Puff Ink: Using Puff Screen Printing Inks

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ThE Skinny

Puff ink is a screen printing ink additive that once heat is applied to the ink, it slightly raises from the t shirt like a freshly baked loaf of bread. When designing a shirt you have more options than just art and color - you can also add depth to that list. It creates a new dimension and are a great way to add some depth to your design.

ThE Deets

Minimum: 36 pieces

Design Thickness: The design cannot be too thin otherwise the puff affects will be unnoticeable. 

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How It's Done

Puff Ink is an under utilized way of creating a print that is unique and that can add nice depth to a t shirts design. Normally, when designers think of creating a shirt they think in 2 dimensions - what colors to use, what shapes, what sizes etc. They rarely think about the actual depth of the shirt. Puff ink creates a thickness to a design which can make a simple design pop.

Like with most any type of screen printing, it all begins in the screen room. Using the right mesh for puff ink is key. We recommend anywhere from a 60 mesh to a 90 or 110 mesh. Remember, the lower the mesh count the more open the holes are in the screen which translates to more ink deposit. The more ink deposit will result in more additive and more "puff" to your print. As always, make sure you use a screen with good tension, is clean, and was properly coated and dried.

The additive we chose to use here is Rutland NPT puff. It can be added at a 5%-15% ratio to regular inks. The amount of additive will also determine how much the ink will rise during production.

It is best practive to measure how much additive you are putting by weight to get the proper percentages. For our example print, of course we went with a nice bright green. It is important to properly mix the ink and additive together. It also helps to mix inks before printing to "warm up" the inks and get its juices flowing.

Once the job is set up on the press we ink the screens. For the first test print there is no need to dump too much ink on to the screen. This way, if we feel like we need to add more additive, or reduce the formula, we can take the ink off the screen easily and make our adjustments, then re-add the ink to the screen.

Get a few test prints in and once the settings are locked in production can start.

A shirt is loaded on the press. We decided to go with pink as it actually meshes really nice with the bright green. 

Notice the ink in the print above has no depth. The additive in the ink does not start to work until the print is dried. After it goes through the conveyor dryer the ink will start to rise up from the shirt like a loaf a bread baking in the oven. 

You can see the ink rise as it comes through the dryer.

Here is the final product. When placed flat you can definitely see the rise of the print. The effect should last through the wash though it is a little more prone to cracking. The best way to prevent this is to wash the shirts inside out and hang dry. 

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