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Different Types of Additives for Plastisol and Water-Based Inks

Posted by Jeffrey Gononsky on

Several factors can impact a print’s durability. Among these are the additives that printers use in screen printing ink. Ink additives are solvents and catalysts. Solvents thin or reduce the ink while catalysts act as a hardener.


Over the last three to four decades, plastisol inks have reflected pillars of the silk screen printing industry. Although certain applications like water-based screen printing ink are a modern (and common) innovation, plastisol inks remain the go-to resource for most of the textile industry.


Unlike the plastisol provisions of the past, today, most manufacturers produce plastisol as a ready-to-use good. Nevertheless, printers can make modifications to their screen printing ink to improve the final product’s results.


Printers rely on additives to make screen printing ink adjustments and improve consistency, adhesion, and to extend a printed image’s life. Additives also stabilize an ink mixture while giving the screen print additional desirable characteristics.


That’s why our team from Holden's Screen Supply Corp. breaks down some of the different types of additives for plastisol and water-based screen printing ink.

Additives for Water-Based Screen Printing Ink

Water-based ink is a modern alternative to the traditional plastisol application. Unfortunately, it also features some unique challenges for screen printers. Most manufacturers produce water-based ink additives to overcome these potential challenges by altering the way ink prints, cures, and looks. Some common water-based screen printing ink additives include:

Binding Agents

Binding agents help to boost the overall appearance of a silk screen printing. These agents enhance screen printing ink by improving its ability to bind with the fibers of a substrate. The final result is a brighter, more durable print.

Cross-Linkers

Cross-linker additives make water-based inks dry faster and at a lower temperature. These attributes help printers decrease their overall production time by shortening the time it takes to cure ink on fabrics that otherwise remain more prone to heat damage.

Retardants

A common problem with modern, water-based ink is that it dries quickly. In fact, it may even dry in the screens during the screen printing process. Retardant additives help screen printers by slowing water-based ink drying and preventing premature drying while fabrics remain in the screens. Retardants are the ideal additives for screen printing in dry, arid environments, as well as in shops with low humidity conditions.

Saturate Additive

Saturate additives help water-based ink sink into a substrate. Manufacturers commonly employ saturate for fabrics like fleeces and towels that require more absorption to produce a saturated final print.

Stretching Additive

Printing with water-based inks on stretch garments like workout clothes and other athletic wear can produce issues with a screen print’s appearance and durability. Adding a stretching additive helps water-based prints stretch with a garment, alleviating potential damage when consumers wear these garments.

Additives for Plastisol Inks

As screen printers have used plastisol inks for quite some time, the additive options available for this type of screen printing are even more varied. The additives market for plastisol includes items intended to make the ink easier for printers to work with, create special effects, or alter the ink for specific substrate types.


However, printers must take the plastisol’s unique attributes into account because mixing additives with plastisol ink can lighten the ink’s printed color and change its curing parameters. Some common plastisol screen printing ink additives include:

Soft-hand Extenders

Soft-hand extenders are one of the most commonly employed additives in the screen printing industry. Manufacturers produce this additive to minimize the athletic look of certain prints, including coarser mesh.


These fabrics often require excessive ink films before screen printing. Soft-hand extenders help to minimize these effects for a sharper final print.


This additive is also useful for printers attempting to screen print on light-shaded garments. Soft-hand extenders are lower in viscosity to improve the fabric’s movement and penetrate ink films through the cloth.

Reducers

Viscosity reducers are the most commonly utilized additive in the plastisol screen printing industry. Printers employ straight plasticizer reducers and curable reducers. 


The former is an effective additive when printers properly calculate amounts according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. However, straight plasticizer reducers can cause ink to not cure accurately or produce final prints with low washability properties when used improperly.


Curable reducer is a liquid plasticizer that contains a balanced amount of resin that allows reduced ink to properly cure, eliminating the potential danger of poor washability. The downside of curable reducer is that adding in too much can produce low visibility in final prints.

Stretch and Puff Additives

As with water-based ink, printers may experience durability problems when printing on stretch fabrics. These fabrics may crack or warp as consumers wear or stretch their garments. Stretch additives for plastisol inks enable the inks to move with garments to avoid potential damage to a print.


As the name suggests, puff additives cause plastisol ink to puff up during the curing process, helping specialists to create textured effects in their prints. Puff additives dramatically lighten plastisol ink shades. Manufacturers must cure them carefully while avoiding overheating that can deflate the puffed textures.

Choosing the Right Additive Can Dramatically Impact Your Prints

Holden's Screen Supply Corp. proudly serves the New York community and printers from all over the United States as a screen printing supply and equipment provider. Our team remains committed to demonstrating quality and integrity in everything we do, from providing silk screens and squeegees to discharge inks and spray adhesives.


While there’s nothing essential in the screen printing rulebook about using ink additives, utilizing them can give designs some extra life that makes designs stand out against others. Professional screen printers can create awesome designs without them, but ink additives make possible things that are otherwise impossible.


Holden's Screen Supply Corp. provides numerous popular additives to help printers enhance their designs, as well as decrease or increase their ink flow for various reasons. To learn more about our products and how we can help your screen prints, contact our professional team today for additional information.