i have been a lurker on this forum for years. I have a leather jewelry business and a background in fine art screen prints. I'm finally getting around to combining the two and would like to screen print on some leather. However i have a few questions i'm hoping you can help me with.
I'm using a larger mesh screen because i'm considering the leather a fabric and want the increased ink flow. I'm also thinking i should be using fabric inks. At the moment i'm only familiar with speedball inks and house paint. I am researching nazdar, and versatex to see which would work better but i am wondering if anyone has a recommendation for an ink....
My other question is about how to handle the thickness of the leather. It starts at 1/8" thick and only gets thicker. I've only ever printed on paper or tshirts... Do i just cut a groove in my back board that is the depth of the leather to allow the leather to sit flush with the rest of the board?
Ok 3 questions... heat setting the fabric ink should be enough to bond the ink to the leather.... do i need to consider sealing the leather with a top coat to protect the art? I'm thinking of belts, or wallets, or guitar straps.... none of which will be washed, but will all see some wear and tare.
I've had great luck printing on leather with Jacquard Waterbased inks. They are really thick and opaque/ with a long open time and they airdry. The Black is good but a little too glossy for me.
Another waterbased brand I have used on leather is made by Union inks and its called Aerotex. The Aerotex has an additive that really cures it- but I have never used it and still had great results. I used to print on huge glossy vinyl banners and guerrilla style hang them out in the city and they ink held up to all kinds of abuse. I think you may be able to get both types of ink from Victory Factory but I've seen Jacquard cheaper other places online.
For thick leather just make sure you have a decent off-contact depending on the thickness of your ink and you should be good to go. Just shim up both ends of your screen with some matteboard or foamcore to adjust the height above the leather.
I don't know about the topseal. I doubt you would need it with the Union ink but I would test it with any ink you end up using just to be sure. Post some pics of what you come up with.
Naz-Dar 9700 All Purpose ink works really well on leather. Naz-Dar provides free samples of ink, you just pay shipping.
You don't need coarse mesh because leather is usually smooth surface, unless you're trying suede.
9700 doesn't require a top seal coat.
Hi Jessiegirl. I have, some years ago, done considerable trials with various ink systems for screenprinting on leather. I achieved outstanding results by using plastisol mixed with a catalyst that is normally used for printing on nylon jackets, umbrellas, etc.. The most difficlut issues were those caused by the irregularities in the surface of the leather. But, depending on the nature and size of your designs that may or may not be an insurmountable issue. You do need to flash each color but can achieve brilliant colors in both photo-reproduction and spot color prints. I am happy help any way I can...
Good point, important point. My recommendation for them, for printing on leather anyway, would be to use a hot air gun to dry between colors. To finish it off you could still use a hot air gun but a heat transfer press is a better method if justifiable. Typically, plastisol needs to reach 160C to fully cure. But, when using the nylobond additive, which creates a chemical adhesion, the ink itself may be fine even if only partially cured, something less than 160C. Given that the leather isn't washed after printing, like a tee shirt, even easier still to have a great result without a tunnel dryer. The great benefit of the plastisol is the opacity and ease of printing. Worked great for me...