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Innovation by One Stroke Inks

I try to never speak of the competition.  I concern myself with our business.  Our ink.  If we always create the most innovative and effective ink for the fabric in question, there is simply no reason to be concerned about the competition.  I am concerned with the next big thing.  Here is the catch, the next big thing is not what I want it to be.  It will be what you need it to be.  We don’t dye fabric.  We don’t cut and sew tees or uniforms.  We react to the marketplace.  Big money brands who influence the marketplace such as Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas will tell the world what to wear.  Smaller manufacturers not spending billions of dollars on advertising will follow suit to produce a far less expensive version of this apparel.  We simply keep a close eye on what these fabrics are and pounce on the opportunity when problems arise.  Problems always arise.

This is how ELT Series was created.  Extreme low temperature ink sounds so obvious now doesn’t it?  I would love to say that we simply dreamed up the idea and knew it would be a hit.  Not at all.  We had a customer share his experience of screen printing 100% polyester sweatshirts.  These sweatshirts used to be smalls, mediums, and larges before they were decorated.  Once the fabric met the 320ºF heat of the conveyor dryer, we had a much differently shaped sweatshirt.  This was unacceptable as their customer would certainly not accept these miniatures.  It was an expensive situation but it raised an excellent question.  Why not manufacture an ink which can cure at a lower temperature?  Of course!  I won’t waste your time or our secrets to tell you how we manufactured these inks.  Just know that we have good people who know things about things.

So why did our competition not do this?  Well, at first they said it was impossible.  It did not appear impossible to us as we were already doing this but they are known to say some things.  Next, they decided to force plastisol screen printers into silicone ink.  This seemed like the coolest plan ever.  Silicone is super-stretchy.  It had a pretty cool feel.  Unfortunately, it also has difficulty sticking to fabrics, hates fuzzy material, experiences dye migration, and has a very short shelf-life.  OK, that may not have been the best plan. The bright side was many of our customers who were loving our ELT Series ink convinced us to make an ink with that cool silicone ink feel.  ELT-S Series was born and this concluded the silicone ink experiment for many more screen printers who were tired of that process.

Finally, I am hearing that our competition may have a low temperature ink specifically designed to compete with our ELT Series.  3 years after the original introduction of ELT Series we finally have a follower.  That last word is exactly the point I am going to make about our competition.  Follower.  We are the innovators.  Our competition follows us and hopes to make an ink which is kind of like ours, just cheaper.  This is not how One Stroke Inks operates as we don’t concern ourselves with the competition.  We concern ourselves with our customers, ink quality, and the next ink which will help you out of a jam.  Why would we copy something our competition is doing if they are simply making a cheap version of our innovation from 3 years ago?   Just wait until you see what we have next.


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How To: ELT Zip Transfers

Previously I wrote about low temperature transfers.  Low temperature transfers are becoming more important as delicate fabrics invade the apparel decoration industry.  However, the biggest downside of low temperature transfers is the fact they must be printed on cold peel transfer paper and then peeled cold.  Additionally, we have many customers decorating some very difficult polyester fabrics and sublimated polyester fabrics which require maximum bleed resistance.

Enter the ELT Zip Transfers!  We developed this as a true solution to stopping dye migration and protecting the fabric from heat-related damage.  Also, even though these transfers are screen printed on cold peel paper, we have formulated the ELT Zip Transfer inks to peel hot, immediately after transferred.  Zip!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. Cold peel transfer paper.  We offer the T-105 paper for the job.  Important note: Other hot peel papers may work with the ELT Zip Transfer inks and process.  You must test to be sure.  T-105 will always work.
  2. ELT Zip Transfer Powder.  There is a “fashion” and “performance” version of this powder.  A good rule to follow is apply performance powder for bad bleeders and fashion powder for everything else.
  3. ELT Zip Transfer ink.   This process will require this ink.  Other plastisol inks will not peel off the T-105 paper while hot.  Also, the opacity and bleed resistance is outstanding!
  4. Multi-color tranfers will require a vacuum platen.  Otherwise, you can make this work on your standard press and platens.
  5. Conveyor dryer.
  6. Thermolabels.
  7. Heat press.

