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Does your white screen printing ink crack? I've had this happen to me on soft, stretchy shirts. When you pull on the fabric, you notice that the ink cracks.
Over they years, I've shared a few work arounds to this problem, but I’ve never found the perfect solution. Until now…that is.
Meet Comet White screen printing ink (available at screenprinting.com).
Choosing Water Based Screen Printing Ink
As an at-home screen printer, using an ink that is safe and easy to clean up has always been important to me. That's why I've always been a big fan of Speedball water based fabric inks. You can safely wash your screens in the kitchen sink or clean up a spill on your rug.
Water based inks are very easy to mix – which means you can create new colors to work with. I have shared my mixing recipes in these guides.
I also love that water based inks soak into the fibers of a t-shirt leaving a soft feel. Plastisol, an alternative to water based ink, sits on top of the fabric. Pastisol ink leaves more of a “feel,” similar to iron-on vinyl (HTV).
My main reason for switching to screen printing over HTV was to get a softer feeling design on my shirts – which is why water based inks are my preference.
Speedball White Inks vs. Green Galaxy Comet White
Both Speedball Fabric inks and Green Galaxy inks are water based. So how do they compare?
Speedball's regular white fabric ink is thicker and does tend to crack which is why it is my go-to ink for a vintage look. I love to embrace the cracking that the Speedball regular white typically creates.
If you are looking for a crisp, white print, in the past, I've always used Speedball opaque ink.
Speedball opaque ink has a shimmery quality to it. It's consistency is similar to the black Speedball ink which allows you to coat it on in thin layers.
With my screen printing press and heat gun, I've been able to use Speedball opaque ink with moderate success. You can learn more about my techniques here. It has always been a balance of getting enough ink to cover the dark shirt but not so much ink that it will crack.
While this has worked okay for me in the past, I've been on a mission to find a better solution for those of you who want a bright white ink that doesn't crack. I'm excited to report that I've found it with Comet White (available at screenprinting.com).
Comet White screen printing ink from screenprinting.com is the perfect consistency to appear bright white, even on dark t-shirts. Plus, it doesn't crack!
Believe me, I know because I’ve put it to the test. I’ve printed a ton a t-shirts with this ink using my screen printing with vinyl method. I’ve washed these shirts. I’ve dried them. I’ve stretched and pulled on them.
This ink holds up – with no cracking! Even on soft, stretchy shirts like Bella + Canvas, this ink stretches right along with the fabric. It's amazing!
Screen Printing with a Press
When screen printing white ink, it is extremely helpful to have a 1-color screen printing press. I recently reviewed 2 popular options when it comes to screen printing presses. You can read about the screen printing press here.
With your screen printing press, squeegee one coat of ink over your screen. Lift the frame and check your ink coverage. Using a heat gun, quickly dry the ink on the shirt.
Once it is dry to the touch, pull your screen back down and add another coat of white ink on top. This should result in a nice bright white ink coverage.
TIP: It's helpful to flood your screen before you use the heat gun. This will keep the ink from drying in your screen.
If you are new to screen printing, you can try screen printing without a screen printing press. Just keep in mind that your white coverage may not be as bright as the method using a screen printing press. Try out screen printing with other colors first. If you love the process and plan to make lots of shirts, a 1 color screen printing press is a great investment.
Be sure to read my article: Which 1-Color Screen Printing Press Should I Buy?
Heat Setting Comet White Ink
Another reason I love screen printing with water based inks is the ability to cure the ink without the need for large, industrial machines. Similar to Speedball inks, Comet White must be heat set in order to hold up in the wash.
The best practice for curing Comet White ink is to start by drying the ink with a heat gun. You want to get all of the moisture out of the ink before you can do a final cure with your heat press. The amount of time you use the heat gun will depend on your environment (meaning how humid or dry it already is). For me, 1-2 minutes with my heat gun (moving constantly over the design) has worked great.
Then you will immediately heat press to cure (with light pressure and a Teflon sheet) at 320 degrees for 40 seconds.
After curing the ink, if it still feels sticky, your ink has not properly cured. Make sure to heat the ink soon after you finish print for best results.
Watch Me Use Comet White Ink
If you are planning to sell your shirts and you want a quality white design that is going to hold up well, screen printing with Comet white is going to give you that professional print.