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August 20, 2012 12:00 PM   Subscribe

What kind of screen printing ink doesn't make a thick plastic-y layer on clothes?

I want to get into screenprinting t-shirts. Most of my graphical t-shirts use an ink that I don't like very much. It's noticeably raised off the shirt surface and feels like a plastic/rubber layer. If the graphic has large color areas, it's like wearing plastic clothes. It gets really sweaty in hot weather. But I have one T-shirt (made by Heavy Rotation) with a much nicer ink. It is more embedded into the fabric, and the printed areas still feel like fabric to the touch. It's still very vividly colored and it hasn't faded with repeated washings. I want THAT ink! Where can I get it?
posted by scose to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What kind of ink are you using now?

High quality water based inks tend to have a softer hand than plastisol or cheap water based inks (like speedball).

I would call up the folks at http://www.silkscreeningsupplies.com/ and ask them what the softest feel inks they sell are. The sales people tend to be really helpful and knowledgeable. I've used their Envrioline inks in the past and been very happy.
posted by gregr at 12:59 PM on August 20, 2012

For absolutely no feel of ink, you can screen print on 100% cotton with Procion dyes, thickened with sodium alginate and activated with soda ash. Here's one set of instructions.
posted by Ery at 1:30 PM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: You basically want water-based inks. The heavy feel (sweatpatch!) on most commercially produced shirts is because of plastisol inks.

Be sure to keep your inks moist (I use a mister bottle of water) in the screen and you're good to go!

(Plastisol is also really pretty gross stuff and bad for you, so that's another plus)
posted by broadway bill at 2:25 PM on August 20, 2012

You can also look into discharge printing, btw, but it's kinda tricky for most beginners.
posted by broadway bill at 2:27 PM on August 20, 2012

You might use acid-based fabric dyes, which etch the fibers and change their color. (Ink is deposited as a layer that adheres.) They are used, for example, to silk-screen cotton and nylon outdoor flags -- where inks would just crack off.
posted by lathrop at 3:34 PM on August 20, 2012

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