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Plastisol Specialty Inks: Foiling, Metallic, Glitters, Puff & More

Many people walk through their local mall and browse the very expensive and highly decorated garments for sale. Foils, metallic, glitters, flocking, puff inks and three dimensional or "high density" printing is common today. Most people probably do not think about how the shirt was produced. But screen printing plays a part in many of the processes used to embellish textiles in the modern garment industry.

Many different types of ink may be screen printed onto garments of all kinds. In this day and age of "bling" specialty inks have come to dominate the market. Many different types of inks can be screen printed resulting in different effects for many different applications. This includes industrial uses where the end result may be other than aesthetic. That is one of the aspects of the screen printing process that makes it so versatile and easy to use. Screen printing can do many different things but the methods and materials used may differ some from application to application. This difference often starts with the ink.

Therefore, even in textile screen printing, the result desired will direct the process and consumables used. That means using specialty inks for different visual effects may require a slightly different method of printing and/or knowledge. If you want to produce special effects in screen printing using different specialty inks, you should remember each one will be unique. Most often with plastisol specialty inks, the first thing to change will be the mesh and stencil. Then the printing method may be modified to fit the situation.

Metallic inks are used to simulate a metal appearance. They are often shiny and brilliant when first printed. Gold, silver and copper are the most common. In the past, they have had the reputation of fading fast but some good, durable metallic inks an be found on the market today. These are fairly easy to work with but may pose curing problems if you are not using a belt dryer.

Glitter inks are made with a metal flake called cristalina. This is a small flake of reflective foil or plastic suspended in a plastisol base. The base may be clear or tinted. Common colors include gold, silver, red, blue and other various colors depending on the manufacturer. These inks often require a much more open mesh which may cause stencil making to become difficult for beginners. Curing may also be an issue without a belt dryer.

Foiling is a technique where an adhesive is screen printed as the design. The adhesive may be mostly clear but after it is cured a foil is heat pressed onto the adhesive design. The foil sticks to the adhesive only and pulls off of a film layer or backing after pressing. Foils may be sold as sheets or on rolls. Some foils will adhere to any plastisol ink. The technique is fairly easy but requires a little experience for best results. This is a fun one to play with.

Flocking is a fuzzy, velvet or felt like effect. There are a few different ways to achieve a flocking effect. One works in much the same way as foiling where the adhesive is screen printed except the flocking material is a "powder" and often applied with the use of an electrostatic machine prior to curing. The static charge makes the flocking material stand up. This is a very messy process and requires special equipment plus knowledge and experience. However; there are many flocking materials available today that are heat press style which can be cut with a plotter. These are easy to work with and may be used with an ordinary heat press.

Puff inks are simply chemically designed to puff up when cured in a belt oven. When the ink reaches curing temperatures, it will puff up and become raised off the garment. This was a very popular effect in the 1980's. This is a very easy specialty ink to work with and requires little to achieve good results. It is available in pre mixed colors as well as a clear puff mixing base.

High density prints are achieved with a combination of specialty inks and super thick stencils. This can be a very technical method and requires experience and knowledge in order to achieve professional results.

It is impossible to write an article that covers everything about every specialty ink. Here is a very general mesh guide for working with plastisol inks:

Use a 30 mesh count for printing glitter inks. Always check with the manufacturer of the ink about this.

Use an 85 mesh count for athletic printing, opaque ink deposits, thick puff ink, and some shimmer inks.

Use a 110 mesh count for heavy coverage on dark shirts, solid under base prints, puff, metallic, some shimmer inks, and for certain transfer printing.

Use a 155 mesh count for general printing on white & dark shirts, prints on dark nylon jackets, and silver shimmer ink, or over printing on an under base on dark shirts.

Use a 195 mesh count for multi-color printing on light shirts, light colored nylon jackets or over printing on an under base on dark shirts.

Use a 230 mesh count for detailed multi-color printing on light shirts, light nylon jackets, or over printing on an under base on dark shirts.

Use a 305 to 355 mesh count for process color on light shirts, or for overprinting a halftone on a white under base on dark shirts.

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