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Real Talk: Watercolor

Real Talk: Watercolor
March 6 2018
Let's talk Watercolor!  This is not a water-based ink.  It feels like a water-based ink.  It looks like a water-based ink.  Not water-based.  It's plastisol just like every other ink we manufacture.  Watercolor does not behave like a plastisol.  It purposefully "wicks" into the fabric which provides a soft hand feel and a water-based appearance.  This is perfect for those wanting a fashion/vintage appearance or those who are willing to print with a discharge base to "bleach" out the fabric.  I will touch on this more later.  Regardless, Watercolor is your go-to ink for printing tri-blends, ring spun cotton, and any other premium cotton or cotton/blend fabric.  The print can only be as soft as the fabric allows.  This should steer you away from inexpensive, rough 50/50 tees. 

So how about all of the benefits of Watercolor over water-based ink?  If you have printed with water-based ink, you know the drawbacks.  From my experience, water-based ink will dry in the screen, break down emulsion, and requires excessive dryer heat including forced air.  I don't want to deal with this.  Not my cup of tea.  Let’s not forget that water-based ink is not some eco-friendly ink as most people think.  You can clean it up with water.  That’s the one healthy feature.  This does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling as I can clean Watercolor with Franmar Bean-e-doo which is a soybean cleaner.  It's safe.  It's effective.  The extra energy required to cure water-based ink when compared to our Watercolor certainly increases your carbon footprint.  Watercolor is easy to work with, even through fine mesh counts.  It is plastisol so it will not break down emulsion.  It is more opaque compared to regular water-based inks.  Basically, if you are screen printing with water-based inks, you need to switch to Watercolor!

Watercolor in production is quick, easy, and effective.  If you enjoy the simplicity of wet-on-wet screen printing, you need this ink.  There is no need to flash cure Watercolor as it won't stick to the back of the next screen.  It's special viscosity prevents this and you will see extremely minimal pick-up, never causing a production problem. 

Robb, how do you print this stuff?  Try a 196 to 230 screen mesh for super-soft feels.  Use a hard squeegee.  80 durometer is the way to go.  Triple durometer is also nice, especially if you are printing on an automatic press.  Just flood the screen and pull the squeegee once.  Done.  No flashing.  No underbase unless it is a discharge ink.  Just let it soak into that soft fabric and look amazing.

Side Note:  Did you know that Watercolor is opaque enough to become your general purpose ink?  If you are working with one of our competitor's general purpose inks such as union Ultrasoft or Wilflex Genesis, Watercolor will often have much better opacity.  This will vary by color.  Add the wet-on-wet screen printing properties I discussed earlier and Watercolor is far superior. 

More Side Note:  We have trial kits!  You know you want one.  Each kit has six colors of Watercolor, an Originals color book, set #5 Thermolabels, and a few ring spun cotton tees to print. 


Robb Mears
Director of Product Development


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