Real Talk: ELT-S Printing Tips
ELT-S Series is our most popular ink. There are numerous reasons for this but we aren't here to talk about the reasons to buy ELT-S. Kidding! I am totally going to give you these reasons as I cannot resist. This ink is so soft. It's so stretchy. The cure temperature is a low, low 250ºF. Yes, ELT-S inks will cure at a ridiculously low temperature. This protects your expensive stuff. Stuff that eats your profits when ruined. Apparel such as athletic uniforms, tech tees, yoga pants, sports bras, singlets, and tri-blend tees cost a fortune. Don't forget polyester hoodies and jackets. ELT-S is the best ink to protect all that is expensive and delicate. Combine ELT-S inks with a low cure temperature and prevent these items from shrinking, scorching, ghosting, discoloring, melting, or dye migrating. You don't want that.
OK, you aren't here for my sales pitch. You are here to make sure you are screen printing ELT-S Series inks with great success. I will admit, I do get complaints from time to time about certain aspects of this ink. Luckily, all of these complaints are solved with simple solutions that you can do. You don't have to be some famous, talented screen printer to make this ink work. You don't need 40 newton screen tension. You don't need top-of-the-line automated equipment. This is the most user-friendly ink we have ever offered. It's easier than texting with one thumb (I totally do this as I was not raised by tech savy parents #notamillennial #hashtag #yolo).
I know what you are thinking. If this ink is so easy, why do you need printing tips? This ink is different than the ink you are used to, especially if you have printed with old school polyester inks to control dye migration. Those inks were thick, puffy, and usually undesirable. ELT-S is so different.
Tip #1 - Print thicker bro!
A common complaint involves ink coverage. ELT-S inks will cover dark fabric well but we receive a few complaints. Sometimes the complaint involves a white or gold ink on black fabric. Other times the problem involves printing dark colors on top of a white base. In both situations you need to come to terms with a few of your printing habits. First, this ink is creamy. It is not the puddy-like garbage you may be used to. Lighten up on that squeegee pressure. The ink will clear the screen. I promise. Don't drive the ink through the fabric onto the platen. This is bad. No like. Second, this is absolutely not a puffy ink. Don't treat it like one. It will not gain coverage in the dryer like an older polyester ink. Not happening. I can cover any black fabric with a print, flash, print of ELT-S white, yellow, gold, or any of these normally tricky colors. If you cannot, it's back to basics for you.
If you really want amazing ELT-S coverage, consider your emulsion. How are you coating your screens? You can either add a coat or use a higher solids emulsion. If you want to be the coolest kid on the block you will consider the Chromaline Quick Film. This is a thick sheet of emulsion like a capillary film. It is amazing as all 40 microns of the emulsion will be on the T-shirt side of the screen. This provides an excellent gasket for thicker ink deposits. Regardless how you decide to achieve a thicker emulsion stencil, this will help ink coverage with any plastisol ink.
Tip #2 - Feeling hot, hot, hot!
My favorite complaint (yes, I have favorites these days) is dye migration. I am sure this sounds crazy as who wants to hear about polyester uniforms bleeding dye into our rad ink. Well, here is the catch...99 out of 100 times I can ask one question and get to the bottom of this problem. Is the ELT-S ink glossy? If you answered yes, I can already tell you the ink has been cured at a high temperature. This is what happens. A lot of gloss. Kind of sticky. ELT stands for "extreme low temperature". At this extreme low temperature the ink has a matte/semi-gloss finish. Lets dial that back a bit. Thermolabels. Use them. 270ºF is a perfect temperature to dial in. 250ºF is as low as you should go. All good things happen between 250ºF and 270ºF.
Another common complaint is "my ink is sticking to itself as it lands in the box at the end of the dryer belt". I am cringing right now. The only reason this happens is because the ink is still really hot. Really hot ink is basically still wet. The ink is really hot as you decided to speed up the dryer belt instead of turn down the dryer heat. Sometimes okay, usually not cool. Not cool...that's golden. ANYWAY, you really should not have a fast belt speed if you want to avoid these problems. It is not an ELT-S specific problem as many plastisol inks will hate this.
Tip #3 - The fuzz is after me!
No, not the police. I am talking about T-shirt fuzzies. Your print is rough. This is not comfortable. You can start by referring to Tip #1. A thicker ink deposit will help this. However, I do have a couple of other ideas. We have this nifty ink called ELT-S Black Underbase. The purpose of this ink was to provide an extra layer of bleed resistance for really terrible polyester fabrics that keep you up at night with dye migration. Usually you will not need this as ELT-S is pretty awesome. There is a time and place for everything. Well another time and place for this black underbase is to hold down the fuzz. This ink is really good at this. Simply print one layer of ink, flash it super-duper quickly (it's really fast), and print your ELT-S white and colors on top. It helps!
Another idea is a new industry thing...rollers! Whether you print manually or with automated equipment, rollers are available to squish the ink down after you flash cure. Get the ink hot, smoosh ink, print on top. This leaves a perfectly smooth print and really does not cost a lot of time. I really like it!
Tip #4 - Snap, crackle, and pop!
If you are experiencing ELT-S ink sticking to the next screen after you flash cure, consider turning down that flash cure unit. ELT-S flash dries extremely quickly. When it is really hot, you know by now that it is sticky. There is no need to get it this hot. Please don't. If you are in a situation where you print then spin the platen under a flash cure unit where it continues to heat up while you print another, you need to either turn the flash cure heat down or raise the height of the unit. Either way, it will heat the ink less and that is good. No need for stickiness.
Automated equipment with quartz flash cure units may have this problem as well. Quartz units get really hot. As the job runs on and on, those platens get very hot and you can turn down the heat of the quartz unit. Trust me, not only does it work, it protects the fabric from shrinking and scorching.
Director of Product Development