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How to Prevent Ink Cracking: 4 Helpful Tips

You’ve created stunning designs and gone through the entire screen printing process with care, but you can’t seem to prevent the ink from cracking once the prints are complete. Not only can this affect the quality and longevity of the prints, but the cracks can take away from the visual appeal of the print as well. 

Ink cracking is a common problem that screen printers deal with, and it is to be expected to some degree, especially when you’re just starting out. However, there are some ways to help prevent cracking, which you can check out in the following tips and suggestions for high-quality and long-lasting prints. 


1. Choose the Right Ink and Additives

To set yourself up for success to avoid cracking, you need to select the correct ink for your project. If possible, select the ink that is best suited to the material you’re printing on, like cotton or polyester, as it’s specially formulated to bond with the specific fabric. This means it offers better flexibility to the design after it’s been printed, which can reduce the risk of cracking. 

In some cases, you may consider using additives to modify the properties of the ink for less cracking. This might include stretch additives or curable reducers, which can make the ink more elastic and easier to work with. 


2. Proper Curing and Drying

One of the biggest culprits for screen print cracking is that you’re not properly curing or drying the print. Luckily, since it’s such a common issue, it’s an easy thing to remedy by simply giving the print enough time to fully cure or dry before it gets worn or handled. 

For the best results, you’ll want to follow the curing or drying instructions provided by the ink manufacturer. This might involve a unique process like exposing the print to UV light or using a heat press for proper curing to occur. 

Following the recommended technique will help the ink create a secure bond with the material you’re printing onto. Otherwise, the print could become unstable and more prone to crack when the item is subject to stretching or other manipulation. 


3. Pay Attention to Ink Thickness

Be aware that the thickness of the ink layer you apply to the garment can significantly impact the risk of cracking. Different designs may call for different ink thicknesses. However, an ink layer that is too thick can become inflexible and more likely to crack. 

In general, a thin, even ink deposit is less prone to cracking, though it still can crack given the other variables we’ve discussed. This also requires screen printers to choose the proper screen mesh count for the ink they’re using and the design they’re creating. Plus, the more printers can fine-tune their techniques and master the proper squeegee pressure and angle for an even ink deposit, the less cracking they’ll notice in their designs. 


4. Test and Adjust

Each screen printing job you take on is completely unique, so keep in mind that many variables can impact the outcome of your prints. Aside from following the above suggestions, your best bet to prevent cracking is to test out different printing techniques, materials, inks, and curing processes to find what works best for you and make adjustments as needed. 

You will learn best from experience, so you should find the combination of factors that leave you with the highest-quality prints. Each time you’re trying out a new technique or product, make sure you test it out first to identify potential issues before you turn the work over to customers. 

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Exploring the Different Types of Squeegees: Which is Best for You?

There are a few key essentials for any screen printer–one of which is the squeegee. To newcomers, it may not seem like the choice of squeegee you use when printing can make a difference, though the truth is that it can largely impact how your designs turn out. To help you get the best results, let’s go over some of the main types of screen printing squeegees, their characteristics, and how you can select the right one for your next project. 


Understanding Durometer

When you’re browsing through the different types of squeegees available, one common word you might notice is durometer, which refers to the hardness of the squeegee blade. So, some squeegees will have a higher durometer, meaning they have a harder blade, and others will have a lower durometer, or a softer blade. This will directly affect the thickness of the ink deposit. 

Below are some of the main durometer levels you’ll find in squeegees, and what type of screen printing projects each is best suited for. 

