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5 Tips for Printing With Water Based Inks

Some printers avoid water based inks because they can be be a bit trickier to print with than plastisols, but water based inks can actually be a joy to use and can open up more avenues for your business. When printed and cured properly, your water based prints will be sharper, softer to the touch, more eco-friendly and more durable than with plastisol inks. Practice these top five tips and you’ll be on your way to perfect prints with Permaset water based inks.

1. Select The Right Mesh Count

Water based inks have a lower viscosity than plastisol inks to allow them to soak effectively into your fabric of choice. Since the water based inks are thinner, you will want to user a finer mesh to prevent too much ink from pushing through which leads to bleeding. The most common mesh count range for printing with water based inks is 160-230. It is also important to use an emulsion that is suited for water based inks – otherwise you run the risk of the stencil deteriorating and ruining your print run.

2. Underbase, or Try Supercover Inks

With the right methods, water based inks can produce amazingly vivid prints. If you’re printing with bright or neon colors on darker fabrics, you will either need a separate underbase screen with a white ink such as Permaset’s First Down White, or alternatively you can use Permaset’s Supercover inks which don't require an underbase.

3. Flood the Screen Between Prints

The water content in water based inks make it relatively quick to dry, which can lead to clogging in the screen if left out in the open for too long. You can avoid this from happening with a quick flood of the screen while you’re setting up or printing your next color. It’s also worth remembering to keep ink tub lids securely fastened so your precious inks won’t dry up in between printing sessions.

4. Remember to Hydrate

A simple spray bottle with water will be your best friend when printing with water based ink. This can be used to keep the screen slightly damp in between prints. If you're using a mesh count of 230 or higher, or you have very low humidity in your shop, you can "pre-lube" your screen prior to production using a 50/50 mix of Permaset Screen Retarder and water. Simply spray the mix onto the ink side of your ready-to-print screen, then allow to mostly dry before putting the ink on the screen.

5. Complete With Heat

The long-lasting finishes of water based inks requires a heat setting treatment, so fire up that drying tunnel or heat press. If you’re printing at home, you can tumble dry, use a hand iron, dry it in the sun for a few days or even bake the fabric at a low temperature to set the pigments. When you’re wearing the same shirt years later, you’ll be glad you followed this step in the process – and that you mastered the art of screen printing with waterbased inks.