Posted by Mary Yaeger - 6/15/2017
Also seen on Printwear 

How many of you have walked the streets of your downtown area, coffee in hand, and stepped into one of the really fascinating boutiques? I’m guessing all of you. I know I have! One of the great things about downtown areas is that they thrive because of small shops that specialize in unique products and apparel. With the rise of entrepreneurial communities and desire for economic efficiency, we are right in the middle of a great opportunity to strut our creative stuff.

If you spend any time on the internet (I’m looking at you Pinterest), what you will find is that a big trend happening is sublimation. Sublimation is the printing of an image (or images) onto specialty items – like keychains you can get at the zoo or quirky coffee mugs at coffee shops. This versatile printing method opens a whole world of opportunities that may not have been available before.

The Benefits

From personalized gifts to home décor to promotional products and everything in between, there is an endless possibility of items waiting to be sublimated. A big difference that you will notice with sublimation verses any other printing method, is that the process is simpler and in some ways, more effective. Not only can you print full color images on a variety of surfaces, the prints are infused with a special coating that protects and preserves so when you wash the item, you don’t have any worry about what it will look like when it’s done. When set up properly, sublimation can save you time and money. Even more important than that is the customer satisfaction that will come of it.
  • You can do full color images, even for smaller print jobs, that won’t cost your customers an arm and leg.
  • You also don’t have to worry about a great deal of setup for the process. 
  • You don’t have to worry about losing a customer because of a minimum order number
  •  Sublimation can accommodate any print job that you are willing to take on.
  •  The prints are not thick and provide a soft hand feel. Your customers will love the natural feel    of the garments. 
  •  Sublimated products are durable. You don’t have to worry about cracking or peeling.

Getting Started

As with any process or business it is going to take money to make money so you will need to consider your startup costs. Here are a few items that you will need to get started:
  •  Sublimation Printer  
  • Ink 
  • Sublimation Paper 
  • Design Software 
  • Blank items (to practice on and have for print jobs) 
  • Heat Press

It is also important to note that if you are going to sublimate apparel, the process only works on polyester materials. Sublimation can be a great place to start in the printing industry. It is also a great addition to any existing print shop! The print industry is diverse – the customer demand even more so. Sublimation may just be the answer you need to keep the revenue flowing. The most important thing you can do is assess your needs and come up with a plan that fits.
Posted by Mary Yaeger - 6/16/2017

Also seen on Printwear.

If you have been in the industry long enough, you have probably heard the term dye migration. You have probably also learned that it is one of the biggest pain in the necks for screen printers, but there are a few simple tricks that will keep you from a headache later on. Before we get to the tips, it is important to understand what dye migration is and how it occurs. Understanding that will equip you with the knowledge to prevent it from happening in your future prints.

Note the washed-out color of the shirt on the right.
That is cause by dye migration.

Dye migration is caused by curing the ink too hot. This unwanted reaction occurs when the heat turns the shirt’s dye into a gas. That gas seeps into the plastisol ink causing an adverse reaction. What is even worse is that it can take up to days before you realize you have been subject to dye migration. This could mean that you already sent out product to your paying customer, they wash the shirts, the print comes out diminished and your shop gets a bad review. That is the last thing we want to happen. The surest way is doing a test run/wash to see if the colors “run” or bleed. If they do – that’s dye migration. But before you panic and decide to never print a single shirt again, there are a few tips below that can help!

The Truth Behind Inks 

Firstly, there is no such thing as “no bleed” inks. Every ink bleeds to some degree, but there are a couple of options out there that are specially formulated to be as “bleed resistant” as possible. When using low-bleed inks, you will likely have to print a white under base and print your colors on top. While low-bleed inks work more for polyester materials, printing the white under base ensures that your colors will appear just as vibrant when you first print them because white has a good dye migration resistance. A second option is to print with silicone ink. The down side to using silicone is that you will get a thicker print which may not be what you need for the specific print job you are working on.

Try a Blocker

A third option for you is to try a blocker as an under base. They act as a shield to protect the plastisol print from the shirt dye. An under base may just be your shops best friend in fighting dye migration. There are “blockers” that are specially designed for use as a dye migration-blocking under base on polyester and performance fabrics. 

Cure at a Lower Temperature

One of the most important factors to consider is curing temperature. Polyester starts to release its dye around 280F, but most plastisol inks don’t start curing until 320F. Then what happens is the dye of the shirt seeps into the plastisol so when you go to wash it you will find the print is less than perfect. Another factor is the color of the shirt. Dye migration is most common on dark or bright colored garments like red, blue and black.
Posted by Mary Yaeger - 5/26/2017

Screen Printing History and How to Get Started

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 at least. 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?
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