The inks

They are water-based and non-toxic. They contain no CFCs, HCFCs, PVCs, phthalates, volatile solvents, aromatic hydrocarbons, lead, or other heavy metals. They surpassed Oekotex Class 1 standard by 60% and are approved for intimate and baby apparel. They can be washed, dry cleaned, and ironed. While plastisol is still the industry-standard ink and may be improving in the environmentally-friendly scale, it’s my belief they still don’t touch this ink! There is (somehow) some controversy over whether or not water-based inks are safer for the environment. There is no doubt though that the chemicals used to clean up after use are nicer than most available for plastisol, including soy- and citrus-based products, and most especially: water! The screens were generally wiped clean with scrap cloth and water only, and the rags left to dry for use again. Practically zero ink ever saw a drain in my process. A bit difficult to work with as they dry in the screen quickly, but worth it, and many printing companies will charge you extra to use this type of ink. The frames I used utilize mechanical methods to attach the mesh to the screen, instead of the more traditional glue that requires a solvent to remove the mesh for replacement when needed.

The printing process

Screens are coated with a light-sensitive emulsion and a transparency of the image is placed on top. Typically the images are “burned” into the screens using an exposure unit. I used a halogen bulb at first, which is what supply companies market as a lower-end price option. Metal halide bulbs and units, which more closely mimic the sun’s output and are professional grade, can be quite large, expensive, and of course run on electricity. Halogen lights, it turns out, do not even emit the proper spectrum of light required for the emulsion to fully cross-link and form a strong stencil. You can wait and wait and not achieve it. It strikes me as funny that we spend so much time and money to mimic the sun. Instead, I chose to use it. All of my screens were exposed in the sunlight for very little time, and the difference from halogen is immediately apparent. It’s night and day! Admittedly, this was an imperfect science and at times frustrating due to cloudy days.

 

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