Whether you’re a small shop that gets the occasional team-wear request, or your largest customer is the local high school squad, you might have struggled with what is now the standard material for apparel: polyester and dry-fit performance. Sometimes called “moisture management” textiles, these materials are thin, lightweight, and don’t do so well with the high temperatures often required to cure plastisol ink.
This can be very frustrating for both the new and seasoned screen printer. I often get asked how to achieve professional results with these materials.
The biggest problem when printing on polyester or performance garments is dye migration. There are many plastisol inks available that are designed to stop dye migration, such as poly-whites or underbase grays. The issue with these inks is that they are typically very thick and require low mesh counts, leaving a heavy ink deposit. This is not very desirable on a lightweight performance-style garment.
One solution I have found great success with is ImageStar Silicone Ink by Nazdar. Silicone ink is a two part system combining one of the RFU silicone inks (or base) and pigments. Each requires the addition of a catalyst to ensure proper cure and adhesion. This ink cures at 250 degrees, well below the typical 320 degrees that plastisol needs to reach to properly cure. Polyester dyes typically gas out at 310 to 330 degrees, which is the major cause of dye migration.
When printing with silicone ink, higher mesh counts can be used which leaves a very soft and smooth print on the garment. This also allows for a bit more detail to be achieved, giving your customer a little more flexibility with the design.
Note: As the garment exits the dryer you will notice that the print image area has a little bit of dye migrated, but not to worry the migration disappears in 24 hours, leaving a very nice, soft, and bright print!