Dye Migration: 4 Tips to Avoid and Prevent It

Posted by Jeffrey Gononsky on

It’s hard to imagine a more frustrating or upsetting experience than seeing something you’ve worked so hard creating get destroyed by accident. Even with the best intentions, sometimes disasters simply can’t be prevented. 

However, dye migration is one of the problems that can. If you’re using the right products, checking out the specifics of each dye and fabric, and finding the right cure, a lot of dye migration can be avoided and prevented, leaving you with clean lines and a long-lasting screen print. 

What Exactly is Dye Migration?

In short, dye migration is exactly what it sounds like: when the dye from fabric bleeds out from the fibers of that fabric, dyeing and warping the color of everything around it. This is called migration because the color moves around the garment or migrates from place to place over time.

Dye migration occurs primarily in polyester fabrics, including polyester blends. Even if the blend only has a small number of polyester fibers in it, it can still be subject to dye migration. 

Why Does This Migration Happen? 

When you heat the dye in polyester fabric to anywhere between 260-340 degrees Fahrenheit, the dye in fabric sublimates, or turns into gas. When the fabric dye in the polyester fabric becomes gaseous, it migrates into the ink, causing the ink to shift colors. For example, if you’ve screen printed a piece of red polyester fabric with white screen printing ink, dye migration may cause the ink to turn pink. 

How You Can Avoid Dye Migration

So, now that you know what dye migration is and how it can cause problems, what can you do to avoid it? From research to having the right supplies, there are several steps you can take.

Do Your Research

Proper research is always going to be the most important thing to do when you’re getting ready to start screen printing. Knowing what fabrics to use, what inks are best for each fabric, and more can make all the difference. 

For example, if you’re working with an unfamiliar ink or medium, then it might be a good idea to check the product’s website to ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Here at Holden’s Screen Supply Corp., we realize that it can be difficult to find the information you might need. This is why we’ve taken the time to get into the nitty-gritty details of the best usage of some of our products, like our plastisol inks. Before you buy, check out what would work best for you and your screen printing needs. 

Another suggestion is to scope out different Facebook groups or consult other professionals in your field, especially if you can find some that are local. If you're learning screen printing in New York, check local screen printing supply shops to find others you can ask for advice. Even something as simple as making a Facebook post in a screen printing group might give you a little more insight that you didn’t previously have.

Get the Right Supplies

The right screen printing supplies can make all the difference when it comes to creating a high-quality product. Knowing what ink to use, what shirts or blanks to buy, or even things like what screen mesh or squeegee would be best is a game changer when you’re trying to do things quickly and efficiently yet still produce a high-quality product. 

Plastisol ink, while very opaque and long-lasting, can sometimes be more prone to the effects of dye migration. Water based ink, however, will often last longer than plastisol ink when considering dye migration. Depending on the material you actually want to print on, choosing the type of ink or the right type of blank can really make or break your project!

Plus, knowing what you want to do and the best materials for the job makes it so much easier to prevent things like the dreaded dye migration before you ever even begin to print.

Find the Right Cure

When you’re working with inks when screen printing, curing is one of the last but most important steps to complete. Curing the ink is essentially what sets your ink into the fabric, making the ink adhere to the fiber strands and prevent your design from cracking and fading too quickly. 

Finding the best way to cure your ink can make a huge difference when figuring out how to prevent dye migration. Water based ink will typically cure at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit, but plastisol ink can vary at which temperature it would be best to cure. For us here at Holden’s, our plastisol ink cures completely anywhere between 290-330 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on what fabric you use, figuring out the best temperature will be key.

Pass the Test

Speaking of figuring out the best temperature, it’s also not a bad idea to do a couple of test runs before you begin making large quantities of shirts or other printed swag. This will allow you to figure out what ink works best with what fabric, how long you might need to cure the ink, etc. Also, allowing the printed items to sit for a while will allow you to see if there is any dye migration after time. After all, your clients will likely wear the products you create more than once, and will often leave them sitting around for days, weeks, or months at a time! Letting items sit ensures that you know what kind of product your client will be getting because you’ve tested it for yourself.  

Finding Exactly What You Need

Holden’s offers anything and everything you might need to create a quality print. We offer all the useful information you need right on our website, along with the plastisol inks and water based inks that you're looking for whether you're a shop owner or a hobbyist.. 

If you’re interested in trying some of our quality screen printing supplies, check out our website and place your order today!