Posted by Mary Yaeger - 5/26/2017

Screen Printing 

What in the world is screen printing? Simply, screen printing is the process of using a mesh-based stencil to apply ink onto a surface - shirts, posters, stickers, wood and a variety of other materials. The idea of screen printing arose from the concept of stenciling (and in truth that’s what screen printing is a form of). Screen printing can be traced back to the beginning of recorded history where methods can be found in China as early as 960 AD (during the Song Dynasty).

Screen printing originally started as just another art form. It wasn’t until during the 1960s that you can see screen printing being used for promotional items or propaganda. The 1960s was full of civil rights and social justice movements so there were plenty of opportunities to express yourself and your views. Sharing ideas that turn into movements requires people paying attention, and screen printing provided a method to create stunning graphics that caught viewer attentions.

It didn’t take long after screen printing being introduced to commercialism, before screen printing became a popular choice for artists - the most notable being Andy Warhol.

Today, we are seeing a revival in the screen printing industry as artists are creating new twists to the concept. There is also a call for the industry to become more environmentally friendly with their chemicals and inks. So if you are just starting out in the screen printing business there is a lot of room for creativity and growth and we are excited we get to share that with you!

While we could write a book on how to get started screen printing, we decided not to bore you with that much information in this blog post. Instead, we will discuss some tips and basics to get you started.

Step by Step

This is a general outline used by Texsource staff to explain the process to customers and in Texsource University Classes. If you want a more detailed look at the 16 steps and how to get started screen printing, join us for our Screen Printing 101 class in June!

  1. Get to know your client and what they are looking for in the design. Don’t forget to take down their contact information to keep in touch as well as their deposit. It’s important to take a deposit at the start of a project so you can order the materials needed for the print job.
  2. Place your material order.
  3. Create the artwork and layout for the job you are going to be printing. Some sample art programs you might use are CorelDraw or Adobe Software.
  4. Get the artwork approved by the client. This is a really important step! You may like what you have designed, but that does not necessarily mean that your design fits best with what the client is looking for. It is best practice to make sure that your client approves the artwork before moving forward.
  5. Complete your artwork separations and outputs. It is helpful, and creates a clean print, when your printed artwork is very opaque.
  6. Before you print, be sure to degrease and prep the screen that you will be using.
  7. Coat the screens and let it dry.
  8. Expose the coated screens. To help prevent pin-holes in your print, keep your exposure unit glass clean!
  9. Rinse out the image and set the screens out to dry. The trick to rinsing out the image is to wet the screens on both sides and allow the water to start to break down the unexposed emulsion.
  10. Tape and block out the screens.
  11. Set your screens and make sure that the artwork is lined up right. If you need additional help with alignment, use a t-square to create a good template to follow for your artwork.
  12. Print according to color sequence - light to dark! ALWAYS test before production.
  13. Inspect the garments to make sure there are not any unwanted spots. Don’t fear if you find some, there are products to help remove unwanted plastisol.
  14. When you are finished printing you can scoop the ink and put it back into the container for future usage.
  15. Now you are ready to reclaim your screen. You will start by removing the ink, then remove the emulsion, de-haze your screen, and finally degrease it. 
  16. Finally you have made it to step 16! This is where you get the products delivered to the client and receive your payment. Congratulations! 

Guide to the Right Mesh 

It is important that the mesh you select is right for the inks you will be using in your print. Mesh counts range from 40 to 305 and higher! We won’t discuss all of the mesh counts (you will get that in class), but here are a few of the most popular:

86 count mesh is used for printing a bold copy onto dark colored fabrics.
110 count mesh is considered the industry’s “do it all” mesh.
200 count mesh is used for printing onto light colored fabrics.
305 count mesh is used during four color process printing.

If you screen ever gets worn out or torn, Texsource can re-stretch your screens or we have products available for the DIY-er!

Mesh colors are another thing to consider. There is white mesh and gold (dyed) mesh. White mesh is used in lower mesh counts which are typically used for spot color work or large text. Gold mesh is used for counts higher than 200 resulting in a more defined edge and crisper print. The other thing that makes the two mesh colors different is the exposure time - the gold mesh will have a longer exposure time than a white mesh.

Other Things to Consider


There are 3 classifications of emulsions - Photopolymer, Dual Cure and Diazo. All of these can be used when printing with plastisol ink. Photopolymer emulsions are direct emulsions with ultra fast exposure times. Dual cure emulsion is resistant to both solvent and waterbased inks. Diazo is formulated to use with waterbased, solvent and plastisol inks which leads us into the next category - ink selection.


