How to Cure Plastisol Ink

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Plastisol ink is the go-to ink when screen printing on fibers. It is used by beginners and commercial screen printers alike. It is an easy ink to work with because it contains no solvent, so the ink will not dry without extreme heat being applied to it. This means that to finish a project, you must cure the ink. For a complete cure, the ink must reach 290-330 degrees F. This is a process best completed with a belt dryer, but many DIY screen printers have found ways of curing plastisol ink without spending loads of money on a dryer.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastisol ink
  • Uncured project
  • Temperature test strips
  • Belt dryer or flash cure unit
  • Ethyl acetate or washing machine
  • Read the curing information on your ink jar. Because each ink is different, this information will give you basic times and temperatures to begin curing. Determine at which temperature and speed to cure your project and set your belt dryer to these numbers. Alternatively, set your flash curing unit to the highest temperature setting. Your substrate should be in or under a curing device for roughly 30 seconds.

  • Remove your uncured project from the press and tape a temperature test strip to the inside of the substrate, where the ink meets the fabric. Transfer it to the conveyor belt dryer. The substrate should be ink-side up and laid out flat. If you are using a flash cure unit, keep the substrate on the press or move it to a flat, hard surface to open up a press space. Use a temperature test strip for flash curing as well.

  • Check the temperature test strip to see if the ink has reached the fusion temperature indicated by the ink jar (usually around 300 degrees F). Fusion temperature refers to the point of the ink being fully cured.

    If you are using a flash cure unit, you will need to cure the ink manually. Do this by holding the unit 2 to 3 inches over the garment for 20 to 30 seconds for a full cure. Check the temperature test strip to determine if the cure is complete.

  • Test your cure. Use a washing machine to test your cure by running the substrate through the wash three times. Use hot water settings and a strong laundry detergent. After the three runs, check the ink for durability. If you notice cracking, stretching or deterioration of the cure, then the cure was not complete and you will need to make adjustments to the curing temperature and time.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plastisol ink curing is all about getting the right combination of time and heat to properly set the ink to fusion point. For each ink, dryer and project, this combination will be different, and sometimes you will need to do some trial and error tests.
  • The lighter the plastisol ink color, the longer the curing time.
  • Cure prints within the minute after printing; otherwise the ink can bleed.

References

  • Photo Credit Goodshoot RF/Goodshoot/Getty Images
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