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Plastisol inks are the preferred type of inks used in garment printing because they do not dry on the screen and are easy to print. In addition, they come in a variety of special effects and can be used as adhesives for caviar beads, flock and foil.
The basic recipe for plastisol inks is pretty simple. They are made of a mixture of a resin (typically a white powder) and a plasticizer (usually a clear, thick oily liquid). Pigments are then added for color, as well as other additives to give specific properties to the ink. I.e. additives such as a “blowing agent” make the ink puff up in the dryer; glitter or metal flakes may be added to create a shimmer or metallic ink. What makes one ink different from another is what type of ingredients are used and in what proportions.
Plastisol inks do not “dry” or cure at room temperature. Instead, the ink has to be heated to around 320º F. They can be printed on just about any surface that is porous and can withstand the heat to cure it.
Generally, plastisol inks do not contain solvents or volatile organic compounds, making them safe to use and handle with reasonable care. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s product data sheet for details about the particular ink you are using and the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for any safety precautions needed.
In the case of printing textiles (garments), the plastisol ink penetrates the fabric and creates a bond by attaching itself to the fibers. For nylon or non-woven fabrics, the ink needs a boost from a bonding agent in order for the plastisol to adhere.
—Kieth Stevens, International Coatings