Considerations for SFX Inks

Before diving into the world of special effects inks, these key points should be taken into account. 

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Before diving into special effects inks, there are some considerations that need attention. 

Shirt Type

First and foremost, you want your effects to stand out properly. To make this possible, dark or colored garments are recommended. Light or white garments are still a possibility, but a thick white under base is recommended to help the colors pop. 

Most specialty inks are ready to print on cotton and polyester shirts, but a word of warning: You may still experience dye migration with specialty inks. Depending on the type of effect and how much is present you may not notice it, and your customers may not notice. Take the same precautions for printing with specialty inks as you would for regular plastisol. 

Mesh Count

Here is a basic guide to mesh counts for a few specialty inks.

  • 24-40 mesh for glitter inks
  • 60 mesh for puff inks
  • 60-86 mesh for shimmer inks
  • 86-110 mesh for metallic inks

Yes, there is a difference between glitter and shimmer inks! Let’s take gold glitter for example. Gold glitter contains gold glitter flakes in clear ink. Gold shimmer, on the other hand, contains little gold flakes of glitter in a gold color ink. If you want an ink that is highly reflective, especially in sunlight, choose a glitter ink for its high gloss. If you want an ink that will provide just a subtle touch of sparkle, go with shimmer ink. 


For special effects inks, emulsions with a high viscosity work best for application. Typically, this will be your average photopolymer or dual cure emulsion, but it is always best practice to do research beforehand to make sure you get the necessary stencil thickness. You don’t want to lose any of your image sharpness due to using a lower mesh count.


Glitter and shimmer inks will fully cure and withstand repeated washings when the entire ink deposit reaches 320 degrees F. Because of the thickness of the ink film and reflective nature of both types of ink, you may find it necessary to slow the belt speed. You can always increase the temperature if needed. 320 degrees F is just a recommended starting place. If you find you are having curing problems, slow the belt speed and increase the heat.

Metallic inks may tarnish and dull starting with the first wash. For maximum brilliance, ensure a full cure and wash the garment inside out. It is recommended you cure at 320 degrees F, but like glitters and shimmers, you may need to do some experimenting to meet the needs of your shop.

Puff inks are a little bit different than other specialty inks. The more you run the shirt through the dryer the bigger the puff. Because of this, you will have to experiment to find your desired result.

As with all types of printing, perform a test print before running a full print job. Test shirts or test pellons are a great way to do this. Experiment with times and temperatures for your desired results. This will result in a better experience printing with these unique inks!


Texsource Screen Printing Supply offers a large selection of screen printing equipment, inks, and supplies in the industry. To help educate printers of all levels, Texsource presents a series of instructional demo videos, as well as tips on screen printing equipment, inks, accessories, and techniques. Visit or call 888-344-4657 for more information. 

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