Whenever I see WB I automatically think Warner Brothers and various classic cartoon characters pop in my head. But, this isn't about cartoons. I guess.
WB is short for Water Based. Specifically water based screen printing inks. So what's that matter?
The current industry standard for most garment printing is plastisol ink. It's PVC (plastic) based ink. I used it for years while I was more into the commercial side of screen printing. Plastisol is pretty nasty stuff. You need fairly heavy chemicals for clean up, smells rough while curing (more on curing later) can leave a really heavy deposit of ink on the garment (think like old band t's) and often cracks over time. So why is plastisol the industry standard? Well, in some ways it's easier- and easier often means cheaper for the bottom line. It essentially doesn't go bad, prints on a variety of fabrics, and most appealing - has basically an unlimited work time - meaning the amount of time it can be on the screen before drying. I worked at a shop briefly that would often leave gobs of plastisol on screen over night. Rough.
So WB inks, what's the big deal and why does that matter to me at all? WB inks are scary to a lot of printers - because they have a limited work time before they start drying on screen and potentially ruin an entire screen, you really need to know what you're doing. WB inks are 100% my preference. Before the 80's nearly every garment was printed with WB inks (plastisol was introduced in the late 70s but didn't really become the standard till late 80's) so those super soft vintage T's we all love...that's that water based ink magic. Plastisol ink sits on top of the fabric and binds to it. WB ink dyes it. It cleans up with water so I don't have to mess with chemicals that aren't good for anyone, especially the environment - and allows me to experiment with how various colors interact when printed over each other. Example, printing blue over a yellow gives me a shade of green. Overtime plastisol can crack. WB ink doesn't. With the amount of layers I print on my pieces, it's normal for the garments to feel a bit stiff at first- but like a quality pair of denim - the print will wear and soften as it's washed and worn. My pieces are made to last a lifetime. I always recommend hand washing and light drying/air to preserve the fit of the garment.
So curing. That's like for drying meat or something right. Kind of. In the world of screen printing - the ink must reach a temp of 320 degrees to fully dry and "cure" to the garment. Curing WB ink is essentially forcing all the moisture out of the ink so only the pigment is left on the fabric. A large heating panel and or conveyer belt dryer is used for this. When plastisol ink cures, it mechanically binds and hardens on top of the fabric. I double cure all my pieces - just in case - for maximum longevity. I think that's the basics. Feel free to hit me up anytime with any questions. I also cover more recommended care in the "info" section.