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.