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Water-Based Screen Inks: The Sensible Way Forward

By Colin Henson - President & Managing Director, Apollo Colours North America


One of the questions customers ask all of the time is, “What do you have that’s new? Wow me!” We at Apollo Colours North America like to put forward a forgotten and very underestimated product—water-based screen ink.

Color Core Stock
Color Core Stock

The American market is the largest consumer of coloured core in the world and, as a result, uses the most opaque white as a flood coat. Many major card manufacturers in the United States and Canada have used a solvent-based opaque white for many years. However, many governments are now enforcing strict volatile organic compound (VOC) levels and some card manufacturers have started to seek alternative products in order to lower their use of VOCs.

Many card manufacturers are turning to ultraviolet (UV) opaque white. As with any ink, it’s use has pros and cons:


- A drop in VOC levels

- Instant drying, curing


- Increased per kilo cost of ink

- Reduced shelf life (around one year)

- Unable to match all metallics

- Heavy/thick film weight

- Low receptive surface for offset printing

- Tendency to become brittle over time

- Some health and safety issues as a result of aggressive odours

Apollo Colours Water-Based Inks
Collection of Apollo Colours Water-Based Inks

Water-based screen ink has been around for many years. In its early days, it caused a few problems, particularly for press operators. Recent changes in formulations have improved printability and helped alleviate those earlier issues. As with other inks, water-based screen ink use has its pros and cons, but the pros far outweigh the cons:


- No VOCs

- No expensive packing (it’s non-hazardous)

- Can be shipped by plane

- Can match all metallics

- Good opacity achieved from opaque white on coloured core

- Excellent ink surface for offset printing

- Great adhesion to all substrates

- Market-leading peel strength figures

- More competitively priced than UV

- Improved metallic and pearlescent effect (particles have time to migrate to the surface and create a full effect)


- Requires just a little more monitoring on press to prevent dry out on the mesh.

Water-based screen inks have far more positive traits than negative. During an era when environmental issues are always in the news and the longevity of the laminated card is forever being extended, water-based screen inks are the only sensible, safe, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way forward.


About the Author: Colin Henson is the President & Managing Director of Apollo Colours North America. He launched his career in England through an apprenticeship program for Screen Printing which provided him the foundation to build an adventurous career in Screen. He has spent over 40 years specifically focused on the card printing industry with hands on experience in the Pressroom at top global manufactures such as G+D and Valid (formerly NBS). Colin was an integral part of launching Apollo Colours North America 25 years ago and has worked with all major global card manufactures providing insights, technical support and ink solutions.


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