How can you easily make the move to water-based inks?
Making a move from printing with plastisol inks to water-based inks may seem a little daunting. With a few expert tips you can become at expert at using these eco-friendly inks for screen printing t-shirts, tote bags, yardage, posters and lots more.
Firstly, what are water-based inks?
Water-based inks are just as they sound; they’re inks made from a water-based medium as well as pigments or dye. They’re an ideal alternative to plastisol inks, which are made up of a plasticiser medium containing PVC plastic particles. While plastisol inks were once the widespread choice, water-based inks are increasingly becoming the screen printing ink of choice as they offer great vibrancy, durability, softer prints and a safer printing process.
Why choose water-based inks?
Water-based inks are safer for people, both during the screen printing process and for the subsequent wearer of the printed textiles. They’re also safer for the environment. For example – PERMASET water-based inks don’t include any PVC or phthalates or require the use of harsh solvents to clean up, as is common with plastisol inks. PERMASET’s PERMATONE range of inks have passed the OEKO-TEX Class 1 standard with 60% to spare, and as such are safe to use on baby clothes, underwear and swimwear. You can explore more here on why water-based inks are the better choice.
PERMATONE Inks have Approval of the Soil Association of the UK
How to make the move from plastisol to water-based inks
You might have heard that printing with water-based inks is more difficult than printing with plastisol inks, but ink technology has evolved a whole lot in recent years. All you need is to keep a few basic tips in mind.
- Water-based inks can be a little thinner (or less viscous) due to their water content.
This means when screen printing, you might choose a screen mesh of between 43-120T (110-305 tpi) depending upon the application. This allows the ink to flow easily while minimising the risk of clogging. Choose a water-resistant emulsion when preparing your screens to avoid issues during your print run.
- Water-based inks can be a little thinner (or less viscous) due to their water content.
- Water based inks can dry out a little faster than plastisol inks.
There are two handy techniques to save your water-based inks from drying out too fast:
- Keeping a spray bottle handy to rehydrate the ink as you’re working with it, and
- Keep your screen flooded with ink in between screen prints.
If you’re screen printing a large job using water-based inks, you might also consider investing in an ultrasonic humidifier to keep the air in the room from drying out.
Water-based inks can produce amazing vivid colour with the right preparation
For light coloured fabrics you can print PERMASET AQUA Standard colours straight on, for a lovely vivid print that’s also soft to the touch. For dark coloured fabrics use PERMASET Supercover Inks which are an opaque formulation specifically developed for printing onto dark fabrics without using an under base. However, if you wish to print the PERMATONE Ink colours onto dark fabrics you will need to print an under base of PERMASET Supercover First Down White first, flash the print and then print the PERMATONE colours over the top.
PERMASET water-based inks can produce amazing vivid colour
It’s still important to cure water-based ink prints with heat
You can ensure a colour-fast print when printing onto fabrics by heat curing using a drying tunnel, heat press, tumble dryer or even an oven to carefully ‘bake’ the fabric for a short period of time.
Printers love working with water-based inks
Not only does the eco-friendly aspect of your finished prints appeal more to your customers, but it’s also a great feeling knowing your print team isn’t constantly exposed to harsh solvents and chemicals. What’s more, a thoughtful printing process can result in clear, detailed prints that are beautifully soft and made to last.
To get started with PERMASET water-based inks, explore the full range today.
Keen to make your very first screen print at home? We’ve rounded up essential tips to help you get started, from choosing supplies to curing your cool new print.
CHOOSING YOUR SUPPLIES
You can go as DIY or as professional as you like when gathering your supplies, but ultimately, you’ll need the following elements:
- A screen. This could be a purchased screen or a simple DIY wooden frame with 100 polyester mesh stapled tightly across the top – just keep in mind that the screen mesh will need to sit flush against one side of the frame for a successful print.
- A squeegee to consistently slide and push ink through the screen.
- Quality screen printing ink in your preferred colours. Water-based screen-printing ink is a great choice, because it’s both easy to clean up and safer for you to use and for the environment.