Step 1:  Art work and screens

Your art work should be set up to be “mirror image” as you are screen printing transfers now.  It will be backwards until you turn the paper over and heat press it to the fabric.  For most ink transfers, we highly recommend 86 count screen mesh.  110 is also very effective.  For all other screen mesh counts, you will need to test and see if you can achieve effective coverage, bleed resistance, and release from the paper.  Expose the screen with the art work as you always do.

Step 2:  Screen Printing

If you are printing one color art, simply register your screen so the print is near the middle of the transfer paper.  Many transfer printers will gang up designs so every pull of the squeegee is actually printing multiple transfers.  This will lead to less pulls of the squeegee and less paper use, saving time and money.

One item to forget about is the flash cure unit.  It is not required, expected, or even recommended to print, flash, print ink onto transfer paper.  Flash curing ink onto paper is a time consuming, paper curling process.  This is another reason for the coarse mesh count.  Without the ability of flash curing and printing a second layer, ink deposit is critical.  If opacity matters, ink deposit matters.

Once you have given the print a flood stroke and a couple of pulls of the squeegee, you are ready to powder the transfer.  This must be completed while the print is wet so the powder will adhere to the ink deposit.  Everybody has their own method for powdering the print.  Some decorators simply pour powder out of a small cup over the print and then they shake off all the excess powder.  This is pretty quick and efficient.  Others have a small bin and they gently lay the paper face down into the powder.  Again, they will have to blow, or tap all of the excess powder off the print and paper.

Important note:  Any excess powder left on the paper where it does not belong will leave a clear/white stain on the fabric.  This is hard to remove so you want to take great care in preventing the powder from sticking to the paper.  One way to help this is to send the transfer paper through the dryer prior to printing.  This will remove moisture which tends to be a problem.

Step 3:  Dryer Temperature

Low temperature transfers are just that…transfers that can be heat pressed at a low temperature.  However, the ink must be fully cured to the transfer paper with the low temperature adhesive powder applied for this process to work properly.  ELT Zip Transfer inks are fully cured at 320ºF.  This means you must fully cure the ink to the paper at this 320ºF temperature.  We recommend the use of a #5 Thermolabel to ensure 320ºF was met.

Step 4:  Heat Pressing Instructions

Preheat the fabric with a short 2 to 3 second press to remove excess moisture and smooth out any wrinkles.  The heat press should be set to 280ºF for 10 seconds, medium pressure.  The transfer should be peeled hot.  Typically this means you should lift the press, wait a second or two, and then peel the transfer while it is still hot.  However, if you do allow it to cool down, the ELT Zip Transfers will also peel cold without any problems.


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How To: Low Temperature Transfers

Low temperature transfers are becoming more important as delicate fabrics invade the apparel decoration industry.  If you have not experienced any heat-related damage by heat pressing fabrics such as 100% polyester or fluorescent tees, you will.  It is unavoidable at the high temperatures required for hot split, hot peel, and cold peel transfers.  Luckily, we have developed a method of transfer printing which only requires a 10 second press at 280ºF.  This will prevent most heat-related damage.  This will also provide better bleed resistance for use on polyester fabrics.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. Cold peel transfer paper.  We offer the T-105 paper for the job.
  2. ELT Zip Transfer Powder.  There is a “fashion” and “performance” version of this powder.  A good rule to follow is apply performance powder for bad bleeders and fashion powder for everything else.
  3. Any plastisol ink.  Select the ink depending on the fabric.  Polyester fabric will require a polyester ink.
  4. Multi-color tranfers will require a vacuum platen.  Otherwise, you can make this work on your standard press and platens.
  5. Conveyor dryer.
  6. Thermolabels.
  7. Heat press.

Step 1:  Art work and screens

Your art work should be set up to be “mirror image” as you are screen printing transfers now.  It will be backwards until you turn the paper over and heat press it to the fabric.  For most ink transfers, we highly recommend 86 count screen mesh.  110 is also very effective.  For all other screen mesh counts, you will need to test and see if you can achieve effective coverage, bleed resistance, and release from the paper.  Expose the screen with the art work as you always do.