50-60 durometer (soft): leaves the thickest ink deposit, so it’s good for high-density designs and lower mesh counts; can be better suited to water-based or specialty inks

70 durometer (medium): the most versatile and a go-to for many screen printers; can work with both fine detail and high-density prints

80-90 durometer (hard): leaves a minimal ink deposit, so it’s a good fit for higher mesh counts and more complex designs


Comparing Blade Shapes

Squeegee blades can come in a few different shapes, including: 

Round: These squeegees have a round profile and leave a thicker ink deposit

Square/straight: These have a flat profile, and are very versatile and widely-used

Beveled: These have an angled edge on one or both sides; they are best for precise and detailed prints


Different Materials

In addition to the shape and durometer of a squeegee, the blade and handle can both be made from a variety of materials. Traditionally, the blades were made from natural rubber. These types of squeegees are still used and are some of the cheapest available, however, they are known to absorb inks more than other materials and aren’t as long-lasting as some of the other options. 

Nowadays, some of the squeegee blades that are more widely used include those made from neoprene and polyurethane. Neoprene squeegees are in the middle of the road budget-wise and are more durable than rubber blades. 

On the higher end are polyurethane squeegee blades, which are the most durable you can find. Many professional screen printers like using neoprene or polyurethane squeegees because of how they can withstand long-term use. 

When it comes to the handle, there are a few common choices: wooden, aluminum, or plastic. Wooden handles tend to be the most comfortable to use, though they can be difficult to clean if they get ink or other substances on them. If you’re using a plastic or aluminum handle for better durability, consider finding one with an ergonomic handle for comfortable use. 


Which Squeegee is Best?

There is no squeegee option that is necessarily better than the others. It all comes down to your own personal preferences and the type of job you’re doing. Understand how your selection of squeegee will impact the final results of your prints, and choose accordingly. For this reason, you may want to have a number of different squeegees on hand to handle each of the different types of jobs you complete at your shop. 

5 Common Mistakes when Printing with Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink is one of the most common types of ink that screen printers use. Characterized by its vibrant colors and thicker consistency, plastisol ink tends to be quite forgiving, even for beginners. However, there are some common mistakes that people make when using plastisol ink that can detract from the overall appearance of the finished product. To help you master plastisol ink screen printing, check out the following common mistakes so you know what pitfalls to avoid.


1. Not Stirring Plastisol Ink

You should never use plastisol ink right off the shelf. Before use each time, make sure you thoroughly stir the ink to avoid any clumps or mushy consistency in your prints. Plastisol ink does tend to thicken while on the shelf, and the various components may even start to separate depending on how long the ink went unused. So, you’ll want to give it a good stir each time you use it so you have an even consistency. 

This typically isn’t just a quick stir, either. Depending on the exact shade of plastisol ink you’re using, you may want to use a drill to stir the ink for a few minutes before it’s ready. 


2. Not Reading the Instructions

Even if you’re a seasoned screen printer, you should consult the instructions for each brand of plastisol ink you use. Ink manufacturers may have different handling directions or instructions for their exact formulation of plastisol ink, which may differ from other brands you’ve used before. So, if you’re purchasing a new brand of plastisol ink, make sure you check the directions first to avoid making any costly mistakes. 


3. Not Using a Reducer

You might think that using an ink reducer will detract from the pigmentation of your plastisol ink, but this is not the case. Again, plastisol ink can get pretty thick when it’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. So, if stirring didn’t do the trick to give it a smooth, even consistency, you may need to add some reducer to it. 

Follow the instructions on the exact brand of reducer you’re using to ensure you’re thinning out the ink while still allowing it to provide good coverage. When used correctly, the reducer will help with the viscosity of the ink and make it easier to work with, but the opacity and pigmentation should remain the same for bold, vibrant prints. 


4. Not Cleaning Your Screens

If you plan on using the screen to make multiple prints, make sure you are properly cleaning the screens after use to avoid plastisol ink build-up on the screen. Thick, plastisol ink can accumulate on the screen over time, leading to poor print quality, smudging, or difficulty in achieving fine-line details. So, make sure you are thoroughly cleaning screens between use to prevent any of these printing mishaps from occurring.  When you clean your screens, make sure to use a screen opener for plastisol inks specifically for optimal results.