- Some tape to attach your stencil design to the screen or to tape the outside edges of the screen so that the ink doesn’t go into the corners of the screen
- Paper, fabric or textiles to print onto. To start with you could use a pillow case, a calico tote bag, a blank tea towel or a plain white t-shirt.
Tip: The PERMASET complete screen printing kit is the perfect way to get started with textile printing, including a silk screen, squeegee, stencil paper sheets, masking tape, instructions and 6 PERMASET AQUA colours that mix together beautifully.
PREPARING YOUR SCREEN
You can create your design and prepare your screen in a number of ways, but here are the two most common options. Both create distinct sections where the ink can and cannot pass through the screen onto the printing surface.
- The first method, which is great for home beginners, is to create a physical stencil which can then be taped against the screen. You could simply print out a design and then use scissors to cut the shape or shapes out. This is a fantastic option if you want to reuse your screen for multiple designs or for printing different coloured inks in your design.Watch this video shows you how to screen print onto fabric using paper stencils by Handprinted UK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnuD8pbeOag
- The second method, typically used by professional screen printers, uses a light-sensitive photo emulsion to prepare the screen. You’ll need to coat the screen with a thin layer of emulsion and let it dry in a dark place. Print your design onto an acetate or transparent sheet, place it reversed onto the screen and expose it to a light source as instructed. Then, wash out the uncured emulsion with water and let the emulsion fully dry and harden. You should see your design clearly at this stage. Here is a link to a video showing an easy way to prepare a design for screen printing using emulsion.
Tip: Your design could be a minimalist one-colour print or use multiple layers to build a complex design with a number of colours – however it is best to start simple!
MAKING THE PRINT
Screen print time! Use some Table Adhesive to secure your paper or fabric to the table, then line up your screen so the design is positioned correctly with surfaces sitting flush. While professional screen printers use a screen printing press, at home you could use clamps to hold the screen in place. Place a decent amount of ink at the top of the screen. Using water-based inks it is a good idea to flood the screen with ink. Checkout this short video showing you how to flood the screen with ink. Draw the squeegee towards you without pressure to first flood the screen with a consistent amount of ink. Then, draw the squeegee towards you again with firm pressure at a 45-degree angle, which will squeeze the ink onto the layer below. It’s good to do two layers of ink, that is two pulls. Lift up your screen carefully and admire the results, before giving your screen and squeegee a thorough rinse with water. Water-based inks must be washed out of the screen with water quickly so as not to dry in the screen
Tip: If printing onto a T-shirt, be sure to slip a piece of cardboard inside first to avoid ink seeping through to the second layer.
CURING THE PRINT
You’ll want to let your design dry thoroughly and then cure it to avoid the design washing or rubbing off over time. Fortunately, with PERMASET water-based inks you can cure designs easily by applying a hot iron on the the cotton setting for 2-3 minutes, or by leaving the print in the heat of the sun for a few hours up to a full day. There are number of ways you can cure your print outlined here. Now you can sit back and bask in the knowledge you just aced your first screen print!
Checkout this video detailing how to screen print simply using PERMASET Inks.
If you’re creating organic screen printed T-shirts or textiles, it’s vital to consider organic inks as an integral part of the process. After all, why go to the trouble of sourcing environmentally responsible, organic fabrics such as linen, hemp, bamboo or cotton – only to print on them with toxic inks?
For true organic screen printing, steer clear of plastisol inks
The very last thing you’ll want to add to a beautiful organic cotton T-shirt is a layer of plastisol inks. Plastisol inks are still used in screen printing due to their durability and vividness – however, their chemical makeup can make them potentially harmful for the screen printer and the environment, as well as anyone who interacts with the printed textiles. Plastisol inks are made up from PVC plastic particles dispersed in a plasticiser medium. Unfortunately this means that:
- As prints are heat cured they can give off fumes that include Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM), a known group 1 carcinogen as classified by the IARC.
