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Mastering High-Density Inks

(August/September 2017) posted on Tue Oct 03, 2017

Back by popular demand, the noted trainer and consultant Charlie Taublieb shares his secrets for HD success.

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By Charlie Taublieb

Screen Printing presents a refreshed take on Charlie Taublieb's popular 2014 article on high-definition special-effect printing.

In garment printing, the term “special effects” covers a lot of inks and processes, some of which I’ve never considered to be part of this category. Puff, for example, isn’t a special-effect ink to me, even though some consider it to be one. Other inks are clearly designed for special-effect printing and can create remarkable results when used correctly. I want to focus on some of my favorites in this article: high-density (HD) inks, gels, and bases.

If you aren’t familiar with HD inks, they can produce dramatic three-dimensional images. They are designed to print through very thick stencils and have a high viscosity with reduced tack and increased flow characteristics compared to standard plastisol inks. As you’ll see, they can achieve thick ink deposits with extremely sharp edges. Used correctly and creatively, HD inks allow you to produce truly unique effects.

HD inks lost some popularity for a number of years because of concerns and regulations over the use of ortho-phthalates. Once many of the ink companies reformulated the products, HD inks came back again. Still, few printers use them because many don’t know how. The ultimate goal with HD inks is to produce a print that has dimension to it after printing and that stays that way once it’s through the curing unit. I’ll discuss the production steps that are unique to HD printing below and show how the technology was used to create several award-winning shirts.

Screenmaking Considerations
One of the most common problems I see in shops that aren’t accustomed to HD printing is screenmaking, especially selecting the right mesh and creating stencils of sufficient thickness to achieve the desired effect. You need a thin mesh that has a good percentage of open area to allow the ink to pass through the stencil easily without too much squeegee pressure. The most popular mesh counts for HD printing are around 80 to 83 threads per inch with a 70 to 71-micron “S” thread. These meshes have an open area of about 60 percent.


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