5. Keeping Your Shop Too Cold

In general, plastisol inks tend to work better when your shop is warm, as the platens in the ink heat up and give it a smoother consistency. As a result, you may not have to stir the inks as much and you can use them faster when they come off the shelf. 

Of course, there is a balance to creating an enjoyable work environment without overheating yourself. But, you’ll want to avoid a printing area that is blasting A/C all day if you want your plastisol inks to be easier to work with.

Best Practices for Creating Multi-Color Prints

Screen printers who create designs with multiple layers of colors can add depth and dimension to their prints. But, this is a more advanced technique that takes some practice to get right. Using color theory principles, the color combinations you use in prints can evoke certain emotions and elevate your designs, though you need to know how to utilize them properly together in order to get the best results. To create multi-color prints your customers will love, continue reading through the following best practices to set you up for success. 


Use Quality Inks

The quality of ink you use can make or break your multi-color designs. You want to use ink that is high-quality and suitable to the fabrics you’re using. Plus, they need to be able to layer effectively without bleeding or detracting from the look of the design. This will also enhance the longevity of the print and help it retain its look even after multiple wears and washes. 

You can use both plastisol inks and water-based inks for multi-color printing, you just need to select the proper ink type for the look you want to achieve. 


Choose the Right Screens

Screens with a higher mesh count will be better for designs that call for fine details, while lower mesh count screens are better for printing solid areas. One is not necessarily better than the other, but you need to make sure you are choosing the appropriate screens for your designs. Doing so will help you achieve the look you’re going for. 

With pre-burned screens from Arena, you can achieve stunning and progressive prints that your customers will appreciate. Durable and long-lasting, using pre-burned mesh screens not only result in higher-quality prints, but you’ll end up saving time and money too. 


Print in the Proper Order

When printing multi-color designs, you will need to create multiple layers and screens for your design, with each layer being dedicated to one distinct color. If possible, you should start with the lightest ink colors first, then the darker ink shades to prevent contamination. 


Understand Color Theory

It’s important to have a good understanding of color theory when you are creating multi-color screen print designs. As you layer the various colors, you may notice that they interact with each other in ways that you didn’t expect, giving you a different look than you anticipated. So, you should be aware of the color wheel, what colors complement each other, and how to play with contrast so you end up with visually pleasing multicolor prints that your customers will love. 


Be Patient

Between each ink layer, you need to ensure that you are letting the ink dry fully before you add the next layer. This will keep the lines in your design crisp and the different layers from bleeding into one another. Follow the guidelines of the ink manufacturer so you know how much time you’ll need to let the ink fully dry. 

If you’re just trying out multi-color prints for the first time, be open to trial and error until you find the right inks, methods, and order for printing. You may not nail it on the first try, but with practice, you will find your rhythm.

Color Theory for Screen Printers: Everything You Need to Know

As a screen printer, you want to create prints that are high quality and impress your clients. But, the results can depend on a few factors outside of choosing the right design and garment. If you’re not aware yet, color theory plays a big role in how your screen prints turn out, so it’s something that all screen printers need to be well-versed in. Continue reading below as we cover what color theory is and how it applies to screen printing. 


What Is Color Theory?

Before we talk about how it applies to screen printing, let’s review what color theory is. It is a set of rules and guidelines that covers how colors combine together, evoke emotion, and interact to create visually-appealing compositions. 


What Screen Printers Should Know About Color Theory

Understanding color theory will help you make good decisions about what color ink combinations to use in your prints. There are endless ways to interpret and analyze color theory as it applies to screen printing. But, here are some important concepts and tips so you can apply color theory in each of your client projects. 


The Color Wheel

Good screen printers have a clear knowledge of the color wheel and the types of color relationships it demonstrates–like the following: 

Primary: Red, blue, and yellow; cannot be created by mixing other colors, but are used in combination to create all other colors

Secondary: The colors created by mixing the primary colors, including green, purple, and orange

Tertiary: Formed by mixing a primary color with a secondary color, offering a variety of shades and color variations


Color Harmony

Understanding the color wheel helps printers grasp color harmony concepts like complementary, analogous, and triadic color schemes to create balance and visual appeal. 