- Plastisol inks can leach plasticisers into the skin of the fabric wearer or user. Some phthalates used in plasticisers can have endocrine-disrupting (hormone-disrupting) effects.
- In addition, the clean-up of plastisol inks can require the use of strong solvents. In fact – both plastisol inks and their cleaning solvents often require specialised disposal methods to avoid them entering waterways.
With all of these concerns, there’s little wonder it’s illegal to use plastisol and other petrochemical-based inks on underwear and baby clothes in many locations, including The European Union and the US.
So what’s the alternative? Fortunately water-based ink technology has come an incredibly long way, and it’s now easy to source high quality and safe organic inks that can provide a vivid and long-lasting result.
The ideal choice for organic ink printing
PERMASET’S PERMATONE® water based range, developed here in Australia, is the first textile ink range outside the UK to gain Soil Association Approval. This means these inks meet the requirements of the Global Organic Textiles Standards (GOTS) for non-organic chemical inputs for use in organic textile processing.
In simple terms? That means:
- You won’t come across any CFCs, HCFCs, plasticisers, PCV or VCM fumes with PERMATONE® organic inks
- You can safely and confidently print underwear, baby clothes and swimwear with these inks
- You can proudly promote your organic products knowing they’re far safer to print and wear
A baby onesie printed by PRINT INK in Melbourne using PERMATONE® inks.
Our water-based inks are also vegan and are not tested on animals, and are made with 100% renewable energy.
Of course, another attraction of our PERMATONE® range is that it’s been developed with professional colour matching in mind. You can mix the PERMATONE® colours together to produce 1,869 different colours to match brand logos and corporate colours. So whether you’re creating prints at home and have a specific colour in mind or you are printing thousands of T-shirts at your commercial screen printing business, the PERMATONE® water-based ink range is ideal for your colour matching needs.
What was the process for gaining organic approval?
We originally set out to develop a solvent-free ink system around 2003/4. As a result we launched PERMATONE in 2005, and after a few customers suggested we gain organic approval we realised this range was very close to meeting the requirements for organic fabric ink. We fine-tuned our ink formulations, sourced and tested new raw materials and underwent the Soil Association’s in-depth approval process to ultimately gain approval in 2012. We’re incredibly proud that our products meet these high standards, contributing to a safer screen printing industry with a lower environmental impact. The Soil Association Approval has this year been updated to the most recent GOTS 6.0 organic approval
Printing yardage at Ink & Spindle in Abbotsford Melbourne using PERMATONE Inks
T-shirt by Killer Merch in Melbourne for the 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
was screen printed using PERMATONE organic approved inks.
For organic screen printing ink that is truly worthy of gorgeous organic linens, cottons, hemp and other textiles, explore PERMASET’S PERMATONE® range today.
If you’re running a screen printing business selling printed t-shirts, homewares, clothing, screen printing kits or screen printing workshops, then you’ll no doubt be keen to spread the word about what you have to offer. Social media is easily one of the most powerful ways to engage with audiences now, and it’s an affordable and effective way to market your screen printing business. So how do you get started? Here’s a quick and handy guide.
CHOOSING YOUR PLATFORMS
Screen printing is a satisfyingly tactile and visual process, which means it lends itself well to social media content that’s engaging and shareable. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Pinterest are four of the most popular social media platforms due to their visual nature, and it’s relatively easy to produce fast and short-form content for these platforms. Meanwhile, one billion videos are now being watched on YouTube every single day, so this channel also holds a huge potential market if you’re able to create longer video content and become an industry authority. Ultimately the platform you choose will depend on who you want to reach in terms of your target market and their age, and how much time you can invest in content creation.
CREATING A SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULE
Many screen printing brands post from 1 to 5 times a week to keep their audience engaged, so it really can pay to have a social media strategy in place to plan out your content. You might choose to slowly answer a list of questions that customers frequently ask, or gather inspiration from other leaders in the screen printing industry. Content (and products) could be planned to celebrate holidays and special events, or provide behind-the-scenes imagery of your daily workshop activities. It’s important to consider when your customers are most likely to be on each social media platform, and plan to suit. A scheduling and posting tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer can make it really easy to set up content ahead of time.
