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A Week Without Water-Based Inks

(January 2017) posted on Tue Feb 14, 2017

A trip to Mexico brings back memories from 1980s-era screen printing that are all too familiar.


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By Andy MacDougall

“Stinky Solvent Inky” – say that five times really fast. It seems the headlines in the US and Canada have a lot to say regarding water versus oil, and it’s no different in screen and other print processes. I started printing with oil-based inks 35 years ago and vaguely remember washing screens with rags soaked in lacquer thinner – no mask, no gloves, no sense. I say “vaguely” because I know I bent my brain before I discovered water-based inks. I used to go home with a headache, cracked hands, and a dry throat. I’m not blaming that baptism in toxicity for my lifelong love of beer, but I’ll tell you this: a few bottles of Molson Canadian sure made everything a little better after a day in the sign shop.



My story (one familiar to many screen printers of a certain age) was inspired by a week I spent recently in shops using solvent-based inks. Down Mexico way, they still love their ink stinky. Actually, they don’t love it, but they have few other options. Before I left for Mexico, just to get in the groove, I ended up printing some stickers at my studio with solvent inks.

Sur 77 is the screen shop for Mercadorama, a Mexican-based tour merchandise company with a stable of top artists designing tour shirts, jackets, posters, and other items used by bands touring in Latin America. For five years, Ahmed Bautista and his crew have been participating in the Flatstock rock poster exhibits put on by the American Poster Institute, but they’ve long hoped to bring the exhibition to Mexico City. This year, they teamed up with the Corona Capital festival and an international group of poster artists to make it happen.


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