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Screen Printing Inks
My prints are fading after 5-6 prints
If I don't heat set them, will they wash out completely?
Approximately how many uses can a tube of 350ml ink last
Mixing ink for solid coverage over the fabric
Can the ink be dried when I'm printing multiple colours?
Will I still get the leather feel/professional look?

My prints are fading with each subsequent print and after about 5 or 6, over a period of only about 5 minutes, I'm having to wash the screen and let it dry before I can start again.

What's happening is that all the ink is not leaving the screen after you have printed, so it starts to dry and subsequently your prints get fainter and fainter.
 
Easily fixed by following the information on  Information Sheet #34
The main point for you is to elevate your screen slightly and maker sure the screen is clear of ink - perform a clearing print after every 2-3 prints.
 
You can thin the ink down by either:
1. Adding a few DROPS of water and giving it a good stir - this will re-hydrate the ink
2. Adding Retarder to the ink - this will chemically extend the dying time and workability of the ink.
 
The Retarder is the better option, as it will pretty much stop the ink drying, however the downside is that the prints can take 20-30 minutes to dry, so you cant heat set until the next day.
 
Elevate the screen ever so slightly so that is does not stick to the fabric underneath - use Table Adhesive under the material to hold it still - and after printing look at the screen to make sure it's clear of ink - if not then with the squeegee at almost vertical print again.
This wont put ink through but will push the ink out of the screen onto the fabric and keep the design clear.

'Just wondering, with the screen printing inks on fabric. If I don't heat set
them, will they wash out completely? or will there be a slight stain?'

Depends on how long it is between drying and washing.
- If you wash it immediately then most of the ink will come out (probably about 90-95%)
- If the ink dries and most of the moisture from the ink evaporates, then it's different as the ink has begun to set and the ink won't come out - it will fade however.
 
The level of fading depends on the time between printing and washing, the temperature and the level of moisture locked in the ink.
Personally I washed a t-shirt about 5 days after printing (only after washing did I realise I didn't heat set it!!) and about 80% of the colour remained.
The T-shirt just looked like it was well worn. It was a grey T-shirts so I didn't realise any colour running, just fading of the design.
In another instance I washed a fabric sample that was 4 weeks old and not heat set and it almost disappeared from the fabric!
Sorry, but there's no straight answer to this one.
 

'Approximately how many uses can a tube of 350ml ink last (I know this may be hard to estimate as it depends on the picture)'

Really difficult to answer as you also have to take into account not only the size of the design (how much solid area is in it for the ink to pass through) but also the absorbency of the material you are printing onto. A general design onto a reasonable quality 80gsm t-shirt would print about 1000?

'If I use the air cure ink mixed with fabric ink will it give a solid cover over the fabric? (e.g red ink on a black shirt)'

The normal fabric inks are NOT designed for dark fabrics, this is why the coverage is not so good/ transparent.
You need to use Hy-Cover (also called super-cover) inks, inks with more pigment in them.
This is better (and much cheaper) than trying to mix two different types of ink.

'Can the ink be dried with a heat gun when I'm printing multiple colours?'
 
Yes the ink can be dried when printing multiple colours.
If you are using a jig then the ink does not have to be 100% dry as the next colour is going to come down over the previous colour so it's not as important.
When you dry in between colours you are NOT heat setting the ink but merely drying it - you still need to heat se the final design to make it permanent.

 
'Will I still get the leather feel/professional look if I mix the inks?'
 
Remember the plastic/ leather feel is not always a good thing for your printing, as the inks will crack when washed.
The Opaque however is a thicker ink and will set thicker than standard giving you the thicker feel you are after - particularly if you print multiple colours/ layers.
Opaque inks are the inks the professionals use in most instances.

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