'Ink' Differently

Plastisol on cotton. For decades, that was your constant as a screen printer. That’s not the case anymore.

We’ve chronicled the meteoric rise of polyester and synthetic fabrics, which, by the way, are extremely difficult to print on.

Now I’m telling you that plastisol ink is no longer the no-brainer, automatic choice.

Even as little as a few years ago, that notion would have been ludicrous. For decades, plastisol has been the lifeblood of this industry. It’s so user-friendly, so easy, that screen printers wouldn’t know what to do without it. “Plastisol can sit in the screen for months. You can come back, scrape the dust off and go print with it,” says Walt Wright, marketing director for Murakami Screen. Tell a screen printer he will move on from plastisol? That’s like breathing something other than oxygen.

But these days, screen printers have an old/new alternative to consider: waterbase ink. Yes, the same waterbase that dries out in your screens, doesn’t go with every T-shirt color, is difficult to work with and so on.

Things are different now. Soft-hand prints and discharge are in. Demand for PVC-free prints is growing. And waterbase is making tremendous strides in opacity and increasing ease of use.

So is waterbase right for you? To answer that question, you have to check out our extensive cover story on all facets of screen-printing inks. Not only do we detail the origins of the resurgent waterbase trend, but we tell you the equipment you need to do it right. In addition, we’ve set up a point/counterpoint debate with two screen printers: one who specializes in waterbase discharge and another that jettisoned it to focus strictly on plastisol.

My two cents: Plastisol will remain prevalent, but there is a tremendous shift going on. Even the biggest ink makers sense it. So unless you’ve found a lucrative niche with just plastisol, you’re losing business by ignoring waterbase. No, it’s not easy, and yes, you have to be able to switch seamlessly between waterbase and plastisol. But it only takes a little due diligence to become proficient at waterbase. The rest of the world primarily uses waterbase and has no problems with it; American screen printers can too.

The changing tide of waterbase is just one element of our extensive ink coverage. We delve into the increasing emphasis on product safety that is radically changing the requirements for ink. We highlight the most common errors screen printers make with ink and how to fix them. We tell you how to make your own ink colors, which can save you money and reduce overhead.

Also, we have a new column from Tom Davenport and Rick Roth, expert screen printers who run the industry blog “The Ink Kitchen” at www.theinkkitchen.com Each issue, we will feature their top tips, secrets and stories. There’s a reason the duo were spotted at this year’s ISS Long Beach show wearing “Know-It-All” hoodies. We think you’ll enjoy their insights.