How to Heat Cure Screen Printing Inks

Why Heat Cure? ♨️

Heat curing involves applying heat to the printed design to help it dry and cure, making it more durable and long-lasting. The process of curing is heating the ink on the garment until the pigment makes a chemical bond to the fibres of the fabric and the water evaporates away.

So, to ensure your new printed garment stands the test of time and can wear it over and over again you will need to "Cure" the print. 

The results? You can put it in the machine without it cracking, fading or even washing out completely - making this step crucial within screen printing.

Below we cover several ways to carry out this process:

Heat Curing with Eco Hunt The Moon Waterbased Inks

This guide will specifically cover how to heat cure with our Hunt the Moon Water-Based Inks. Each brand of ink will vary in terms of temperature but in this case, we recommend reaching a temperature of 160°C for 2 - 2 1/2 minutes to fully cure. 

At 150°C the water will start to evaporate but not totally cure. It will feel dry on the touch but could still wash out and the print will start to fade quickly. 

Option 1: Drying Tunnel

This is the best way of drying T-Shirts and other garments. Tunnel driers offer even heat application so you don't get parts of the print not curing. You can dry good quantities of garments in a relatively short time. 

Tunnel driers have a conveyer belt with a heated oven on the top. There's a variety out there that work on electric or gas. Load them on one side and the garment comes out the other side cured. You may need to put items through a couple of times depending on your heat and belt speed. This is the quickest and most effective method.

Option 2: Heat Press

Heat presses are a great way to cure water-based prints in a non-commercial setting. Let your print air dry first. Set your heat press to the desired temperature and time. For our Hunt the Moon Inks, we use 160°C for 2- 3 minutes.

After that simply pop down your Teflon sheet (or brown paper)over your print and close the press! As always, Wash test your prints to see if they have cured or not. 

Pick up a Heat Press

Option 3: Irons

A regular go-to for most, an iron is a great method to heat cure at home. Be sure to check the temperature guide specific to the material you are using.

It is best to let the ink air dry before using an iron and a Teflon sheet (or even greaseproof paper).

You can read a full blog on this step here.

Option 4: Heat Gun

Heat guns can be used with some care for small prints or touch-drying small areas of print. As they can only cover a small area at one time they are not ideal for use on large prints or covering an area of ink evenly. While you are heating one area the rest of the print will be cooling down so may not cure but they are relatively cheap and with experience you can get the desired finish. In many parts of the world heat guns are common place for curing inks. It's a great place to start and easy to use.

Measure the heat ♨️📏

We recommend when heat curing using Infrared Temperature Guns -these will help you ensure that your ink is reaching the desired temperature to ensure a correct cure. They are not expensive and will definitely help. 

Extra Tips ✨

Another solution to curing is using a cold cure additive.

This is a liquid catalyst that will help cure your ink with out the need for heat. It does take longer as the ink will need to air dry naturally.

Its will also speed up the drying time of ink in your screen so mix what you need as you go!

Things we'd avoid

We're often asked about using a Hairdryer, but rarely. they don't tend to get hot enough to fully cure the ink. 

We highly avoid using the oven or a tumble drier. Tumble driers will not reach the correct temperature to cure and using an oven is just dangerous.