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The Do's & Dont's of Special-Effect Inks

(October 2000) posted on Wed Dec 20, 2000

Davis points out what ink combinations and procedures will and worn't work for special-effects applications.

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By Rick Davis

As garment screen printers across the land attempt to come up with new printing methods and effects to dazzle the consumer, many are applying unique processing techniques to specialty-ink products that are already on the market. Just as with garment-graphic designs themselves, the range of modifications and techniques that can be applied to special-effect inks are as vast as the imagination. As more and more printers start "thinking outside the box" in their use of these inks, special-effect prints are resulting that the ink manufacturers themselves never dreamed of.

High-density clears, metallics, reflectives, and crystalline inks are now being mixed, modified, and overprinted to create new twists on old ideas. As these new concepts and procedures surface, they typically offer new challenges, often in both the inkroom and on press. This month, we'll explore some of the do's and don'ts to keep in mind when applying unconventional production methods to these unconventional special-effect inks:

Don't use too many special-effect inks on one print

In most cases, the limit on the number of special-effect inks you want on any one garment is two. If printing on a dark garment that requires an underbase, you will already need two flash units in order to flash the underbase and one of the two special-effect inks. However, the majority of printing presses in the US do not support more than two flash units.

To build more than two special-effect inks into any one graphic would mean either sacrificing the quality of one special-effect ink by having to overprint that ink while it's still wet or adding an additional (third) flash unit to the press--which might mean sacrificing another color. This represents a great deal more trouble, time, and cost than the third special-effect ink is worth--in most cases, consumers won't even notice more than two special-effect inks in a single design.

Do engineer graphics so that metallics or glitters print last in the sequence

Due to their reflective nature, these inks are very slow to cure and resistant to the flashing process. This means their use can slow down the entire production process if they need to be flashed on press. Printing them last means that all curing can take place in the dryer.


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