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How to heat set speedball fabric inkLast week, I shared a tutorial explaining how to heat set Speedball Fabric Ink using an Easy Press 2 from Cricut. Many of you asked if there were other ways to heat set the ink to make it permanent and washable.  While I had heard of many different ways to heat set ink, I wanted to test them out before giving any recommendations.  What better way than to do a little heat setting experiment of my own!

The Heat Setting Experiment

To start this experiment, I screen printed the same design on 6 tea towels using Speedball black fabric ink.  After allowing them all to dry overnight, I used a different method of heat setting for each towel. Keep reading to find out how each method held up after going through the wash a couple of times.

6 ways to heat set screen printing ink water based

  1. Heat Press
  2. Easy Press 2
  3. Basic Household Iron
  4. Clothes Dryer
  5. Kitchen Oven
  6. Heat Gun

The Results

The “before” picture shows the dry ink – before the towel went through the wash.  The “after” shows the same towel – after it was washed twice.

1 : Heat Press

Heat set screen printing with heat press
The heat press is one of my favorite craft tools. After years of HTV, I now use the heat press in a different way… to heat set screen printing ink.  I love using the heat press because I can fit my entire design under the heat. This means just one 40 second press and I’m ready to press my next item.

PROCEDURE: Set heat press to 320 degrees and press for 40 seconds. That’s it… it can now go in the wash.

✅ RESULT: After washing the towel twice, the ink did not fade.

2 : Easy Press 2

Heat set screen printing easy press 2

If you are a Cricut fan, you may have the Easy Press 2. This is a great way to heat press shirts. I have 2 different sizes – the smaller one works great for smaller projects or pocket designs and the larger Easy Press 2 is perfect for large designs.

PROCEDURE: Set Easy Press 2 to 320 degrees and press for 40 seconds. Repeat the process (if necessary) until you have applied heat to your entire design.  That’s it… it can now go in the wash.

✅ RESULT: After washing the towel twice, the ink did not fade.

3 : Basic Household Iron

Heat set screen printing with iron

Not ready to invest in a Heat Press or Easy Press 2?  You can start screen printing with a basic household iron. If your iron doesn’t cover your entire design, you’ll need to move your iron around the design to ensure every part is heated.

PROCEDURE:  Set iron on cotton setting (or match your material). Cover the design with parchment paper and iron over the entire design for 3-5 minutes, moving the iron constantly.

✅ RESULT: After washing the towel twice, the ink did not fade.

4 : Dryer

Can you heat set screen printing in in dryer

I had always heard that you can heat set in the dryer but I hadn’t tried it until this experiment. It seems like a convenient method if you are doing a large quantity of shirts, so I wanted to give it a shot.

PROCEDURE: After allowing the ink to air dry overnight, I put the towel directly in my household dryer on high heat for a timed dry of 40 minutes.  After heating the towel in the dryer for one 40 minute cycle, I did the wash test.

❌ RESULT: After washing the towel once, I noticed some fading. After the second time in the wash, it faded substantially. I believe this method could work with longer time in the dyer. However, more than 40 minutes in the dryer didn’t seem very practical to me so I didn’t try this test again.  If you plan to try this method, you definitely want to heat set in the dryer longer than 40 minutes.

5 : Kitchen Oven

Heat set screen printing with oven

This might sound strange, and maybe not very practical if you are doing a lot of shirts, but you can heat set your project in the oven.  I put the towel on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to keep the towel from touching the bottom of the oven and burning.

PROCEDURE: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the towel in the oven and immediately turn off the heat. Allow it to stay in oven for 10 minutes.

✅ RESULT: After washing the towel twice, the ink did not fade.

6 : Heat Gun

Heat set screen printing with heat gun

I purchased a heat gun to speed up the ink drying process when using my screen printing press. I wanted to experiment to see if I could heat set the ink with the heat gun as well.  While it did work, there was one spot that I got a little too close to the material and it started to burn.  If you look close, you’ll see some faint burn marks on the white material around the “est 2005” part of the design. This could be prevented by keeping the heat gun a little further away from the material and moving it around constantly (like a hair dryer).

PROCEDURE: Set heat gun to high heat setting and move back and forth over design for 1-2 minutes, about 4-5 inches away from the material. Be sure not to leave the heat gun in one place too long or it will burn your material!

✅ RESULT: After washing the towel twice, the ink did not fade.

Conclusion

I’m excited to report that you can use a heat press, Easy Press 2, household iron, oven, or heat gun to get good results with your Speedball Fabric ink.  My method of choice will still be the heat press or Easy Press 2 because they are the quickest. It’s also helpful that I can ensure even heat over the entire design in just one press.

If you are screen printing at home or just starting your small business, you may not be ready to add extra equipment like the Easy Press 2 or a standard heat press.  If that’s the case, try your iron or oven!

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