Recently, we started working with an ink company called Green Galaxy in order to test a new opaque water based ink system destined to be released in the United States soon.
We’ve played with some opaque waterbase inks in the past (also known as HSA, High Solids Acrylic), and simply didn’t like the resulting prints AND the inks were difficult to use. Green Galaxy head honcho Bobby Panico worked closely with us to tinker with the pigment loaded and print parameters until we got the usage down good enough to actually print with the same inks 3 days straight in the Sroque booth at the ISS Long Beach convention 2014.
So what are the pros and cons of working with Opaque Waterbase Inks?
- Print characteristics similar to plastisol (easy transition for plastisol printers)
- Soap and water cleanup
- No need to “activate” inks so there is less waste than discharge
- Bright and opaque colors on dark fabrics
- Matte finish
- Softer than plastisol
- Ink is more expensive than traditional inks
- Can dry in the screen if not managed properly
- Ink can become difficult to use in low-humidity environments
- Less than satisfactory results on 100% polyester and some blends
- Tends to stick if not flashed after every color
- Less availability than plastisol
Our first goal was to create a fool-proof soft white that would work on all 100% cotton fabric colors since sometimes people are unhappy with discharge white results on more aggressive fabric dyes. We were able to come up with a “Super Bright White” using Green Galaxy Comet White ink and a discharge white underbase. Our clients are loving being able to hit a bright white on problem garments and still retaining a soft feel.
Our next challenge was to start printing full-color designs with these opaque water based inks so that we could:
- Conserve ink.
- Get bright prints on fabric colors that don’t discharge well.
- Guarantee consistent results on black garments with various countries of origin (various dye lots)
- Still give our clients the reasonable soft prints that they have come to expect from us.
Most shops in other countries can afford to flash this ink after every color, but this takes huge presses and a large power draw, things that many shops in the States cannot manage. Being stubborn and having research in our blood helped us discover ways to print these inks wet-on-wet in order to achieve bright multi-color prints with a soft hand and great washability.
We plan to keep developing our skills with these new inks and should be able to keep finding ways to produce soft and vibrant prints on all fabric types. Many 50/50’s are already working well with opaque waterbase inks but there are still many challenges ahead so we’ll keep reporting our experiences . . .