Step 2:  Printing

If you are printing one color art, simply register your screen so the print is near the middle of the transfer paper.  Many transfer printers will gang up designs so every pull of the squeegee is actually printing multiple transfers.  This will lead to less pulls of the squeegee and less paper use, saving time and money.

One item to forget about is the flash cure unit.  It is not required, expected, or even recommended to print, flash, print ink onto transfer paper.  Flash curing ink onto paper is a time consuming, paper curling process.  This is another reason for the coarse mesh count.  Without the ability of flash curing and printing a second layer, ink deposit is critical.  If opacity matters, ink deposit matters.

Once you have given the print a flood stroke and a couple of pulls of the squeegee, you are ready to powder the transfer.  This must be completed while the print is wet so the powder will adhere to the ink deposit.  Everybody has their own method for powdering the print.  Some decorators simply pour powder out of a small cup over the print and then they shake off all the excess powder.  This is pretty quick and efficient.  Others have a small bin and they gently lay the paper face down into the powder.  Again, they will have to blow, or tap all of the excess powder off the print and paper.

Important note:  Any excess powder left on the paper where it does not belong will leave a clear/white stain on the fabric.  This is hard to remove so you want to take great care in preventing the powder from sticking to the paper.  One way to help this is to send the transfer paper through the dryer prior to printing.  This will remove moisture which tends to be a problem.

Step 3:  Dryer Temperature

Low temperature transfers are just that…transfers that can be heat pressed at a low temperature.  However, the ink must be fully cured to the transfer paper with the low temperature adhesive powder applied for this process to work properly.  Most plastisol inks are fully cured at 320ºF.  This means you must cure the ink to the paper at this 320ºF temperature.  We recommend the use of a #5 Thermolabel to ensure 320ºF was met.

Step 4:  Heat Pressing Instructions

Preheat the fabric with a short 2 to 3 second press to remove excess moisture and smooth out any wrinkles.  The heat press should be set to 280ºF for 10 seconds, medium pressure.  The transfer should be peeled once it has fully cooled down as the paper will not release the ink until then.


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How To: Hot Peel Transfers

This is a step-by-step guide for screen printing and heat pressing hot peel transfers.  If you currently screen print directly to the fabric, you can easily print one-color transfers without investing in a lot of equipment or supplies.  If you plan on screen printing transfers regularly or diving into two or three color transfers, I recommend buying a vacuum platen or a flatbed graphics press.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing hot peel with hot split transfers.  This is a very different process.  Hot split transfers use an uncoated paper and very specific hot split ink.  Hot peel transfers use a coated paper and the majority of the ink will transfer to the fabric.  This is better for opacity and bleed resistance.  Also, hot peel transfers are great for athletics.

Shopping List

  • Hot peel paper (we recommend Perfect Print by Midwest Lettering)
  • Transfer powder (not necessary but recommended)
  • Hot peel ink (discussed below)
  • Thermolabels #4 (240ºF to 280ºF)

Ink Selection

This is where it gets touchy.  Many inks are capable of hot peeling…off the right paper.  The easiest thing to do is to purchase our 380 or 388 Series inks for use as a hot peel ink.  These inks should perform on all hot peel paper.  However, if you have time to test, consider some of our universal inks such as Bravo Flex or Smart Series as they perform wonders on many different styles of hot peel paper.  This will be great on 100% polyester applications.

Keep to one ink series.  Different inks may gel quicker/slower than others.  Sticking with one ink series will make the gelling process much simpler.

Screen Prep

Expose the screen with the art work reversed (mirror image).  Remember, you are turning the transfer over to heat press so it needs to be backwards.  Choose an 86 count monofilament screen.  You cannot print, flash, print on transfer paper so ink deposit is critical.  Also, thin ink deposits applied by a heat press will typically not wash well.  110 count monofilament screen mesh is acceptable when you need better detail.

Prepare the Press

If you own a vacuum platen, connect the vacuum and find the spot to place the transfer paper.  I usually use a thick tape to create a corner to place the paper into.  This will make all of the transfers line up in the same place.  It is much more important with multi-color transfers but that is a different class.