Ink selection is extremely important for your print job. Not all inks work on every material. Inks can also be particular about the mesh count. If the mesh count is too high or too low it could result in a poor print. I think that with as many colors of inks there are in the world there are just as many categories. That’s an exaggeration of course, but there are still quite a few you will encounter during your screen printing career. Some of the categories you will see are general purpose, low bleed, and super opaque. General purpose inks are generally used for for printing on 100% cotton. If you want to use a multi-purpose ink on another type of material, you will more than likely need to print an under lay.

Low bleed inks are best used for printing on 100% polyester materials or dye migrating garments like athletic apparel. Super opaque inks are high opacity inks designed for maximum coverage on dark colored garments.

After making a decision on those important factors the rest is up to you! Getting into the groove of printing, running your print shop, how you design the artwork - all of that is personal preference and that’s something we couldn’t give you a definitive guide on. The elements outlined in this post were to give you some basic knowledge and get you started. If you want any more details about the process, we highly recommend you attend our Screen Printing 101 class. The people who teach the class are highly knowledgeable, hands-on and excited about sharing this process with you.

Now, it’s time for you to get printing!
posted by Melissa Crawford - Texsource - 5/20/2017

I have a shirt made out of Exotic Space Martian Silk - what is the best ink to use for this?

While this isn't exactly a question we get every day here at Texsource, it does help illustrate the point that many people (especially those who may be new to the screen printing process) have questions about exactly which type of ink to use for a certain type of shirt material (or 'substrate').  I am going to attempt to clear the smoke from the subject and bring things into focus!

Ah, the granddaddy of them all, cotton is by far the most common material for tshirts.  It is a light, durable, soft, and economical fabric that is versatile to printing / coloring.  There are also sub-settings for cotton such as combed cotton, organic cotton, pima/supima cotton, and slub cotton.  Most of these sub categories have to do with the length of the fibers or how the fabric is woven.  In the case of organic cotton, it is different mostly in how it is grown, harvested, and processed in a more environmentally aware method.  The difference in these can be felt by the hand as either softer or more textured than other types.  Combed cotton uses a process in manufacturing that causes it to have a smoother feel than other types.

Most any general purpose ink will work well with any cotton fabric.  This would be the Texsource GEN Series inks, the Union Maxopake inks, the International Coatings 700 series inks, or the Triangle 1100 Multipurpose series inks.
Like cotton, linen is grown and processed, in this case from the flax plant.  It is lightweight, moisture wicking, and has a textured weave feel.  Linen is durable, but gets softer with multiple washings.  It is an easy fabric to print, but can wrinkle more easily which may require more frequent ironing.

Same as cotton, most general purpose inks will work well with linen fabrics.  Mesh counts may need to be adjusted and some detail may be lost as linen has a tendency to be woven more 'loosely' than cotton.

An entire series of articles could be written just on printing polyester shirts.  In short, polyester is a synthetic material that many still associate with the flamboyant disco fashions of the 70s.  It gained popularity as a material that could be washed, pulled, worn, and generally could take all kinds of abuse yet still maintain a smooth, wrinkle-free appearance.  It does not mold or mildew and is resistant to shrinking or stretching.  It is often seen in athletic apparel.  Polyester is often a trouble fabric for many screen printers because polyester must be sublimated or dyed to have any color.  That is, a green polyester shirt has been 'dyed' green in a heating or dyeing process.  When screen printing, the temperature that you need to cure your ink in the dryer is often higher than the material can hold its dye at.  Such a temperature will cause the polyester to 'release' the dye, which can cause a problem known as dye migration.  This is when the color of the shirt 'bleeds' into the color you printed.  To prevent this, you can use a 'blocker'-type ink as an underbase (a light grey is usually the best choice, but others use simply white).  You can then more safely print your colors without the fear of such dye migration issues.

More recently a relatively new type of ink, silicone ink, has been introduced that specifically combats this problem.  Silicone inks can typically cure fully at a much lower temperature than standard plastisol (around 260-270 degrees rather than 300-320).  This is often lower than the dye release point on most quality polyester materials thus eliminating dye migration issues.  Silicone ink has a very soft feel (called 'hand') and is extremely flexible, virtually eliminating cracking.  It is becoming a very in-demand ink for athletic uniforms.

Use a good underbase such as International Coatings Guardian Gray or Blocker Gray.  For ink, consider Texsource Poly inks, Union Poly inks, International Coatings 7100 series inks, or Triangle 1700 Low Bleed series inks.  If considering some of the new silicone ink products, try Rutland Silextreme inks.