Complementary colors: Colors that are located on opposite sides of the color wheel (green and pink), which create contrast when used together

Analogous colors: Colors that are adjacent on the color wheel (orange, yellow, red) that create harmony when used together

Triadic colors: Three colors that are equidistant apart on the color wheel (orange, purple, green) to add more dimension to designs but still look harmonious


Color Temperature

Screen printers should also be aware of the difference between warm and cool colors when creating their prints. Some common examples of warm colors include shades like orange, red, and yellow, which are known for evoking energy and passion. On the other hand, cool colors like green, purple, and blue are more calming. 

This taps into the psychology of colors, or the emotional associations that we have with certain colors to evoke specific feelings and moods in design. 


Color Mixing

A very important concept that screen printers need to know is how to mix ink colors appropriately to achieve the desired effect that meets client preferences. It can take some trial and error to understand how mixing different pigments and colors together can affect the end result–and how to do so consistently. However, this is a crucial part of creating custom designs that clients love. 


Substrate Variety

Specific to screen printers, colors can appear differently when they are printed on different substrates. In other words, the green ink you use to print a design on a black cotton t-shirt may appear differently than when you use the same green ink to print on a black vinyl tote. Screen printers should be aware of these possible variations and make adjustments to the ink colors accordingly to get the desired effect.



The Ultimate Screen Printer’s Checklist: 5 Must-Haves

When it comes to printing custom clothing, bags, and other items, having the right screen printing tools is a surefire way to achieve quality designs that your customers will love. If you want to best set yourself up for success with screen printing, make sure you have the following items ready. 


Pre-Burned Screens

Any skilled screen printer knows that using pre-burned screens is the way to cleaner, crisper-looking prints. No matter what type of garment, fabric, or ink you’re using, pre-burned screens allow screen printers to create more complex and advanced designs like gradients, half-tones, tiny prints, and fine lines. 

Customers will be able to tell the difference between prints that were made with conventional designs and ones that were made with pre-burned screens. All in all, the quality of your prints will be noticeably better with pre-burned screens. You can find pre-burned screens in a variety of sizes right here at Arena Prints



As a screen printer, your squeegees are an important tool that will see a lot of action. They are what you use to pull inks across the surface of your screen and onto the garments. You’ll probably want to have a few squeegees on hand in a variety of hardness levels and blade sizes to pair with different ink viscosities and designs. Plus, make sure you’re buying squeegees that have ergonomic handles for comfortable use since you’ll be using them so frequently. 


Inks & Stir Sticks

The inks you use are what bring your screen printing designs to life. The two main types of inks you can choose from are water-based inks and plastisol inks. They each come with their own properties and appeals, so screen printers can use their own personal preferences to decide on which to use. 

Whichever type of ink you choose, make sure you’re using a high-quality brand that will result in long-lasting prints. Don’t forget to have wooden stir sticks stocked to ensure your inks are well-mixed and ready to use. 


Screen Cleaner

Part of maintaining the quality of your screens is cleaning them properly after each use. Doing so will lead to consistent prints and long-lasting screens. So, make sure you are thoroughly removing any remaining ink residue from your screens to keep them in great condition and ready for future use. 

When you’re using plastisol inks, you can use the Camie 480 Screen Opener and a paper towel to wipe away excess ink and keep your screen in optimal condition. This screen opener is the recommended option for Arena pre-burned screens, and will quickly work to keep your screens from plugging up. Plus, it isn’t a harsh compound that will damage the delicate mesh in your screens. 


Painter’s Tape

With the right painter’s tape, you can achieve precision and clean edges with all your prints. For multi-color prints, you can use painter’s tape to mask off areas of the screen that you will be printing in a different color. Having quality painter’s tape in your screen printing arsenal will help you create designs exactly how you envisioned them.