If you do not own a vacuum platen, simply spray mist adhesive lightly onto a clean platen.  You need the paper to be flat so no fuzz should be on the platen.  Your prints will suffer otherwise.

Prepare the Dryer

Place a Thermolabel #4 on a piece of transfer paper and send it down the dryer.  250ºF is the perfect temperature to gel the ink.  You only want the ink dry to the touch, not cured to the paper.  This is the most important step of the process.  If you over-gel the ink and do not use adhesive powder, the print is likely not going to adhere to the fabric.  240ºF to 260ºF is acceptable.

Printing

Flood the screen with plenty of ink and pull the squeegee once.  Sometimes you can pull the squeegee a second time but be sure to keep consistent pressure.  Also, if you print too thick, this will cause problems on the edge of the print and you will get a lot of buildup on the back of the screen.

Multi-Color Prints

It is highly recommended to preheat the transfer paper as it may shrink or curl a bit, causing registration issues.  Get this out of the way first by sending all of the paper down the dryer before use.

A vacuum platen or flatbed graphics press is highly recommended for multi-color print.  After each color you will send the paper down the dryer to gel.  You need the ability to line up the paper exactly where it was with the previous print.  Some people draw lines.  I use thick tape to create two corners.  Other printers drill holes in the paper and use a peg system.  Whatever it takes to keep the paper in the same spot with each print.

Print in reverse order.  Your underbase is printed last.  If you are using transfer powder, the underbase must cover the entire art work.  The transfer powder will only stick to the wet ink.

Powder and Gel

You don’t have to use transfer powder.  I think you should…but you don’t have to.  Transfer powder has many great features:

  • Dummy-proofs the process.  With powder, a cold peel transfer is likely to wash well regardless of your gel temperature.
  • Prevents dye migration.
  • Depending on the powder (there are many different types), you may increase the stretch of the print.
  • Far more durable with the powder.

Apply the powder to the wet ink.  This can be done many ways.  Pour it on, sprinkle, lay the print in a bed of powder, or pull the print through a pile of powder.  Whatever works for you works for me.  However, make sure you “tap it off”.  All of the transfer powder needs to come off the paper where there is no ink.  Otherwise, it will transfer to the fabric and leave a hard-to-remove stain.  Tap it on a table, flick the paper, or blow it off with canned air.

Now you can send it down the dryer to be gelled.

Heat Pressing Instructions

Hot peel transfers should be pressed at 375ºF for 8 seconds, firm pressure.  Firm pressure as measured with a Hotronix heat press is 7 or 8 on their gauge.  Wait 1 or 2 seconds before peeling the transfer, especially if you applied transfer powder.  You don’t want to peel before the glue has cooled off just a bit.

Extra Tips

Even pressure is critical.  If you have a collar or a thick seam on the heat press platen when you press, this is where the pressure is being measured.  The transfer needs to receive the firm pressure.  Obviously, you can’t always avoid this.  In these situations, use a heat press pillow.  You can either tape it down to the platen or place it inside the t-shirt.  Either way, it will allow for even pressure when seams or collars are unavoidable.


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How To: Cold Peel Transfers

This is a step-by-step guide for screen printing and heat pressing cold peel transfers.  If you currently screen print directly to the fabric, you can easily print one-color transfers without investing in a lot of equipment or supplies.  If you plan on screen printing transfers regularly or diving into two or three color transfers, I recommend buying a vacuum platen or a flatbed graphics press.

There are many benefits to screen printing transfers.  Consider the cost of one athletic uniform.  If you are printing direct on the uniform and you make a mistake, this will eliminate a lot of the profits for that order.  If you make a mistake on transfer paper, it may have cost you a dime.  This is far less frightening.

Shopping List

  • T-105 cold peel paper (or similar)
  • Transfer powder (not necessary but recommended)
  • Any plastisol ink (choose ink for the fabric)
  • Thermolabels #4 (240ºF to 280ºF)

Screen Prep

Expose the screen with the art work reversed (mirror image).  Remember, you are turning the transfer over to heat press so it needs to be backwards.  Choose an 86 count monofilament screen.  You cannot print, flash, print on transfer paper so ink deposit is critical.  Also, thin ink deposits applied by a heat press will typically not wash well.  110 count monofilament screen mesh is acceptable when you need better detail.

