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Real Talk: ELT Additives

Before you even ask…no! You don’t need to be a chemist to work with our low temperature inks such as ELT and ELT-S Series. You don’t need additives. You don’t need a professional mixer. This ink is ready-to-use out of the bucket. That doesn’t mean you won’t want to use an additive. There are certain circumstances which an additive or “ink companion” can give you an assist. Perhaps you want to print a difficult wet-on-wet job with ELT Series and you are worried about build up on the back of the screen. Out of the bucket I will admit, ELT (along with all “universal” screen printing inks) is not a great wet-on-wet ink.  That is a reality. This is one of the situations which may guide you to our new line of ELT additives.

Each of our new additives is discussed below in detail. One important note I want you to take out of this conversation is that all of our low temperature additives will also work perfectly in regular/high temperature inks. Nothing to fear! Mix it in! It is all compatible. Just another bonus working with the cool cats at One Stroke Inks.

ELT Reducer

The first of our additives is wonderful to have around, especially when ink has been on the shelf a bit too long. Sure, plastisol ink gets thick when sitting around. It needs love. It needs a stir. Plastisol thins when it is stirred, heated, or hugged. ELT/ELT-S will last a long time on the shelf without thickening.  However, it is still plastisol so things happen. Warehouse heat happens. When you need to thin our low temperature inks, you don’t want to accidentally raise the cure temperature. This side effect rules out so many reducers/thinners. ELT Reducer will not only keep your low temperature ink…a low temperature ink, it will also maintain the impressive bleed resistance and opacity of these inks. This is a chemical reducer which means it will take very little ELT Reducer to thin an ink significantly. One ounce can thin an entire gallon significantly.

Aside from ink being too thick, there are other uses. Perhaps you are printing through very fine screen mesh. Thin ink makes this so much easier. Maybe the ink is running up the squeegee. This implies it may be too sticky. ELT Reducer will help.

ELT Thickening Powder

Everything I just said about the ELT Reducer…reverse that. ELT Thickening Powder is like adding flour to gravy. It instantly thickens up the ink. It is like a bulking powder. This will not alter the cure temperature and that matters. We certainly don’t want to lose the benefits of ELT, right? Thickening an ink is not often necessary. However, ELT Thickening Powder will provide an assist when the platens are really hot and ink is becoming runny. If you have automated equipment with quartz flash cure units, you know what I am talking about.

ELT S-Additive

This is a fun one! ELT S-Additive will make your ink far more stretchy. Add 10% ELT S-Additive into ELT Series ink and it will allow your ink to be stretchy enough for compression tees, wrestling singlets,  or running apparel. This turns ELT into our popular ELT-S Series without ordering a second ink. ELT S-Additive is not a curable product so you never want to add more than 15% without testing. You cannot print this onto a fabric and cure it. Also, this will not thin your ink. It is a medium/high viscosity liquid.

ELT WOW Additive

Wet-on-wet screen printing is hard with a universal ink. This is because any ink which is effective on sportswear will be somewhat sticky. Sticky is bad when you don’t want the ink to build up on the back of a screen. Enter ELT WOW Additive. Adding this will allow the ELT/ELT-S Series to “wick” into the fabric. By wicking into the fabric, the ink is far less likely to build up on the back of the screen. Mix in 1-2% ELT WOW Additive by weight. Never exceed 5% as this is not a curable product.

ELT Stretch Underbase

This is more of a companion than an additive. ELT Stretch Underbase is a clear ink meant to print under your entire print. This will do a few things for you:

  • The entire print will be more stretchy.
  • Increases adhesion. This is specifically important when screen printing nylon and nylon/stretch football uniforms. Most inks will peel off. This ink prevents any problems and allows for low temperature printing on these fabrics.
  • Improves ink deposit which improves durability.

ELT Stretch Underbase flash cures quickly so it will not hinder production times.  Also, it’s crystal clear! You can use this as a clear gel for screen printing the “wet look” or tone-on-tone effects on dark tees. I do want to stress one thing, this ink really gives the print a nice feel whether it is used as an underbase or an overprint.

