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Screen Printing How To: Finding The Cure.

Posted by Rory Atton at

Yes! 

You have made an awesome print on your T-shirt or garment with a water based ink, you are super happy with it and want it to last for ever. 
Well to make sure this happen you need to "Cure" the print, not just dry it. 
In this blog we will cover the common ways to cure your print. 
Not all methods will be available to everyone so we will go into more detail in a later blog. 
 
What is curing? 
Curing is the chemical bonding process that happens when the Ink is heated to a certain temperature. The pigment in the ink bonds to the fabric and the water evaporates. When this has happened the ink will be permanent and wash fast. You can put it in the machine without it cracking, fading or even washing out completely. 
Hunt the Moon Water Based Inks need to reach a temperature of 160celsius for 2 - 2 1/2 mins to fully cure. 
At 150celsius the water will start to evaporate but not totally cure. It will feel touch dry but could still wash out and the print start to fade quickly. 
How do I cure my Print then? 
There a few ways of curing. Some better than others. 
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 relatively short times. 
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 one side and and the garment comes out the other side cured.  You may need to put items trough a couple of times depending on your heat and belt speed. This is the quickest and most effective method.
 
Little Buddy 2 at Hunt the Moon
Flash Driers
Flash driers can be used for full curing or "Flash drying" between layers. 
A large electric heating element is placed over the garment for the time required. Getting the temperature correct is more difficult with a flash drier. Not all of them have a thermostat that you can set the temperature on so you will need to adjust the height and test with your temperature gun. They are best used for touch drying the ink before making another pass with a second layer of ink or another colour on the print. 
(print, flash, print). 
However, flash dryers are commonly used to fully cure inks, especially in start-up set ups. 
Flash drying at Hunt the Moon Screen Printing
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.
Heat gun for touch drying ink at Hunt the Moon
Irons and hair driers
Iron are commonly used with Waterbased inks and Hunt the Moon inks will cure with an iron.  Always use an iron according to the temperature guide for the material you are using. It is best to let the ink air dry before using an iron and teflon sheet (or even greaseproof paper).
Hair driers rarely get hot enough to fully cure the ink. 
Not recommended is using the oven or a tumble drier. Tumble driers will not reach the correct temperature to cure and using an oven is just plain dangerous. (ignore youtube)
Infrared Temperature gun.
All of the above methods will benefit from the use of a temperature gun. 
These infrared thermometer guns will help you check that your ink is reaching the desired temperature to ensure curing. 
They are not expensive and will definitely help. 
TACKlife Infrared Thermometer at Hunt the Moon Screen Printing
If none of these are possible then you can always use a cold cure additive like the Versatex Ink Fixer.  This is a longer process but will make the garment wash-fast with out the need for heat. It can be used with most Waterbased inks but always test first. 
No need for the doctor.  Ink problems Cured!

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