It may have seen its heyday among the slew of 80s heavy metal rockers, but lycra (spandex) has seen new life more recently as athletic wear such as yoga pants and tops, swimwear, and even casual shirts / tops.  It has found a home in athletic wear mainly due to its ability to easily stretch greatly while being resistant to wrinkles.  As lycra has great stretchability, a stretch additive is recommended.

General purpose inks will serve you well on most lycra/spandex substrates, but you will need a stretch ink additive such as the Union Unistretch 9160.  When printing a white color on pure black lycra, you may get better results using a poly white ink such as the Rutland Super Poly White ink or International Coatings 7113 Athletic White ink.

Rayon is made from purified cellulose, mainly from wood pulp.  Because it is chemically converted into a compound, it is considered a semi-synthetic fiber.  It is well known as a popular replacement for silk.  When woven or knitted it is a silky, breathable fabric common in athletic wear.  Rayon does not hold up as well to prolonged wear and can more easily wrinkle.

Because Rayon is a semi-synthetic material, you may find some testing is necessary for best printing.  Much will depend on the percentage of rayon in the material.  If adhesion is an issue, you may want to add a catalyst such as Union Nylobond or International Coatings Nylon Bonding Agent.  On materials that use less rayon, you may use most general purpose plastisol inks.  Like lycra, you may want to test using poly inks when printing on darker colors.

Nylon is a fully synthetic material that has found many uses in other applications including plastics, flooring, automotive, films, and more.  It is popular in shirt material for its excellent resistance to heat, is lightweight, and wrinkle resistant.  It also blends well with other materials.  Nylon is more prone to shrinking and is not as stain tolerant as other materials.  When using inks to print on nylon materials, a 'catalyst' should be mixed with the ink.  A catalyst works as a adhesive agent, particularly for extremely smooth surfaces.  When mixed properly, your ink / catalyst mixture will cure as normal and will be very resistant to peeling.

For a catalyst, use the International Coatings Nylon Bonding Agent, or the Union Nylobond catalyst as described in the inks for rayon shirts.  General purpose inks can be used on most colors, but light colors on dark fabrics may benefit from using low bleed poly inks.

Many shirts today are blended fabrics, sometimes with two, three, or four fabric types.   The most common you are likely to see as a screen printer would be the cotton polyester blend fabric.  Here is where some testing may be required as blends may be 50/50 or any other ratio.  Typically, general purpose inks may do well for most color fabrics, but as with 100% polyester shirts some dye migration or bleeding may occur, at which point you may want to consider a blocker underbase and / or poly inks.

Test using a combination of blocker inks such as International Coatings Guardian Gray or Blocker Gray.  Your general purpose inks such as Texsource GEN inks, the Union Maxopake inks, the International Coatings 700 series inks, or the Triangle 1100 Multipurpose series inks.  For poly ink, consider Texsource Poly inks, Union Poly inks, International Coatings 7100 series inks, or Triangle 1700 Low Bleed series.

While this certainly isn't a complete listing of available materials that you might see in your screen printing shop, it is a list of the more common types you may encounter.  As always, testing is the key; get the first shirt right and approved before you begin your batch.  Taking shortcuts in the screen printing process can lead to lost customers and lost profits.  Experimentation can often lead to creative and valuable results, and this guide should serve as a great base from which to start your screen printing journey.  If you are looking for where to find some of these great screen printing inks and more, look no further than the Ink section on the Texsource website - all the screen printing supplies you need and every product mentioned in this article can be found right there, in stock, ready to go!  #printlife
Posted by Mary Yaeger - 5/19/17

In the world of screen printing there is an overwhelming amount of inks on the market, and the newer you are to screen printing, the harder it is to decide what inks you should try and which you should avoid - for now atleast. Being a more advanced screen printer, although knowledgeable, you still face the challenge of working with multi-color processes and finding the right ink for your next print job.

The variety is what makes the screen printing industry one of the most interesting to work in and be a part of. There is so much growth potential for screen printers. The world of ink is expanding and the demand for specialty inks is out there. We are even starting to see a blend among the print industries. Graphic design has adopted screen printing to develop posters and unique brand packaging. Screen printing has adopted 3D printing to take textiles to the next level. The industry is developing fast especially with people being able to print on the go or at home!

My exposure to screen printing has been limited to a small table top printer that I received one year for Christmas. Being green in the industry, I have had my eyes opened to a million different possibilities when it comes to screen printing - even witnessing an automatic press in action. Today, Texsource-U is teaching a class on how to use specialty inks in screen printing so I thought that it would be appropriate to write a blog article on specialty inks.