Conclusion

You don’t NEED any of these additives/companions. You may want to try them though. They can be helpful, even fun to play with. Today we released the ELT Companion Package which includes one gallon each of these five products. More to come later!

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Real Talk: ELT-S Printing Tips

ELT-S Series is our most popular ink. There are numerous reasons for this but we aren’t here to talk about the reasons to buy ELT-S. Kidding! I am totally going to give you these reasons as I cannot resist. This ink is so soft. It’s so stretchy. The cure temperature is a low, low 250ºF. Yes, ELT-S inks will cure at a ridiculously low temperature. This protects your expensive stuff. Stuff that eats your profits when ruined. Apparel such as athletic uniforms, tech tees, yoga pants, sports bras, singlets, and tri-blend tees cost a fortune. Don’t forget polyester hoodies and jackets. ELT-S is the best ink to protect all that is expensive and delicate. Combine ELT-S inks with a low cure temperature and prevent these items from shrinking, scorching, ghosting, discoloring, melting, or dye migrating. You don’t want that.

OK, you aren’t here for my sales pitch. You are here to make sure you are screen printing ELT-S Series inks with great success. I will admit, I do get complaints from time to time about certain aspects of this ink. Luckily, all of these complaints are solved with simple solutions that you can do. You don’t have to be some famous, talented screen printer to make this ink work. You don’t need 40 newton screen tension. You don’t need top-of-the-line automated equipment. This is the most user-friendly ink we have ever offered. It’s easier than texting with one thumb (I totally do this as I was not raised by tech savy parents #notamillennial #hashtag #yolo).

I know what you are thinking. If this ink is so easy, why do you need printing tips? This ink is different than the ink you are used to, especially if you have printed with old school polyester inks to control dye migration. Those inks were thick, puffy, and usually undesirable. ELT-S is so different.

Tip #1 – Print thicker bro!

A common complaint involves ink coverage. ELT-S inks will cover dark fabric well but we receive a few complaints. Sometimes the complaint involves a white or gold ink on black fabric. Other times the problem involves printing dark colors on top of a white base. In both situations you need to come to terms with a few of your printing habits. First, this ink is creamy. It is not the puddy-like garbage you may be used to. Lighten up on that squeegee pressure. The ink will clear the screen. I promise. Don’t drive the ink through the fabric onto the platen. This is bad.  No like. Second, this is absolutely not a puffy ink. Don’t treat it like one. It will not gain coverage in the dryer like an older polyester ink. Not happening. I can cover any black fabric with a print, flash, print of ELT-S white, yellow, gold, or any of these normally tricky colors. If you cannot, it’s back to basics for you.

If you really want amazing ELT-S coverage, consider your emulsion. How are you coating your screens? You can either add a coat or use a higher solids emulsion. If you want to be the coolest kid on the block you will consider the Chromaline Quick Film. This is a thick sheet of emulsion like a capillary film. It is amazing as all 40 microns of the emulsion will be on the T-shirt side of the screen. This provides an excellent gasket for thicker ink deposits. Regardless how you decide to achieve a thicker emulsion stencil, this will help ink coverage with any plastisol ink.

Tip #2 – Feeling hot, hot, hot!

My favorite complaint (yes, I have favorites these days) is dye migration. I am sure this sounds crazy as who wants to hear about polyester uniforms bleeding dye into our rad ink. Well, here is the catch…99 out of 100 times I can ask one question and get to the bottom of this problem. Is the ELT-S ink glossy? If you answered yes, I can already tell you the ink has been cured at a high temperature. This is what happens. A lot of gloss. Kind of sticky. ELT stands for “extreme low temperature”. At this extreme low temperature the ink has a matte/semi-gloss finish. Lets dial that back a bit. Thermolabels. Use them. 270ºF is a perfect temperature to dial in. 250ºF is as low as you should go. All good things happen between 250ºF and 270ºF.

