November '14

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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20 1 4 N ov e m b e r Printwear | 51 Best inks for a soft hand By and large, most general-purpose inks are geared more toward achieving a smooth surface, but there are inks specifically made for softness, such as discharge inks and plas- tisol inks. These inks have a soft or fashion base driven into the garment to create the same soft hand as water-based formulas. smoothness by coating every single fiber, which results in a sandpapery hand after the fibers release during the curing process. This often happens when clear or white coatings used to mat down fibers are overly reduced to enhance printability. It's not uncommon for decorators, espe- cially those working with water-based inks, to first coat the surface with a clear or clear- white combination ink, and then print another layer over it to create a solid white underbase for a smoother look and hand. Decorators also frequently opt to incorpo- rate additional layers—with or without an underbase—to create a smooth surface for successive colors. Another approach is to use a smoothing screen with either a Teflon polymer or heav- ily coated, fully exposed screen with clear in it. After flashing, the smoothing screen, which takes the place of a cooling station, comes down on the garment, and a squee- gee or roller runs across it to achieve an ef- fect similar to a heat press. The clear in the screen does not print and only serves as a lubricant. The ink is hot as it comes out from under the flash unit, and the pressure from the screen helps create a smooth surface for printing the next color lightly. Because it's an extra step but not an extra station, the smooth- ing screen doesn't impact the color capabil- ities of the press. There are products specifically formulat- ed to combat fibrillation, including clears, which smooths the top layer or creates a bleed-resistant underbase if desired. In the water-based ink world, carbon blacks and some all-purpose whites are made slightly thicker and shorter to go through the high- er meshes to help even the surface. All ink can achieve a fairly smooth sur- face if it's right for the application and printed correctly. One ink may do well on cotton but not on nylon because it doesn't coat the same. There are different strategies for each type of fabric. Rather than experiment, it's better to call the ink manufacturer and see what has worked in similar situations.

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