My favorite printed tees (as i’m sure some of you would agree) are the ones with quirky little quips that are decorated in some way such as gold shimmers or mounds of glitter (the kind that you find in your hair days later). The shinier it is, the more it catches my attention. But what I didn’t realize was the process for printing those inks was different from any other process. I had some idea that special screen printing inks would be different, but I wasn’t sure HOW different they would be from each other. Below, we will explore some different specialty inks and how to effectively use them for your next screen printing project!

Types of Special Effect Inks

Phosphorescent Glow Inks

Phosphorescent is a glow-in-the-dark plastisol ink which is ready to use right out of the bucket.  This ink is formulated for application to cotton and cotton / polyester garments and novelty items. The glow inks print well on white, but they can also work for colored garments.
When printing on colored garments, it’s best (and recommended) to use a white underbase to really make those colors POP! It is also recommended that you use a 86-110 mesh screen and thick stencil to get the best graphics.



Glitter Plastisols are extremely flexible inks. They provide a glittering texture and metallic-like finish when printed directly on textiles or used in transfers. Glitter inks are available in two variations.
  1. Regular Glitter Plastisols - recommended for direct printing
  2. Super Glitter Plastisols - recommended for heat transfer printing.
Crystalina is used to produce subtle sparkle effects with high gloss and excellent durability. For printing, it is highly recommend using a 25-40 mesh screen. Mesh counts higher than 40 (15 metric) should not be used as this will limit the inks ability to flow onto the garment and will result in a very spotty, irregular finish.
For stencils you can use any direct emulsion or capillary film. And due to the reflective nature of this ink, it requires a longer curing time and more heat to reach the required temperature than a standard plastisol.

Silver Luster

These inks are very versatile and can be used to enhance graphics or create a unique standalone product. Silver Lustre inks are specially formulated to give maximum coverage, and have been incorporated in the clearest, glossiest plastisol available. Not only do these inks create a dramatic effect, they also have excellent wash durability. These inks can be printed using a 60-86 mesh screen.

Pale Gold Glitter

Similar to crystalina, glitter inks are very flexible to work with. When heat cured, that’s when the glittering metallic finish shines through. These inks take on the finish of release papers like you use during heat transfer printing.
You can print these inks directly on textiles. Another great feature of these inks is that they are lead free plastisol and have great opacity when printing. For printing, it is recommended you use a 25-40 mesh screen like the crystalina. Any count higher than 40 will result in a not-so-great finish.

Puff Additive

Puff additives are formulated to be mixed with General Purpose (GEN) Series inks to give designs a raised or elevated effect. Puff Additive allows you to minimize the number of products you have on your shelf and gives you great results. For best results, you should use a screen with a good thick stencil and a medium to soft squeegee for good ink laydown. Puff additive is especially useful in smaller shops that may not want to inventory a complete set of puff colors.

HD Rubber Base

HD Rubber Base can be used as a high density gloss/clear or as a high gloss overprint to any ink.  You can also add colors to create special gloss images. These inks are an excellent adhesive carrier for foil, special flakes, caviar beads, and other creative textures. They can be used on most fabric types. The “Super Elongation” 110 mesh with 200 micron cap film is recommended if you are going to print with an HD Rubber Base.

Ultra Reflective Ink

Ultra Reflective inks are exactly what they sound like. These inks are easy to print with and create a unique reflective surface. When a garment printed with Optilux ink is exposed to a focused beam of light such as that from a flashlight or headlight, it reflects or returns light back to the light source. You can use these inks to create a novelty item or create a unique decorative tool to increase nighttime visibility of a printed design. To get the best print it is recommended that you use a 160-230 mesh screen.

Silver Foil

The great thing about foil inks is that they are press ready. They provide a bright, non-tarnishing metallic sparkle to any printed garment. The inks consist of a fine shimmering glitter flake in a low fusion, and easy to print base. This is a real plus for hand and automatic printers when it comes to equipment wear and tear.  To get the most out of foil inks it is recommended you use a 86 to 125 mesh screen.

Over Print Clear Gel

Over print clear gel  is a super smooth, multi purpose gloss clear that can be used in both high-density printing techniques and as a flat overprint onto colored inks and textured surfaces. The advantage to using Over Print is that it will create shiny finishes to any design. For this type of ink it is recommend you use a 24-110 mesh screen and 200-600 micron cap film for best results.

