In a competitive screenprinting market, it’s vital for your print shop to continually find areas where niche skills can be added to help set your business apart. One way to catch the eyes of potential customers is by dazzling them with specialty inks. Before you cringe (we know, special inks can be hard to work with), specialty inks can bring a lot of value to your business, create awesome designs, and you can (and should!) charge premium pricing for the services. To help get you started, we’ve listed three of our favorite special inks along with some general guidelines we’ve gathered from various sources. As usual, always check with your ink supplier for specific directions on usage before printing.

Glow-in-the-Dark Ink

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Beyond the pure novelty of glow-in-the-dark apparel, the style is perfect for the upcoming Halloween season. Before printing your awesome, innovative designs, keep these things in mind:

  • In order for the glow to appear properly, it’s important to print a white underbase first (regardless of shirt color), and then add the glow-in-the-dark ink.
  • When curing, don’t exceed a temperature of 330°F or you risk damaging the phosphorescent pigment in the ink, causing the shirt not to glow properly.
  • Go easy on the reducer, soft hand additive or clear base, as adding too much can diminish the glow.

Glitter Ink

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Custom glitter tees are great for any activity where you need to be seen from afar, like theater, cheer or dance – or simply adding a wow-factor to a design. When it comes to screen printing with glitter ink, there’s a few things you should know:

  • Glitter ink is measured in hex (size across hexagonal flake in fractions of an inch), and produces different results based on flake sizing. A larger flake will display a shinier, less detailed design, and a smaller flake will create a more detailed, less sparkly design.
  • You’ll need screens with a lower mesh count (anywhere between 2561) so the flecks can pass through the substrate.
  • Using a quick drying emulsion, like a high viscosity photopolymer emulsion, will help prevent dripping since you’ll need to use more of it to properly coat the coarser screen.
  • The design will require a longer curing time because the pigments used tend to reflect infrared and heat away from the garment.

Metallic Ink

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Metallic ink can be used to enhance a design and create bold, shiny graphics. The ink has actual metal particles within it, and takes on a solid metal image when cured. To add extra dimension to your custom graphic tees, remember these basics:

  • The ink deposits are thicker, so you’ll want to print layers of metallic ink last in the sequence or immediately before flashing.
  • Like with glitter ink, metallic ink requires a longer curing time due to the flakes reflecting the heat.
  • The screen mesh count for metallic printing is generally between 86-110.

 

As with any new technique or printing method, it’s important to read the manufacturer instructions to know how to properly mix the ink, find the correct mesh count and curing temperatures. Be sure to do a few trial runs with wash and dry tests, and keep track of what worked and what didn’t so you have a record for future prints. After some practice, your business will be producing eye-popping custom apparel.

Has your company worked with specialty inks before? What are some tips and tricks you use to get a flawless print? Let us know in the comments!

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