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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

Don't print expensive special-effect inks simply for the sake of printing expensive inks

Although inks like reflectives add excellent value to your printed garments, their expense can take the final product cost beyond a reasonable level for the consumer market. In many cases, a customer wanting the flash of reflective ink may be just as happy with a less-expensive metallic ink and save dollars to boot.

From the retail standpoint, most consumers would never even notice a reflective ink hanging on the rack in a store unless they just happened to catch the garment at the right angle relative to a light source. Metallic inks, on the other hand, scream from the garment and are far more eye catching at retail settings. This is not to deter anyone from using reflective inks, which are especially suited to garments that will be worn in dark areas that are lit by man-made sources; however, cost needs to be considered before going to production.

Do conduct extensive testing on new special-effect inks to ensure that you can achieve the desired effect

Gel printing, for example, is designed to provide effects ranging from high-gloss finishes on regular flat inks to a thick, rounded lensing effects on conventional prints. Without a thorough understanding of the printing parameters and capabilities of these inks, the end results can often be much less impressive than expected.

Do experiment with different product combinations and procedures for printing special effects

New special-effect ideas should be tested in the inkroom first. Some methods you can apply to expand the range of results you get from special-effect inks include the following:

* extend a silver glitter ink to achieve a silver crystalline ink for overprinting.

* tint silver metallics with toners or pigment concentrates to achieve colored metallics.

* add metallic or glitter inks to a clear gel to achieve metallic gel effects.

* add fluorescent materials to gel inks to achieve fluorescent gel effects.

* overprint metallics or glitters with a transparent color to achieve a different-colored metallic or glitter effect.


The possible combinations of specialty inks that you can explore are quite numerous. However, you will face some limitations. For example, you should not add a metallic ink to a puff. The inherent opaqueness of puff inks makes adding a product, such as a metallic ink, impractical. You will not see the metallic ink as it would be suspended within the ink film.

As with so many other aspects of textile screen printing, the key is to experiment and test new ink-usage ideas often. Your options are only limited by the capabilities of your printing process. The more time you invest into R&D for specialty-ink applications, the more you'll know the limitations of your process and the inks you use.


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