Another common complaint is “my ink is sticking to itself as it lands in the box at the end of the dryer belt”. I am cringing right now. The only reason this happens is because the ink is still really hot. Really hot ink is basically still wet. The ink is really hot as you decided to speed up the dryer belt instead of turn down the dryer heat. Sometimes okay, usually not cool. Not cool…that’s golden. ANYWAY, you really should not have a fast belt speed if you want to avoid these problems. It is not an ELT-S specific problem as many plastisol inks will hate this.

Tip #3 – The fuzz is after me!

No, not the police. I am talking about T-shirt fuzzies. Your print is rough. This is not comfortable. You can start by referring to Tip #1. A thicker ink deposit will help this. However, I do have a couple of other ideas. We have this nifty ink called ELT-S Black Underbase. The purpose of this ink was to provide an extra layer of bleed resistance for really terrible polyester fabrics that keep you up at night with dye migration. Usually you will not need this as ELT-S is pretty awesome. There is a time and place for everything. Well another time and place for this black underbase is to hold down the fuzz. This ink is really good at this. Simply print one layer of ink, flash it super-duper quickly (it’s really fast), and print your ELT-S white and colors on top. It helps!

Another idea is a new industry thing…rollers! Whether you print manually or with automated equipment, rollers are available to squish the ink down after you flash cure. Get the ink hot, smoosh ink, print on top. This leaves a perfectly smooth print and really does not cost a lot of time. I really like it!

Tip #4 – Snap, crackle, and pop!

If you are experiencing ELT-S ink sticking to the next screen after you flash cure, consider turning down that flash cure unit. ELT-S flash dries extremely quickly. When it is really hot, you know by now that it is sticky. There is no need to get it this hot. Please don’t. If you are in a situation where you print then spin the platen under a flash cure unit where it continues to heat up while you print another, you need to either turn the flash cure heat down or raise the height of the unit. Either way, it will heat the ink less and that is good. No need for stickiness.

Automated equipment with quartz flash cure units may have this problem as well. Quartz units get really hot. As the job runs on and on, those platens get very hot and you can turn down the heat of the quartz unit. Trust me, not only does it work, it protects the fabric from shrinking and scorching.

Fin.


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What is ghosting?

Screen printers struggle to prevent a problem known as ghosting. It simply is very difficult to predict exactly when the problem will occur. Luckily, we have tested enough fabric to know what causes ghosting and how to prevent it. If you give us the chance, we will stop ghosting problems from affecting your production.

What is ghosting? See the picture above. What is that exactly? Ghosting is a term we coined as we had to call it something. Perhaps reverse dye sublimation would be a better name. Dye sublimation is the process of dying polyester fabric. Ghosting is basically the reverse process as some of the dye is leaving the fabric. This is why you may be left with some strange colors. For instance, a navy tee which ghosts may look magenta as the blue has disappeared. The magenta dye was not harmed during the screen printing process so magenta is what you see. Sounds simple, right?

“Why can’t you invent an ink which stops ghosting?” This is a question I hear often.  We already have created an ink (a few actually) to prevent ghosting, but it is not as simple as that. Ghosting has more than one cause. I will explain. Physical ghosting is caused by heat. You may have seen this when decorating a light color of polyester. If the tee is not layed flat on the dryer belt, the folds of the fabric which are closer to the heating element may change color. The heat alone is ghosting the fabric. Screen printers who decorate apparel know there is no way to take heat out of the process. You can certainly limit the heat as I will discuss later in the article. You simply cannot remove it from the process.  Ink needs to flash cure. Ink needs to fully cure. Heat is going to happen.

Chemical ghosting is when the ink formula itself is causing the ghosting. Keep in mind chemical ghosting is most often found when screen printing white ink. Ghosting is not a problem exclusive to white ink but it is far more common in white ink due to a variety of necessary additives. These additives may help white ink cover better on dark fabric, print easier through fine mesh, or prevent dye migration on polyester and polyester blend fabrics. Even a simple black ink is capable of ghosting fabric.