It’s wise to mix up your content regularly to keep it fresh. Videos are a fantastic way to show your screen printing process and give your business a human face, and it’s now fairly easy to film a quick printing video on a smartphone any time you’re working on something interesting. Other media including photos, reposting from other accounts and printed text or “quote” posts can also add interest and dimension to your social media feeds. Consider these ideas for relevant and useful content for your customers:
- Upcoming projects, releases or products
- A sale event, where you may want to offer a discount via a special ‘discount code’
- Marking notable days or even normal days – for example, Fridays are always worth celebrating
- Industry facts or insights
- Questions for your customers
- Screen printing experiments and failures can present you as an ‘expert’ in certain areas (these can often be just as engaging as successes, and can even have more sharing potential).
Make your social media posts memorable to attract engagement from your followers (‘Snowdog screen printing’ image courtesy Black Cabin Press)
USING APPS TO CREATE CONTENT
There’s a myriad of Apps available on your smartphone to assist with creating content, many of them free. Use these Apps to curate better content, including images, animation and videos:
- Repost App: helps you easily share Instagram posts that others have posted. It’s a quick and simple way to use “user generated content” that canhelp your page perform better.
- Boomerang App: takes bursts of photos and then stitches them together into a HD video loop. The loop starts to play forward but then plays backward, creating a neat, GIF-like video.
- Canva App: a graphic design platform, used to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content. The app includes templates for users to use. The platform is free to use and offers paid subscriptions like Canva Pro for additional functionality.
- Photo Editor App: helps you edit your photos with ease and allows you to create high-quality small size images to share on the web.
- Hootsuite App: is a social media management platform that covers almost every aspect of a social media manager’s role. With just one platform users are able to do the simple stuff like curate cool content and schedule posts all the way up to managing team members and measuring ROI.
- Gridpost App: allows you to split(crop) your large rectangular photos into a number of square pics and upload them to Instagram and impress your friends and your profile page visitors
- Slideshow Maker app: By using this app you can create slideshow clips from your images. It also has helpful features including add text, contrast, orientation, write text, crop image and many more.
INCREASING YOUR REACH
Of course, a bigger audience means more interest in your screen printing products or services. There are a few straightforward ways to increase your social media reach over time. These can include:
- Using relevant hashtags like #screenprinting, #screenprint or #organicscreenprinting to help new audiences find you
- Social media promotions and giveaways that involve tagging friends and family
- Cross-promotions with other screen printing professionals, businesses or stockists
- Creating live Instagram or Facebook videos where you interact in real-time with your customer base – this could even be as you print your regular products
- Responding to customer comments and questions promptly to show you care about your customers.
A WORD ON PAID ADVERTISING
Should you be using paid social media advertising to reach your audience? This will largely depend on your audience and how effectively you can reach them. Paid advertising can help to promote your product range and build awareness of your brand, so it’s no doubt valuable for many businesses. Generally speaking, it can work well if you have the stock levels to back up a higher level of interest. So if you plan to advertise on social media, plan to have good availability of printed products or workshops or other screen printed related items to sell.
PERMASET is the trusted supplier to screen printing businesses worldwide. Shop now for high-quality organic screen printing inks and silk screens, and stay tuned to our PERMASET blog for plenty more screen printing insights, guides and advice.
PERMASET also has their own PERMASET social media accounts:
There have been many different developments and trends in screen printing, and one of the most popular of these is printing your own tag inside your t-shirts. Printing your own tags is a shirt printing trend that’s not likely to go away anytime soon because it offers a lot benefits. The first being that screen printing your own tags gives you a lot of creative freedom and allows you to be imaginative with your tags and branding. Secondly, it can be a great marketing tool and thirdly, you can ensure that your brand name and other details stay on the shirt if the shirt tag is cut off, which is a common trend these days.