Garment screen printers seem to be fixated on white plastisol inks. Find out why.
By Mike Ukena
Mixing whites Mixing whites are opaque white inks that are formulated specifically to be used for mixing colors. The ink manufacturers usually make them as part of a Pantone color-simulation system. Mixing whites are not usually as optically brightened as whites designed to be used on their own. If you look at a mixing white print next to a good opaque cotton white, the cotton will more than likely look more vibrant. Ink manufacturers use brighteners in much the same way as the paper industry does to make the ink more appealing to the eye. The human eye looks at blue shaded whites as being brighter. Unfor-tunately, this blue shading can play havoc with ink mixing, as it may shift colors too much. A less bright white works better as a mixing ink.
Mixing whites can also be used as standalone inks. I know several printers who use their mixing white as their underbase ink. They feel that the ink flashes better and has better after-flash-tack characteristics than other whites. They then use a cotton white or low-bleed white as their highlight white to give them the desired brightness. Mixing whites are just about always cotton whites. There are some mixing systems that supply a low-bleed mixing white, but the use of low-bleed whites in mixing systems is not common.
Athletic whites Athletic whites are like cotton whites, except that they have added ingredients to give the ink extra stretch and gloss. They are designed to be used on athletic jerseys where flexibility, abrasion resistance, and opacity are all important (Figure 3). They can be used on other garments, such as T-shirts, but their expense is usually not justifiable. Athletic prints are increasingly being produced on 100%-polyester jerseys. These fabrics require the use of the polyester ink mentioned earlier. Standard athletic ink will not block polyester dye.
Process highlight whites Process highlight white inks impart the lowest level of opacity of any white ink. They are not made to be anything but a complement to process-color inks. Part of this lack of opacity comes from the fact that they are designed to be printed through the high mesh counts used in process-color printing.
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