Prepare the Press

If you own a vacuum platen, connect the vacuum and find the spot to place the transfer paper.  I usually use a thick tape to create a corner to place the paper into.  This will make all of the transfers line up in the same place.  It is much more important with multi-color transfers but that is a different class.

If you do not own a vacuum platen, simply spray mist adhesive lightly onto a clean platen.  You need the paper to be flat so no fuzz should be on the platen.  Your prints will suffer otherwise.

Prepare the Dryer

Place a Thermolabel #4 on a piece of transfer paper and send it down the dryer.  250ºF is the perfect temperature to gel the ink.  You only want the ink dry to the touch, not cured to the paper.  This is the most important step of the process.  If you over-gel the ink and do not use adhesive powder, the print is likely not going to adhere to the fabric.  240ºF to 260ºF is acceptable.

Printing

Flood the screen with plenty of ink and pull the squeegee once.  Sometimes you can pull the squeegee a second time but be sure to keep consistent pressure.  Also, if you print too thick, this will cause problems on the edge of the print and you will get a lot of buildup on the back of the screen.

Multi-Color Prints

It is highly recommended to preheat the transfer paper as it may shrink or curl a bit, causing registration issues.  Get this out of the way first by sending all of the paper down the dryer before use.

A vacuum platen or flatbed graphics press is highly recommended for multi-color print.  After each color you will send the paper down the dryer to gel.  You need the ability to line up the paper exactly where it was with the previous print.  Some people draw lines.  I use thick tape to create two corners.  Other printers drill holes in the paper and use a peg system.  Whatever it takes to keep the paper in the same spot with each print.

Print in reverse order.  Your underbase is printed last.  If you are using transfer powder, the underbase must cover the entire art work.  The transfer powder will only stick to the wet ink.

Powder and Gel

You don’t have to use transfer powder.  I think you should…but you don’t have to.  Transfer powder has many great features:

  • Dummy-proofs the process.  With powder, a cold peel transfer is likely to wash well regardless of your gel temperature.
  • Prevents dye migration.
  • Depending on the powder (there are many different types), you may increase the stretch of the print.
  • Far more durable with the powder.

Apply the powder to the wet ink.  This can be done many ways.  Pour it on, sprinkle, lay the print in a bed of powder, or pull the print through a pile of powder.  Whatever works for you works for me.  However, make sure you “tap it off”.  All of the transfer powder needs to come off the paper where there is no ink.  Otherwise, it will transfer to the fabric and leave a hard-to-remove stain.  Tap it on a table, flick the paper, or blow it off with canned air.

Now you can send it down the dryer to be gelled.

Heat Pressing Instructions

Cold peel transfers should be pressed at 375ºF for 8 seconds, firm pressure.  Firm pressure as measured with a Hotronix heat press is 7 or 8 on their gauge.  Wait to peel the paper until the transfer is cool to the touch.

Extra Tips

Even pressure is critical.  If you have a collar or a thick seam on the heat press platen when you press, this is where the pressure is being measured.  The transfer needs to receive the firm pressure.  Obviously, you can’t always avoid this.  In these situations, use a heat press pillow.  You can either tape it down to the platen or place it inside the t-shirt.  Either way, it will allow for even pressure when seams or collars are unavoidable.


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How To: Hot Split Transfers

This is a step-by-step guide for screen printing and heat pressing hot split transfers.  Hot split transfers are printed onto an uncoated paper.  This is important as the ink on the transfer will truly split in half.  Half of the ink is going to end up on the fabric.  Half will remain on the paper.  Only a hot split transfer ink will allow for this process to happen consistently.  These inks are made differently than standard direct printing ink.

If you want to print more than one-color hot split transfers, invest in a vacuum platen or a flatbed graphics press.  This will allow you to line up the colors properly.

Hot split transfers are great for soft or distressed prints.  Since half of the ink remains on the paper, you cannot expect the opacity of a hot peel or cold peel transfer.  Also, hot split transfers are only recommended for cotton and poly/cotton fabric.

