Why I use waterbased inks

Waterbased screen print inks are not the norm in the industrial fashion screen print world. Plastisol inks are what most screen printing studios and large scale fashion tshirt printers use. Most people like to use plastisol inks because of convenience and durability. They are easy to print, do not dry in the screen, can be very opaque on dark garments, and will adhere to most textiles. That being said, they are terrible for the environment, large printed areas of these inks will feel like plastic sheeting against the body and like all plastics they do not bio-degrade, even as the fabric they are on might. Plastisol is created by PVC which is a polyvinyl chloride and a known carcinogenic, meaning it can cause cancer. Plastisol also contains phthalates. Phthalates have been associated with medical issues including mental disorders and infertility. As these phthalates wash down the drains at commercial print shops, these small molecules and toxins enter our water supply. Even the clean up on these inks creates the need for more chemicals to break them down.

Waterbased inks are a whole different animal then plastisols. I won’t lie and say they are one hundred percent environmentally safe. There are few things in fashion or printing that are. However strides have been made by water based ink companies to create as environmentally sound a product as possible. The main concern in water based inks are the pigments used to color the inks. Pigments can be water bourne and be introduced into environments where they normally would not be found. The plus side is they have a very low impact, water based ink ingredients are lead-free, non-toxic and do not contain any heavy metals. They do not contain ozone-depleting chemicals such as CFC’s and HCF’s, or any volatile solvents. If used with a proper drainage system little to none of these very low toxic pigments will reach the water shed. Presently I use an earth-based drainage system allowing soil to trap and cleanse my waste water. I hope to build a charcoal, soil and grease trap custom drainage system for my studio soon.
Clean up of the water based inks off of the screens require no cleaners at all. Just water. All colors are water based so equipment can be easily cleaned up with water. Water based inks do not contain PVC or phthalates, nor does it contain any toxic chemicals. There is no need to use solvents to clean the screens.

As a designer I love the feel and look of a water based print. Waterbased inks will sink right into the fibers of a fabric leaving no decipherable stiffness or rough “hand” where printed. Sometimes the inks will start to dry a bit in the screens and create a stippled effect as you pull the ink through. If it’s slight I tend to leave it as I appreciate the look it lends the shirt. A small area of stippling can give the print a great vintage vibe. When learning printmaking in college we called this “happy accident” and learned to work with the look any medium was able to give. In early days of printmaking back when signs were hand pulled and newspapers hand set, printing was an imperfect art form. To me this feels more natural, real and interesting then the plastic uniform world we have come to know. Waterbased inks being less opaque then plastisols, which sit on top of the fabric, sometimes will also take on the hue of the shirt they are printed on giving a unity of design that’s beautiful. If printed on a light colored fabric colors in a water based print are often more vibrant than those in a similar plastisol print. Prints using waterbased inks can be just as durable as the plastisols. More so in fact. Plastisol inks can neither be ironed or dried in commercial dryers for concerns the print will crack, melt or burn. Waterbased inks can be cleaned any which way and the print which has sunk into the fibers and become one with the shirt, will last forever.

I do table top printing. It’s an old school way of printing t-shirts that doesn’t require a press. This allows for a lot more variation of print placement. It also makes it nearly impossible to register colors on top of each other. Some people say it’s hard to do multi color prints with water based inks in general. Many print shops won’t change over to safer inks for this reason alone. I would like to say that Life Work LLC in California proves this theory wrong. Back when I was contracting out some of my more complicated designs, this company consistently returned to me professional, bright, clear prints done all with water based inks.

Some information for this article was taken from : http://waterbasedscreenprinting.com

At this point my line is all done by me in my own studio, including the printing. In the past I have worked with large print shops.

If you don’t know how to screen print but would love to have your t-shirts printed environmentally. I have worked

with this company in the past and absolutely LOVE them. Please tell them you found them through me.  LIFE WORK LLC

Life Work used to be the only true environmentally sound printing shop I could find, however it seems these guys are coming up. I also got some of my information about waterbased inks from their website.  Though I have never worked with them, they seem to offer a great service.  THE EARTH FACTORY

multi color water based print
beautiful multi colored water based ink print on dark organic tee
hand illustrated, photo collage, screen print, sustainable materials and inks

full color water based ink print on organic cotton sweatshirt

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