My buddy Rick Roth and I started a blog earlier this year called The Ink Kitchen (www.inkkitchen.com) with the intent to share our “real-world” knowledge with the decorated apparel industry. Both of us have been at this for a very long time and we have experienced many successes and achievements. However, like anyone else in the industry we’ve had plenty of failures too. On the site we talk about (and show) our highs and also our lows and even our utter failures with extreme candor. This is just as we have done for years with each other and our peers. It is through this open and honest sharing that we have learned, grown, and mastered the craft. Now we’re here at Wearables to share with you as well. Welcome to The Ink Kitchen!
Good Old Plastisol
I’ve got news for the world, plastisol ink ain’t goin’ nowhere! Plastisol is still the most versatile, print-friendly ink available. If you want opaque spot color on a dark substrate or super high-resolution halftones, plastisol is the ink of choice. You could make an argument for plastisol as the most environmentally friendly ink due to its extraordinary shelf life, but we won’t go there now. And no, plastisol ink doesn’t have to be rough, shiny and bulletproof. Today’s plastisols are not your father’s plastisols. When utilizing a base and pigment mixing system, printers can control ink viscosity and achieve a very soft hand while retaining a visual pop!
Waterbase and Discharge
No, you can’t drink or water your plants with waterbase ink. But if you want the softest possible print, it is often the way to go. You want bright color on a dark shirt but don’t want to feel a thing on the shirt? Discharge, a waterbase ink with some slightly nasty stuff mixed in which neutralizes the dye in a colored garment. Discharge is difficult and intimidating to work with and has many limitations, but when done well the results can be phenomenal. (Done poorly, the results are abysmal.) Mastering discharge printing is something that very few have done. Discharge requires tremendous knowledge of not just the printing process, but the substrate as well. No other textile printing process so heavily relies on the substrate as much as discharge.
Silicone and Other Crazy Stuff
Silicone ink, high-solids acrylic ink, Rick even made edible ink once. There are all sorts of new exciting (and scary) ink technologies emerging. While some of these technologies have been in use for some time, they are still in their infancy relative to plastisol and waterbase inks. The drive toward these new technologies has come primarily from the big brands, none of whom I will name here. The primary intent is to produce plastisol-like results minus the PVC for environmental purposes. Some of these technologies will yield superior print results, specifically with regard to tactile characteristics on both cottons and synthetics. But beware! Mistakes will be made when working with new ink technology and R&D is a prerequisite. Not for the faint of heart!