Shopping List

  • Hot split paper (regular copy paper will work but there are far better options for storage)
  • 381 Premium White and/or 380 Series colors
  • Thermolabels #4 (240ºF to 280ºF)

Screen Prep

Expose the screen with the art work reversed (mirror image).  Remember, you are turning the transfer over to heat press so it needs to be backwards.  Choose an 86 count monofilament screen.  You cannot print, flash, print on transfer paper so ink deposit is critical.  Also, thin ink deposits may not split evenly or wash well.

Prepare the Press

If you own a vacuum platen, connect the vacuum and find the spot to place the transfer paper.  I usually use a thick tape to create a corner to place the paper into.  This will make all of the transfers line up in the same place.  It is much more important with multi-color transfers but that is a different class.

If you do not own a vacuum platen, simply spray mist adhesive lightly onto a clean platen.  You need the paper to be flat so no fuzz should be on the platen.  Your prints will suffer otherwise.

Prepare the Dryer

Place a Thermolabel #4 on a piece of transfer paper and send it down the dryer.  250ºF is the perfect temperature to gel the ink.  You only want the ink dry to the touch, not cured to the paper.  This is the most important step of the process.  If you over-gel the ink, it will not split properly or adhere to the fabric.  240ºF to 260ºF is acceptable.

Printing

Flood the screen with plenty of ink and pull the squeegee once.  Sometimes you can pull the squeegee a second time but be sure to keep consistent pressure.  Also, if you print too thick, this will cause problems on the edge of the print and you will get a lot of buildup on the back of the screen.

Multi-Color Prints

It is highly recommended to preheat the transfer paper as it may shrink or curl a bit, causing registration issues.  Get this out of the way first by sending all of the paper down the dryer before use.

A vacuum platen or flatbed graphics press is highly recommended for multi-color print.  After each color you will send the paper down the dryer to gel.  You need the ability to line up the paper exactly where it was with the previous print.  Some people draw lines.  I use thick tape to create two corners.  Other printers drill holes in the paper and use a peg system.  Whatever it takes to keep the paper in the same spot with each print.  Print in reverse order.  Your underbase is printed last.

Heat Pressing Instructions

Hot split transfers should be pressed at 375ºF for 8 seconds, firm pressure.  Firm pressure as measured with a Hotronix heat press is 7 or 8 on their gauge.  Peel the paper immediately after pressing.

Extra Tips

Even pressure is critical.  If you have a collar or a thick seam on the heat press platen when you press, this is where the pressure is being measured.  The transfer needs to receive the firm pressure.  Obviously, you can’t always avoid this.  In these situations, use a heat press pillow.  You can either tape it down to the platen or place it inside the t-shirt.  Either way, it will allow for even pressure when seams or collars are unavoidable.


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How To: Watercolor

Soft hand prints are often demanded by your customers.  They saw a tee in the mall and insist a white print on a black poly/cotton should have no feel whatsoever.  Perhaps they want a vintage or worn look right out of the box.  Regardless, you are a plastisol screen printer and you know they really want that water-based feel.  Thanks to some innovation on our part, plastisol can now feel just like water-based ink…and I’m not talking about those high solids water-based inks that feel like a regular plastisol ink.  I am talking about a super-soft feel on ring spun, tri-blend, and other premium tees.

Vintage Watercolor

Although Watercolor is much more opaque than standard water-based inks, this is not a high opacity ink you can screen print on top of black fabric and expect vivid results.  However, this will provide you with an outstanding vintage or worn look without creating special art work.  It is an appearance many of my customers are requesting but they may not be crafty in CorelDraw or Photoshop.

Directions are simple, print through a fine screen mesh and don’t deposit too much ink.  Certainly do not print, flash, and print again.  Watercolor is a wet-on-wet ink.  There is never a need to flash these inks unless you are printing with them as your general purpose ink on a white base.  Watercolor will simply not pick up on the back of the screen and cause a gummy mess.  It is designed to “wick” into the fabric, keeping the ink off the next screen and providing that classy soft hand feel.

One important note:  When screen printing Watercolor, this ink will only be as soft as the fabric being printed.  If you select a cheap poly/cotton tee, expect a cheap feel.  This is unavoidable.  We push our Watercolor customers into ring spun, tri-blend, burnout, and other soft cotton tees.  These premium products will provide a premium look and feel.

