Some plastisol ink may be thick, stringy, and stiff right out of the bucket. It requires more effort to lay down a good ink deposit. With a little bit of effort, that ink will print like a dream. Here’s how to make plastisol ink easier to handle during the cooler months.
SHORT VS. LONG-BODIED PLASTISOL INK
Different plastisol inks have various consistencies: some feel thin, others feel thick, and many are in the middle. This situation is especially true for white plastisol ink due to its varying purposes. Athletic inks, poly inks, cotton inks, low bleed inks, etc. all differ in viscosity, making some easier to print compared to others.
Plastisol inks are also either short- or long-bodied. Short-bodied inks are easy to move around. Plus, they don't leave long ink trails from the spatula. Long-bodied inks are stiffer and stringy, especially in colder temperatures. They typically leave long ink trails from the spatula.
The long-bodied ink will feel thick and stringy, making it difficult to lay down a good ink deposit. FN-INK™ is a short-bodied ink, so it'll be easy to work with right out of the bucket. Both types of ink will work better when the ink warms up.
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HOW TO MAKE INK CREAMY
There are a few ways to make plastisol ink creamy to print again. The main issue with any ink is that it’s simply cold. Warm up the inks to ensure easy printability and consistency with ink deposits and curing temps and times. Printing with cold ink will be more difficult and can have different curing times than warm ink will.
Ink needs to have a temperature of around 80°F before production can begin. There are a few options for you to pursue to achieve a warm plastisol ink.
OPTION #1: MODULATE THE INK
Modulating is just a fancy word for stirring. In order to warm up the ink and make it creamy for printing, simply stir it. Think of it as a printing warm-up routine — for the printer and for the ink. Mixing the ink introduces heat from friction, and warms up those squeegee-pulling arms in the process.
There are a couple of ways to stir ink in order to get it warm and creamy. Small batches can be modulated with an ink spatula. For larger quantities of ink or thick inks like white ink, grab a drill and an ink mixing drill attachment to stir it.
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OPTION #2: LEAVE IT IN A WARM ROOM
If a screen printing job is in the queue for the next day, leave the bucket of ink for the job in a warm room overnight. A darkroom would work great (since it's supposed to be warm). Got laundry to do? Bring the ink with you.
Pro Tip: Do not store inks against a wall that faces the outdoors. The outside temperature will cool down the walls, and the walls will pull heat away from the ink.
OPTION #3: USE EQUIPMENT HEAT
Another way to warm up the ink is to put the cold ink on the screen, flood it, warm up the platen to 150°F, and lower the screen over the heat-radiating platen. The only issue with this method is when you put more ink on the screen, you have to go through the process again.
Some printers use their flash dryers or conveyor dryers to warm up the ink. It is an option but runs the risk of gelling the ink. Be cautious when using the flash to warm up ink.
No screen printer likes to print with cold ink, so warming the ink before production helps every shop print faster and more efficiently. Until the warm months come around again, warm up those screen printing muscles, equipment, and ink to get creamy ink with every print.