Water-based inks and specially-formulated soft plastisol bases are both products that will reduce the hand of the print on light garments. There are also print techniques that can help in this regard.
Try to minimize the amount of flash-white. If there is space on the carousel, increase the mesh count for your first white and consider using a highlight white as the last color. Thinner layers make the print much softer. Often, a white–flash–white–flash print order using a finer mesh has dramatic impact on the softness of the print and keeps the opacity of the colors.
Another trick to use on fibrous materials is a smoothing screen to “iron-out” and lay down the fabrics. Use any screen that has no open area and print any old base or clear you may have with a squeegee using moderate pressure. No ink is applied to the fabric, but this step lays down fibers and creates a smoother surface, eliminating the need for an extra print stroke.
A highly-effective way of softening the print on 100 percent cotton or reactive-dyed garments is to use discharge inks. Play around with using discharge as the first white and plastisol on top. This works well for many designs and the customers love the improvement in hand.
—Paul Edwards, PolyOne Wilflex Asia
Want tips to create a softer hand using heat transfers? Read more here.