Vivid Watercolor

I know, you want that bold scarlet, orange, gold, or white print on a black fabric with virtually no feel.  Watercolor can do this…but it comes with a price.  Similar to water-based inks, you will need to print a discharge base.  This will remove the dye from the fabric leaving a natural color. I really don’t like to recommend the use of a discharge base, or any discharge ink.  There are nasty chemicals involved in the process.  Unfortunately, this can sometimes be a necessary evil to achieve this look.

The Watercolor inks will easily cover this natural color with a fine screen mesh.  Now you have a super-soft feel with a vivid, bold look.  Your customers will be thrilled.  You didn’t have to deal with the on-press nightmare of water-based inks.  Everybody wins!

General Purpose Watercolor

Why wouldn’t you want to print with Watercolor as your general purpose ink?  It can do everything Wilflex Genesis and Union Ultrasoft can do.  However, Watercolor is softer, easier-to-print, and available in far more colors then either.  Watercolor has the opacity and the ability to print wet-on-wet better than any ink I have ever tested.  It is an impressive combination.


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ELT-S Series: Let me convince you.

One Stroke Inks is the innovator of true low temperature screen printing inks.  First, we pioneered the ELT Series (ELT = extreme low temperature).  This ink put an end to so many heat-related screen printing problems.  However, this was only the beginning.  We needed ELT-S Series.

What does the “S” stand for?  The “S” is for stretch and softness.  ELT needed an upgrade to handle compression tees, running pants, and singlets. We invented a special S-Additive to allow for these extreme screen printing situations and incorporated it into the already successful ELT Series formula.  Obviously, we did not want to compromise bleed resistance or opacity by adding the S-Additive.  We had to make some adjustments and improvements as we wanted this new ink to be an amazing improvement.  ELT-S Series was born.

With the history out of the way, why should you be screen printing with ELT-S Series inks?  The better question is why not?  This ink will cure as low as 250ºF.  This low cure temperature will prevent so many heat related screen printing problems.  These problems include:

  1. Ghosting.
  2. Dye migration.
  3. Fabric discoloration.
  4. Scorching.
  5. Shrinking.
  6. Melting.

How about some other non-traditional benefits?  Think about the incredible energy savings you will pocket by turning your conveyor dryers down so dramatically.  In my opinion, the energy savings alone makes ELT and ELT-S our most environmentally friendly inks.  Your production team won’t mind either.  The amount of heat in your shop will be far less abrasive.

ELT-S Series inks don’t just cure at a lower temperature, they flash cure very quickly.  Compared to most inks, the flash time will be about half as long.  This provides another set of low temperature benefits in which most other plastisol inks cannot compare:

  1. Longer-lasting platen adhesive.
  2. Prevents shrinking which leads to poor color registration.
  3. Prevents dye migration.
  4. Prevents fabric discoloration so common with fluorescent tees.

We also wanted a plastisol ink to replace silicone ink as it is such a hassle to work with.  For those not keeping score, here is a list of reasons you don’t want to screen print with silicone inks.  Keep in mind all of these statements are found on the silicone ink technical data sheet or sell sheet.

  1. Silicone ink requires a catalyst.
  2. Silicone ink often requires a retardant to improve on-press life.
  3. Silicone ink has on-press life of up to 6 hours.
  4. Silicone ink is only recommended to add enough ink to the screen for 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Silicone ink is not available in a selection of colors, you must custom mix them.
  6. Silicone ink must be cleaned from the screen immediately as it will cure with time.
  7. Silicone ink is not recommended for automated equipment.
  8. Silicone ink is not recommended for “fuzzy” fabric.

As excited as many screen printers were about silicone ink when they first found out about it, these facts inevitably sent them searching for an easier alternative.  This is where ELT-S Series comes in.  Here is a list of reasons ELT-S Series is a better choice when compared to silicone ink:

  1. Soft/stretchy feel.
  2. Impressive opacity on dark fabric.
  3. Excellent bleed resistance on polyester.
  4. Universal ink.  ELT-S will screen print on virtually any fabric.
  5. No catalyst required unless you are screen printing waterproof nylon or waterproof polyester.
  6. It’s plastisol.  ELT-S Series can be left in the screen like any other plastisol ink.
  7. Huge color selection with custom color matching available.