Now that you have learned about some of the different inks for screen printing, what inks are you considering trying for your next project?
Posted by Mary Yaeger - 5/12/2017

Defined; Athleisure is a fashion trend in which athletic clothes are worn in settings outside of the gym - work, school, or social occasions for example. There are a couple of theories to why Athleisure has become so popular, but most people describe the style as convenient. Instead of having to change for the gym, change to go to work, change to see your friend for lunch and change again to go to that party later Friday night; now you can be in style for multiple occasions without breaking a sweat (literally).

As with anything in the fashion industry, once a style starts trending, it’s up to everybody to keep up to make sure that their brands stay relevant. Athleisure is no different. So what does this mean for the screen printing industry? It means that we have to adapt to the style with the inks and techniques that we use.

According to Vogue Magazine, there are a few “golden rules” for the Athleisure trend. These rules must be paid attention to if your business is going to keep up with this newly evolving style. The two biggest ones that are especially important to note for screen printers are this:
Number 1: It has to be Seasonal

Remember when you started working out and you went to look for workout clothes, but the only color that was available was black? Not anymore. The Athleisure trend demands that styles be seasonal. This means that the wilder the pattern, brighter the color and color blocks are the go to for this trend.

Number 2: It has to Combine Function and Fashion

Athleisure combines two must-haves that continue to dominate casual clothing - durability and comfort. With the Athleisure trend, many of the clothes we would consider strictly “gym wear” are now work approved. Materials like spandex, polyester, and blended materials like 50/50 cotton and polyester have risen to the top of the comfort charts.


Athletic Materials

As mentioned above there are a variety of athletic materials; all of which can be tricky to print on. Keith Stevens from International Coatings shared a couple of tips to help you master athletic prints:

  1. Plastisol inks are usually stretchy by nature, but adding a little bit of stretch additive can greatly improve the stretchability, especially for performance and athletic fabrics, which often contain a high percentage of Lycra spandex. Adding excessive amounts of a stretch additive, however, could reduce the opacity of the ink, so it is important to add only about 1%-5%.
  2. There also are new inks on the market, such as International Coatings’ 7100 Performance Pro, which have been specifically formulated for these next-generation performance fabrics. These inks have great stretchability and allow for lower curing temperatures (275°F). The ability to cure at lower temperatures helps to control any potential dye migration issues.


Athletic Inks


Today's athletic inks far out shine the original “athletic” inks that were dull and difficult to work with. With as many materials there are to print on, there are just as many types of inks to choose from. For example:
  • High opacity ink. These inks provide good bleed resistance and brilliant colors when printed in a lower mesh range, and used over a low-bleed white. These inks are made to increase the overall opacity and contain a high pigment load over general inks.
  • Low-bleed plastisols. These inks are press-ready plastisol meant for printing on polyester and poly/cotton blends. These inks stand out on dark garments.
  • Low-cure additives. Low Cure Additives effectively lower curing temperatures of most plastisol inks to less than 300° F (149° C). You can use this additive when printing heat-sensitive materials such as 100% polyester or non-woven polypropylene bags. It is ideal for printing athletic and synthetic fabrics that are prone to dye migration.
  • Silicone inks. These inks print well on light and dark cotton, cotton/polyester blends, and 100% polyester. Unlike other types of inks, silicone inks can be ironed without re-melting the ink film. They create a very nice, supple print with the ability to stretch and regain its original shape.      
The truth is that there is no perfect ink for all athletic prints, but it is important to have a good understanding of the inks you have at your disposal when printing on athletic materials. It is also important to understand how the inks vary in printability, flashing characteristics, and opacity to name a few.

Some of these materials and material colors may require you to print an underbase for your athletic graphics. When printing vibrant colors on black or dark garments it is often necessary to print a white underbase first. This is due to the fact that many plastisol inks do not have the opacity to cover well on dark garments. White is printed first to provide a base for the colored ink to rest on. The under base is flash cured before the remaining colors are printed.

It is kind of like using a primer before adding the new color to your kitchen walls. The primer seals the surface which makes it nicer to paint on. Just as important as the ink itself, you also have to select the right screen. Selecting the right mesh for your screen can be just as tricky, but this article should help clear the air.

Choosing the right Artwork
When printing, remember to make your graphics as printer friendly as possible. This goes for all of your prints, not just athletic! And in addition to ink characteristics, you also need to be aware of the fabric type, required cure temperature, and (as always) your clients’ expectations.

In many cases, you will find athletic prints with excessive ink thicknesses on the garment. This is typically the result of overcompensation in fear of the dreaded dye migration.

When printing athletic graphics (as with any of your screen printing projects), the ultimate goal is to consistently reproduce a quality print.


Now that you know a little more about athletic materials and athletic inks, we hope that you are ready and motivated to get out there and tackle this exciting active wear trend!
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