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Silkscreen Printing With Metallic-Based Ink: Your Guide

Posted by Jeffrey Gononsky on

Fashion is a nearly $2 trillion industry with massive clothing fabs across the globe. Factories churn out thousands of printed t-shirts every day using costly machinery. Knowing this, it may come as a surprise that you can make t-shirts of the same caliber from the comfort of your home.

The process is known as silkscreen printing. It's a method with hundreds of years of history, originating from China's Song Dynasty. Though simple on the surface, silkscreen printing can incorporate more complex materials, such as metallic ink.

In this guide, we'll talk about metallic screen printing ink, and how you can use it to boost your t-shirt printing game.

How Does Silkscreen Screen Printing Work?

Chances are, you did some screenprinting during your school days. It's so simple that even a child can manage. You can print a design one day and wear it the next once it dries.

All you need are four materials:

  • A silkscreen with a wooden frame to hold it
  • A stencil design
  • Fabric-specific ink
  • A medium to transfer the ink to (typically clothing)

All you have to do is position your stencil over the material. You pour on some ink, then use a squeegee to remove all the excess. The remainder of the ink soaks into the clothing and dries in the form of your stencil.

The beauty of the process is that you can scale it up or down to your needs. Anyone can do it, and can produce hundreds of high-quality t-shirts over a single weekend. With the right screenprinting ideas, companies have been born.

The inclusion of metallic screenprinting ink adds new levels of quality to your product. Let's discuss the benefits and how you can add metallic screenprinting to your process.

What Is Metallic Screenprinting?

Many clothing designs use foil to achieve a metallic effect. You have to cut the foil into your desired shape, then adhere it to the clothing and apply heat.

It looks great, but requires a ton of work and adds a not insignificant cost to your manufacturing budget. For more simplicity and to achieve that same metal aesthetic, you can use metallic ink.

Metallic inks are exactly what they say they are: inks that mimic the reflective properties of shiny metals like gold and silver. Unlike foil, this is a non-reflective finish that conveys a more "expensive" look.

The ink is thicker, and often has a lot of glitter mixed in. It has a plastisol base, meaning that it is long-lasting once it cures.

Colors extend beyond your standard metallic gold screenprinting ink. All that matters is if your screen printing supply store supplies the specific tone you have in mind.

How Does It Work Compared to Normal Screen Printing?

The process is identical to your existing screen printing process. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind.

It's Not Ideal for Intricate Artwork

Metallic ink is more viscous, and struggles to get into nooks and crannies. Generally speaking, very intricate designs with a lot of complexity won't provide ideal results. 

Fortunately, there is nothing stopping you from using metallic inks in tandem with your existing designs. For example, having a metallic ink as accents on a normal ink background. 

It Can Feel Rubbery

This may be a disadvantage only in very specific situations. If you want t-shirts where the printed design is subtle and blends with the surrounding material, you may not like the feel of metallic inks. They leave a thick, tactile layer that is rubbery to the touch.

Granted, this ink will last a long time and hold up through multiple washes. But it will affect how the material looks and behaves, and therefore may not be the right choice for certain fashion items or trends.

Reasons You Should Choose Metallic Inks

There is little reason to not choose metallic inks. So let's discuss some of the reasons why you stand to benefit from including them.

It Adds an Hint of Luxury to Your Brand

We all know how much humans love the shimmer of silver and gold. For thousands of years, these have been the most desirable materials on the planet. Including them in your t-shirt design may make your brand seem higher class.

That said, do not overdo the metallic look. Designs that incorporate heavy usage can appear kitsch or cheap. It's best to use them to contribute to existing designs.

They Are Eye-Catching

If you are a startup with a t-shirt business, you know how difficult it is to get your brand out there. The most effective method of advertising is for customers to wear it everywhere they go in public. The more heads you can turn, the better.

Metallic inks draw the eye. All it takes is one flash of light off the ink to spot it in a crowd.

They Won't Put a Huge Dent in Your Budget

We mentioned foil earlier and how much more costly and time-consuming it is. Metallic inks, on the other hand, are close in price to other inks of the same quality. You get a similar foil-like effect at a budget price.

For someone who needs to keep their operation cheap, affordable materials are non-negotiable.

They Expand Your Design Options

Using metallic inks adds a new layer to your design game. As we've said before, this is an excellent time to experiment with a mix between metallic and nonmetallic inks. You can create stunning designs by sprinkling in a few restrained metallic ink accents.

Find All of Your Supplies at Holden's

Silkscreen printing allows just about anyone to make graphic t-shirts right out of their garage. Including metallic screen printing ink can make your designs more eye-popping without crippling your budget. They have very few  minor caveats, but work the same as your other plastisol inks.

At Holden's, we provide everything you need to begin your own screenprinting gig. Check out our selection of inks and much much more.