The majority of screen print ink used for apparel printing can be used straight out of the bucket, but in order to get the best overall look, feel, & ease of printing on the press one or multiple ink additives should be added to the ink. There are around a handful of plastisol screen print ink additives that will help an ink perform at its highest potential. The most common screen print ink additives are: soft hand fashion base, stretch additive, puff, thickening powder, & viscosity reducer. The most experienced print shops will typically add one or multiple additives to an ink to allow it to perform great on the press when it is printed and on the finished product as far as feel and durability.
Viscosity Reducer is used to make a plastisol screen print ink thinner and thus easier to print on the press.
Thickening Powder is used to make a plastisol screen print ink thicker to help increase opacity.
Fashion Soft Hand Base is used to make a plastisol screen print ink have a softer feel on the finished product and help the ink become creamier and thus easier to print with.
Stretch Additive is used to make a plastisol screen print ink have more stretchability which helps with durability through washing. Stretch additive is typically always used in low-temp performance based inks as the print needs to have as much stretch capabilities as possible.
Puff Additive is used to make a plastisol screen print ink have a 3-dimensional look and feel on a finished product after it has been ran through a conveyor dryer.
Ink additives cost very little compared to the outcome of how a plastisol ink will perform on press and on the final product (opacity and feel). While most ink manufactures all sell the same types of additives we have found that certain manufacturers often specialize in some additives more than others. So it is always a good idea to test multiple brands of the same type of additive to find the one that works best with your line of screen print inks.
When mixing an additive with an ink it should be done by weight and it is very important to not add too much of an additive as it can create a chemical imbalance that will cause the ink to not have the ability to fully cure, which is the worst possible problem. So it’s always a good idea to start at the lower end of the suggested % amount as its easy to add more, but not really possible to remove what has already been mixed with ink. Always check the additive’s directions as far as how much % weight can be mixed with ink and use a high quality scale that can measure to the hundredths of a gram.