Now that I have compared ELT-S to silicone ink, explained the benefits of a quick flash and a low cure temperature, let me tell you why you are really going to make the change.  The fact is, you are tired of worrying about expensive fabric.  Whether it is a name brand polyester hoodie or an inexpensive neon yellow tee, you don’t want to order one or two more pieces for a screen printing snafu.  You don’t want to set that job up again tomorrow for these few replacements.  You really don’t want to replace hundreds or even thousands of $65.00 uniforms due to dye migration that did not exist when they left your shop.  All of these problems cost you far too much money to keep using high temperature, often ineffective inks.  This is a better way.  ELT-S gives you the ability to sleep at night.  Nobody knows how the next shirt is going to react to your ink or dryer.  ELT-S will always give you the best chance at success.  I won’t sit here and tell you there will never be a problem with ELT-S in your shop.  However, I will tell you there is not an ink on the planet that can do what this ink can do.


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Do your customers make you look bad?

Polyester printing can make you look bad even if you are taking all of the necessary steps to prevent dye migration. Why? Because your customers are often not following the washing and drying instructions printed on the inside of the shirt. Even if you print with one of the most bleed resistant inks by One Stroke Inks, ignoring this little tag can cause your bright white print to change into a dirty white, pink, or even green print. Screen printers need to do their best to educate their customers on the reasons the tag was sewn or printed in the garment in the first place.

The fabric is not going to self destruct. It will, however, be much more likely to have dye migration problems once it has been washed in hot water and dried too hot. This makes you look bad, even though it is not your fault. It can also make us look bad as our ink may not be holding up as well as advertised. Quite simply, we all need the same thing. We need the end user of these polyester shirts, uniforms, bags, etc. to fully understand the WHY behind the tag in the fabric. I would prefer a neon sign over the box of printed polyester t-shirts that glows brightly with the text “Tumble Dry Low”. “Hang Dry” would be sufficient for most of the lightweight polyester as it dries in just minutes anyway.

I know this is not an easy thing as you do not get to speak with every parent on every team to warn them about our industry and the nuances involved with polyester printing. However, the more you drive this into your customers ears, the more likely they will stop the problem before it starts. We will always keep innovating the polyester inks. We simply need you to help educate as many of your customers as you can. In the end, it will lead to higher quality prints and better longevity.

Ghosting


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Ghosting on 100% polyester.

If you have not experienced the “ghosting” phenomenon yet, be very aware of it. This problem seems to come out of nowhere to ruin moisture management uniforms and tees. Ghosting can occur in a couple of different ways.

The first is what we call physical ghosting. Physical ghosting is when the dyes in the fabric are damaged by the heat of the plastisol curing process. Is this avoidable? Maybe. It really depends on how much heat is causing the problem. Low and slow is the best rule in these situations. Slow down your conveyor belt and lower the heat so the curing process is not as dangerous to the fabric.

The second way ghosting can occur is what we call chemical ghosting. Chemical Ghosting occurs when there is a chemical reaction between the ink and the dyes in the fabric. One Stroke Inks has identified the chemicals involved and has created numerous series of ink to combat this problem. ELT Series (ELT stands for extreme low temperature) is the absolute best option to prevent both physical and chemical ghosting.  ELT-S Series and Smart Series are also spectacular options for preventing this expensive problem.

When trying to avoid ghosting, it is critical to know ahead of time when this may occur. Without knowing the intimate details of how the fabric was dyed and where, you can be proactive by taking extra precaution when screen printing 100% polyester fabrics of the following colors: light gray, gray, charcoal, light blue, royal, vegas gold, natural, tan, and pink. I am sure you have picked up the fact that gray fabric and lighter colors are most of the problem. Always get an extra shirt to test. Another precaution you can take if chemical ghosting exists would be to line the inside of the shirt with a piece of transfer paper or something similar. This will prevent the ghost image from appearing on the other side of the shirt when in the conveyor dryer.