Screen Printing:

Why Low-Cure Plastisol Screen-Printing Inks Are Necessary

If you as an apparel decorator aren't utilizing low-cure plastisol for your screen printing, you may be missing out

By Taylor Landesman, Contributing Writer

March 11, 2019

Having the right screen-printing supplies is important for all screen-printing business. One of the best supply items you can have is low-cure plastisol inks. Non-cotton fabrics, such as polyester and other synthetic performance and moisture-wicking materials are growing in popularity. While they are popular with customers, screen printers quickly realized that these materials are prone to dye-migration, also known as bleeding (the shirt color coming through the screen print ink).

The Screen Printing Problem of Dye-Migration and Bleeding

The screen print challenge many printers face is that these synthetic fabrics are not “dye-stable.” When the t-shirt or garment is not dye-stable, a chemical reaction called sublimation occurs. When heat is applied, the dyes in the shirt become a gas and start to evaporate from within the fibers of the shirt. For screen printing specifically, this occurs during the ink curing and drying process. The result is what the screen printing industry calls “bleeding.” Two classic examples of this are when white ink turns pink on red garments and a white print becomes grey on black garments.

These synthetic, heat-sensitive fiber garments begin to “gas-out” at temperatures typically ranging from 295°- 330°F. The problem screen printers face is that standard plastisol ink cures right around 320°F. This puts the garment directly in the “bleeding zone.”

The Screen Printing Troubleshooting Answer to Dye-Migration and Bleeding is Low-Cure Inks

To solve the dye-migration and bleeding problem, it is important to use low cure screen printing inks. Doing so will allow you to set your conveyor heat tunnel to a temperature below the dye-migration and bleed temperatures. Include low cure screen print inks that dry around 280°F during your next screen printing supply order. Doing so will let you successfully screen print on polyester, 50/50 and other dye-migration/bleed prone t-shirts and garments.

Article updated Oct. 30, 2023