Operator Error

Get the most out of your ink by fixing these common mistakes.


Your Waterbase Screens Need Work: Waterbase is not forgiving. You need 40% humidity or less to properly create and store the screens (in non-humid areas, use a heated drying cabinet). Furthermore, since waterbase penetrates every crack and crevice, “you need to tape very thoroughly and thoughtfully when preparing a screen to prevent leakage and misprints on-press,” says Dan Corcoran of Forward Printing.


You Buy Whatever Ink’s On Sale: Bargain basement ink doesn’t work as well. A cheaper ink with less pigment will make it much more difficult to reach the proper look and opacity. You will have to apply more ink to achieve the same amount of coverage, and it will cost more in the long run.


You Store Your Inks Haphazardly: A little organization goes a long way. Tips from International Coatings: Seal your buckets correctly to avoid collecting lint and dust. Don’t leave a wood stick or cardboard in the ink, which can remove some of the oils. Definitely avoid extreme heat or cold; even in a temperature-controlled room, unexpected areas like a concrete floor or proximity to a heat source (such as a flash unit) can affect or partially cure the inks.


You use one ink for everything: There are hundreds of inks available, yet a gaggle of screen printers often stick with one ink no matter the fabric or application. “If you hire someone to paint your house,” says Rutland’s Brian Lessard, “they don’t just come out with one paint and start painting no matter what the house looks like.”


You Stick With The Same Mesh: Yes, your 86 or 110 mesh “works” all of the time because “it’s easier to get the ink through that mesh, but it’s not correct,” says Terry Keeven of St. Louis Print Co. “You’re putting down so much ink that you’ve got that old thick deposit of ink on your shirt.” Stop wasting ink and sacrificing soft-hand feel.


You Apply Too Much Squeegee Pressure: “It makes the print look not as opaque or worse, blurry,” says Kieth Stevens, western regional sales manager for International Coatings. “Best to back off the squeegee to where it almost doesn’t print, and then slowly add pressure until the print looks optimal.”


You Don’t Adjust For Poly: Printing on polyester is one of the toughest things going right now. The mistakes are plentiful: running the dryer too hot, not taking the color of the shirt into account, leaving the garment in the heat chamber too long. Techniques such as mapping the dryer to run as fast as possible can help, but it starts with the right bleed-resistant ink.


You Undercure Your Shirts: Lessard says a properly cured plastisol print (usually at 320 degrees Farenheit) will outlast the shirt. Temperature and dwell time determine if an ink is properly cured. Even if it’s at the right heat, “everyone wants to go faster,” he says, “and the dryer is this magical thing you run the shirt through and everything is great.” Give it the proper time.