What are water based inks?

Water based inks are inks that use water as their main solvent; not all water based inks are equally eco-friendly though. Our inks do not contain the harmful chemicals found in many commercially used inks. You can read more about our super-eco-friendly inks here.

What type of fabric printing inks do you use?

We only use the Permaset Aqua fabric inks, made by Colormaker Industries. They’re formulated to be eco-friendly and don’t contain harmful ingredients contained in plastisol inks and discharge inks. They’re more eco-friendly than other water based inks too, as many water based inks contain white spirit. The Permaset Aqua inks come in two ranges, with different properties. The Texiscreen Permatone inks are made for printing colours and dark tones onto white or lighter garments.  They soak into the fabric and give bright, vibrant prints with a very soft handle. After a wash, you can barely feel the inks at all. The Supercover inks are thicker, opaque inks that sit more on the top of the fabric. We use these for printing light colours onto coloured garments. We can print one or two coats of ink, depending on the look you’re after.

Should I have one coat of ink or two?

We almost always print one coat of ink when printing dark ink onto lighter garments. However, if your print has a light coloured ink and you are printing onto a darker garment, you have a choice. Two coats of ink is very opaque and but feels stiffer (although not rubbery like plastisol inks). One coat of ink is less opaque but feels softer to the touch. One coat is nice on prints with a larger surface area, as it still feels relatively soft.

What type of paper printing inks do you use?

We use the Permaprint range of inks by Colormaker Industries. They’re high quality water-based inks and we can use these inks to print onto paper, as well as other substrates like wood or plastic. These inks are extremely durable and are even used to print wallpaper by a homeware company in Australia. We have metallic inks, glow inks and can mix pretty match any colour. We also have extender, which we can use to make more translucent colours for overlayed printing.

How durable are the inks? Can my garment be washed?

The inks that we use are high quality and durable.  The inks wash fine at 40oC and should last the lifetime of the garment, with no significant fading.  We would recommend ironing from the other side only and not to risk a tumble dryer!

So why doesn’t everyone use water-based inks?

Water based inks can be difficult to use. They air dry and can clog up the screen during printing. It takes a bit of getting used to but it’s worth it. Traditionally water based inks were not as hard-wearing and durable as plastisol inks and weren’t as opaque – but things are different now.

How does screen printing work?

A screen is created for every colour of each print. The image is first separated into its individual colour elements (usually using Photoshop). Once separated, each colour element of the design is changed to black and printed out onto separate sheets of clear film at actual print size.

Each screen comprises mesh stretched over a wooden or aluminium frame. The mesh is coated with a UV-sensitive emulsion and left overnight in the dark to dry.

The film is then taped to the front of a screen and the screen placed face-down onto a vacuum UV light box. The screen is then exposed to UV light for a short time. Where the UV hits the screen, the emulsion changes its composition and crosslinks it together. Where the design on the acetate prevents the UV light from reaching the emulsion on the screen it does not crosslink. After exposure the screen is washed and the non-exposed emulsion washes away, leaving a stencil of the design behind.

For textile printing, the screens are attached to the arms of our printing carousel and garments are attached to the platen boards underneath. A multicolour design requires multiple screens (one for each colour) but, after careful registration, the different colour prints from these screens should fit together perfectly to reproduce the original design. A squeegee is then used to press ink through the mesh stencil onto the fabric. Prior to printing and after each colour the T-shirt must be heated under a heater to permanently dry or cure the ink to the fabric.

For paper printing, we print all sheets with the first colour and then allow them to air dry before lining them up for the second and subsequent screens and colours.

How should I provide my artwork?

Please email your artwork to us. See Artwork Guidelines for more details. We also have Artwork Templates that you can work from if you are printing onto garments.

What is colour separation?

For screen printing, every colour is printed separately.  The artwork has to be split into its constituent colours so that a screen can be made for each colour.  Each ink colour is then pressed through its screen.

How can I perform colour separation?

We would usually do this for you.  If there are a lot of similar tones, it may be easier if you can send a layered file, so that it’s easy to distinguish between the colours.

How many colours can I have in my design?

For paper printing you can in theory have any number of colours. However, a screen has to be prepared for every colour and it can become very expensive. We have never printed more than eight colours. For textile printing we use a four-station carousel and can print up to four colours.

Is it possible to print over seams?

We can print over seams but we prefer not to, as print quality is affected if the print area is not completely flat. We don’t generally print right up to seams or hems for the same reason.

When should a high resolution (90T) screen be used?

We use different resolution screens for paper printing and for textile printing.  For paper printing we usually use 90T (90 threads per cm) screens, and occasionally 120T screens for very fine detail and thinner ink coverage.  For textile prints we usually use 43T screens but also use 55T and 62T screens for very fine detail, printing onto a layer of ink and for CMYK prints.  Don’t worry about this though – it’s our job to choose the best screen resolution for the job.  Bear in mind, though, that you cannot use the same screen for printing onto paper and textiles.

Is it possible to screen print a photographic image?

We can print photographic images using process colours, recreating the image as a series of dots in CMYK. Some images work better than others so it’s best to email us the image for further advice.

Can you screen print images with shading?

For screen printing we can only print one colour per screen. However, a shaded image can be recreated as a halftone (a series of dots like old newspaper prints).  This works well for high contrast images but not so well for subtle shades and large areas of one shade. If you have an image and you’d like us to advise as to whether it would be suitable for printing in this way, please email us.

How can an image that has shaded areas be altered for screen printing?

The image has to be bitmapped and a half tone created. This is generally done in Photoshop. We can offer advice, and do this for you, if you don’t know how.

Can you create a distressed, vintage look?

Yes. The original artwork is altered to look distressed. We recommend one coat of ink, rather than two. You can request that we add some extender in the print to make it a bit more translucent, if you want your print to look slightly faded. We can supply EarthPositive vintage T-shirts, which work particularly well with a vintage-look print.

Can I supply my own garments?

Yes, you can but we charge 25p per garment handling fee.

How do I specify what colour I want?

You can choose from one of our ‘standard colours’ or, if there’s a specific colours that you’d like us to match please specify a pantone reference or send a hard copy.  Alternatively, we can match the ink colour to your artwork on the computer screen, but this will not be an exact match.

Will the garments shrink in the wash?

The garments comply with the general performance standards in the clothing retail industry. Some shrinkage and twisting may occur after washing but will stay within the acceptable limits for dimensional stability performance. To minimize shrinking and twisting, it is recommended that the wash temperature does not exceed 40C in a standard or delicate washing cycle, and the garments are reshaped before drying on a line or flat. Hot washes and tumble drying is likely to affect the dimensional stability of the garments and may also cause fading of colour. For the sake of protecting the environment, we say: wash at 30C or below, do not tumble dry, line dry and only iron when necessary.

Do the T-shirts have any labels or tags?

EarthPositive garments have a back neck label with size, the EarthPositive “Tick” symbol and the wording “Climate Neutral”. The inside wash/care label has the EP and low carbon logos. Salvage garments have a back neck label with size, the Salvage “Links” symbol and the wording “100% Recycled”. The inside wash/care label has the Salvage logo and certification marks. Continental garments have a plain size label in the back neck and a logo on the inside wash/care label. All the wash/care labels carry the FWF symbol except the products made in China.  You can see photos of all the labels here.

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