Now that you know what causes ghosting, there is just a little bit more to know. Your ghosting troubles can be a combination of physical and chemical ghosting. One common occurance of this happens while hot stacking. Hot stacking is exactly what it sounds like.  You snatch a garment off the dryer belt and place it on a table. You snatch the next garment and place it directly on top of the previous garment. Both of these garments are hot. The ink is hot. If you are printing the wrong fabric with the wrong ink, you may have a ghost image on the back of every garment. Heat in addition to ink formulation is the most likely ghosting culprit.

OK, give me the magic fix already! Hey, no problem. First thing is first, let’s remove a factor. Get rid of the excessive heat. That’s right! We have low temperature ink for a reason. Ghosting isn’t the only purpose for low temperature ink but it certainly is near the top of the list. ELT Series, ELT-S Series, and Smart Series are the three low temperature inks we currently offer. ELT and ELT-S will cure as low as 250ºF. Smart Series will cure as low as 280ºF. All three offer a nice cushion below the typical 320ºF to 330ºF cure temperature of most plastisol inks. Choose one of these three inks and you will have the ability to remove excessive heat from the ghosting equation.

If you have been keeping up, we need more than just low heat to prevent ghosting problems. Let’s talk chemistry! OK, we are not going to talk chemistry. Why? Well, lets just say we have our secrets. Do we know what causes ghosting? Sure. Are we going to get into the chemical formulations of our inks? Nope. It’s not really our thing to give away our secrets. However, when it comes to our inks we have the safest possible option which is ELT Series. We are highly confident that you will not ghost any fabric with ELT white and colors when kept at a lower temperature (270ºF and below). ELT-S Series and Smart Series are also ghost-free formulas and only slightly behind the ELT Series in this regard, but they really need to be cured at the lower temperature. At high temperatures (280ºF and higher) we get nervous on some of the most ghost-unfriendly fabrics. Cure this ink properly and we have no worries.

Yes, I did say ghost-unfriendly fabrics. No, I do not have a list of problem brands and style numbers. The reason I cannot provide this is not because there are tens of thousands of styles out there. The problem is that all styles are not created equal.  Consider a typical “moisture management” tee. They wholesale for around $3.50 to $4.00 each. If you order a dozen of these tees today, will they be the same as a dozen from a few months ago? Is the fabric from Honduras? El Salvador? China? Who dyes this fabric certainly matters and it changes not only from style to style, but within the style. There is just no way to know what you are printing before you print a few.

Here is the good news…I know many of the common offenders! I have a nice list of colors and fabrics which may lead to easy ghosting. Of course, if you were listening earlier you are already sold on our low temperature inks and you will not have to worry about much. Regardless, here are many of the “problem children” out there which will require a skeptical eye:

  • Light colors of 100% polyester including: charcoal, light gray, silver, light blue, columbia blue, pink, tan, vegas gold, royal blue, all fluorescent colors, and sometimes black (I know, that one surprised me too).
  • Fluorescent poly/cotton tees. All of them. Keep a close eye on these tricky kids.
  • Pale colors of cotton and poly cotton including: ivory, off-white, tan, khaki, light blue, light pink, you get the idea.
  • Stone-washed tees.
  • Pigment-dyed tees.
  • Any tee which states “vintage” in the description.
  • Tri-blend tees. I would like to state colors here but it is sporadic at best.

This list is specific but don’t think for a second we haven’t seen ghosting on the common fabrics such as a black or navy poly/cotton. I trust zero fabrics unless I am printing with low temperature inks. That’s all there is to it. If you read this and you understand the importance of dryer temperature, give One Stroke Inks a call and ask us about our ELT Series inks. This is a universal ink so it can be printed on virtually any fabric. Make the change and this will be the only ink you need to stock.