Want to make prints stand out from the crowd? There are a couple of ways to make a screen print shimmer and shine, LIKE using foil transfers or printing with metallic inks. But which is better? What’s the best method for your shop? There are merits to both; let’s compare the two and discover what’s best for your process.
Foil transfers are super shiny and relatively easy to create. Simply print the adhesive onto a shirt, cure it, and then heat press the foil onto the cured adhesive base. Foil transfers come in all the colors of the rainbow, and are perfect for printers looking to spice up their designs without creating a custom color or an extra screen.
So what’s the downside to using foil? When peeling off the transfer, the foil may not correctly adhere to the adhesive. Ripping the foil off like a Band-Aid is the best method, but doesn’t fully guarantee complete coverage. Transfer foil can also be expensive, and it’ll add up for printers looking to create many shirts with a shimmering effect.
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The two most popular metallic inks are silver and gold. They can be printed in many different ways to achieve sparkling or chrome effects. Properly printed and cured inks can last a lifetime. Screen printed inks soak into the shirt fabric, and create a softer hand feel than a heat pressed transfer will. Metallic inks are perfect for printers looking to print longer runs of shirts. Inks like FN-INK™ Metallic Gold and Metallic Silver are low-cure, soft, and friendly on printers’ wallets. One bucket of ink will create hundreds of shimmering designs.
The main downside to using metallic ink is when mixing translucent colors. If you wanted to create a shiny magenta color, a foil transfer might be a better option. Translucent colors like magenta or navy blue won’t mix into metallic inks with the same opacity and will end up looking muddy. The bright color will be lost. Some ink colors just won’t look good when mixed with gold and silver. Since silver has a gray tint and gold has a yellow tint, the mixed color is affected by the tint in the metallic ink.
Pro Tip: Not sure if a color will look great when mixed with metallic ink? Mix a small test batch instead of the total amount, then test to see if you like the final color.
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SO WHICH IS BEST?
Both metallic inks and foil transfers have pros and cons for shops. The method you end up using depends on your preference and your process. Do you have a lot of demand for shimmering designs? Picking up a bucket of metallic gold or silver will be your best bet. Want an ultra-shiny effect instead of a shimmer? Go for foil.
Foil transfers are perfect for smaller shops that operate with a heat press as the main curing method. Metallic ink reflects heat and takes a while to cure. Curing metallic ink with a conveyor dryer is the best method to ensure a proper cure.
But while metallic ink takes longer to cure, a fully-cured shirt will last longer than a foil transfer. Foil may start to peel over time, whereas properly cured ink won’t peel, even after being washed a dozen times. Ink is also softer than a transfer, so if your clients are searching for a soft, shiny print, screen printing with metallic ink is a great option.
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Both foil transfers and metallic inks have fantastic effects, but they’re different methods that create different final effects. Choose the option that works best for you and that your customers are happy with. Can’t decide? Try both and see what you like best and what works better with your shop process.