The Unlikely Benefit of Printing With Water Based Ink
I learned how to print using plastisol on an old beat up press I bought off Craigslist. A common beginning for most screen printers. The first paid job I did was for a very large and well-known fitness brand – 2,500 white hand towels. In my haste and inexperience, I printed them with plastisol. Can you imagine wiping your sweaty face off with a nice crusty plastisol print? Needless to say, I lost some money on that job. Thankfully I was able to save the relationship. That’s a story for another time I suppose. Stay with me here to read more about the benefit of printing with water based ink…
At first, when my customers started inquiring about water based printing, I resisted. It’s too easy to print with plastisol. You can leave the ink on the screen for days. It’s easy to print with, has very predictable behavior, and because of this, I formed a few bad habits. After a long run with plastisol ink, I was often tired and in a hurry to get out of the shop as quickly as possible, so I would just leave the mess until the morning. That’s lazy. In the same manner that it’s lazy to leave dishes in the sink, left to fester until the next day when you *might* be inspired to clean them. I had no urgency to clean up and break down my plastisol print jobs. Now, it’s ok to leave a screen up if you know there are reprints right around the corner but in most cases I saw my reorders come in every 30 days or so. That’s valuable real estate tied up on my press. Not to mention that the strain from the clamp is not optimal for screens long term and can cause the mesh to pop in the night.
Surprise: You can’t do this with water based ink.
Before claiming that this is a problem with water based ink, I’d like to propose another perspective. I assert that an unlikely benefit of printing with water based ink is that it can and will add efficiency to your production. It forces you to break down your jobs when they are done, and properly clean your screens and tools, storing them in a timely manner and keeping bottlenecks from arising on your presses. After all, an orderly shop is a profitable shop.
Because water based ink dries more rapidly than plastisol ink, you are forced to take the job down immediately after printing. This smooths out your production flow, and keeps your screens in better shape over time. After all, even emulsions designed for water based printing are “water resistant,” not waterproof. So, limiting water exposure by removing the water based ink is optimal for extending the life of your screens. It may feel like more work in the beginning but you’ll walk away with a sense of satisfaction knowing that your screens are taken care of and the next job will be ready to go with minimal effort required.
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?