering.
Don’t forget, once all the screen are lined up, you’ll need to go back and tape off all the target marks that helped you line everything up. Otherwise you’ll print those on the garment. Yikes. Next, print the design in full to make sure all the colors line up and you’re ready to go.
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?