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Printing on Activewear

(December 2011) posted on Wed Dec 14, 2011

Performance fabrics present an interesting challenge to garment printers. The advice presented here will help you choose the appropriate inks for the job and predict the influence of the garment graphic on the finished piece.

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By Screen Printing's Solution Sourcebook

Adding a catalyst to standard inks when printing on nylon fabrics is a somewhat common practice. Be cautious with the catalyst as it makes the ink brittle and is therefore not recommended for printing on stretchy nylon. Again, take a look at the stretch required by the garment. Stretch in a nylon garment can amplify adhesion issues. In some instances, when a very stretchy garment is stretched to its limits, the ink is not able to adjust or keep up with the elongation. Some areas of the ink film may start to break away from the garment, causing further adhesion issues.

Stretch properties If the garment has high-elongation components in it, such as spandex, then it is very likely that the ink will need extra elongation. Many times, an ink that supports a standard amount of elongation will be printed on a garment with stretch, and the ink will crack before the garment reaches its full potential for stretch. This is especially true for inks with extra bleed resistance, which are typically printed on performance wear. This phenomenon will often be mistaken for undercured ink when in reality the ink doesn’t have as much elongation as the garment.

Evaluate the elasticity of the ink as compared to the stretch of the garment, and only choose an ink that is formulated for sufficient elasticity to expand with the garment and return to its normal state without negative effects. Many ink manufacturers offer stretch additives; however, it is important to understand how these may affect the bleed-resistance properties of the standard ink.

White inks For cotton/poly blends, it is common to have a white ink that has bleed resistance and to print colors on top. A white ink designed for printing on polyester has a limited amount of stretch, is heavy in hand and body, is printed through more open or coarse mesh, and generally has difficulty with supporting halftone printing. Nylon inks do not offer great opacity and most likely need to be underbased. However, new performance inks have fewer limitations. They can be printed through finer mesh, hold great halftones, and support high elongation.


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