Switching between Water-Based and Plastisol - What You Need to Know

by Chris Wilde September 29, 2017

Switching between Water-Based and Plastisol - What You Need to Know

Water-Based Inks

Printing Info: It will eventually dry in your screen, so clean out your screen when you are done.

Drying Info: Let it air dry or force dry it with a fan or hair dryer. Then heat it to 320ºF for 3 minutes to cure it. You can use an iron to dry it. Cover the print with wax paper or a teflon sheet before drying. Check out How to Dry Water-Based Ink for a more in-depth look. 

Cleaning Info: Washes up with water. If the screen stains, use Ghost-B-Gone! to get the stains out.

Plastisol Inks

Printing Info: Won't dry in your screen. It's thicker than water-based inks.

Drying Info: Heat to 320ºF to cure it. You can use a heat gun to dry it. If using a heat press, cover the print with a teflon sheet before pressing, and wait for it to cool before peeling the teflon off of the print.

Curing plastisol requires exposing the entire body of the ink to 320ºF degrees. It dries to the touch at a lower temperature, so it is important to be sure that the ink is cured throughout. Once plastisol is cured, it should be wash-fast. A laser temperature gun can be used to make sure the ink reaches at least 320ºF degrees. You can also stretch the fabric after drying the ink and check to see if the ink elongates with the pull (reasonably cured), or if it cracks or breaks apart (not cured). Be sure your ink cures properly or your washability will suffer.

Cleaning Info: Use Wipe Out! and a rag to clean up, or ink degradent such as Sink the Ink to make it water-soluble and wash it down the drain. If the screen stains, use Ghost-B-Gone! to get the stains out.

What's the Difference?

  • Opacity: Plastisol inks are more opaque than water-based. Plastisol is often more vibrant.
  • Drying: For water-based ink to dry, all of the water needs to evaporate out of it. Then you need to cure it. For plastisol, just get the body of the ink up to temperature.
  • Crocking: Water-based inks can sometimes crock. If you rub a white rag on your print and some color transfers from the print to the rag, that’s crocking. Plastisol does not crock when cured.
  • Printing Environment: Water-based inks tend to dry in the screen with greater air-flow and/or higher room temperature. Plastisol is stiffer in colder environments, but does not dry in your screen at room temperature.
  • Emulsion Break Down: Plastisol inks do not break down your stencil. Water-based inks do. Your screen will last a lot longer (hundreds or thousands of prints) when using plastisol inks.
  • Printing Technique: When printing water-based, many screen printers keep their screen flooded (covered with ink) at all times to keep the ink from drying in the screen. Plastisol lets you take your time.
  • Ink Thickness: Plastisol is thicker, like printing with creamy peanut butter. It is heavier than water-based and may take some adjustment to your technique.
  • Ink Body: Cured plastisol has a heavier body than water-based. Water-based has a softer feel to it.

 

Chris Wilde
Chris Wilde


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