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Screen Positive



About Absolute Black and Clear inks

Absolute Black inks for making Screen positives


Using an inkjet printer as an image setter to print onto clear film has become the standard method of making screen separation films in the screen printing industry. The small dot size that inkjet printers produce, and the ability to print at high resolution provides an ideal way to make high quality color separations at a low cost compared to traditional photo chemistry or thermal print methods. However, the original full color inks provided by printer manufacturers are not ideally suited to the screen positive printing process providing poor light blocking performance and easily scratching off during the screen exposure process. This has now all changed with the introduction of the i2i Absolute Black ink.


Absolute Black provides several advantages over the original inks:-


  • Superior light blocking characteristics – no pin holes in solid color areas.
  • Faster print speeds compared to pigment inks.
  • Increased film scratch resistance – re-use films several times.
  • Better polymer curing – means longer lasting screens.
  • Cost effective – Absolute Black cartridges are 30% less then originals.
  • Bulk ink feed systems available to further reduce costs by as much as 70%.
  • Use in black only cartridge, or all cartridges for increased coverage and print speed.


Using specially developed, high density UV absorbing dyes, the i2i Absolute Black inks provide superior light blocking performance. As mentioned above, pigment inkjet inks are not ideally suited to blocking light. This is because they don’t easily ‘film form’ to provide complete coverage of the printed area. The magnified images on the right show this effect. The pigment black ink has not completely covered the film and holes are visible that can cause ‘pin holes’ in the cured polymer during the screen exposure process. The i2i Absolute Black ink has completely covered the film with no holes present. Combined with the UV absorption of Absolute Black dyes, this means that screens can be exposed for longer during the exposure process to provide better polymer curing. Another drawback of the original pigment inks is that they are easily scratched when the film is removed from the screen after exposure, and so the film can often be used only once – frustrating if a job need to be re-printed in the future. The i2i Absolute Black ink bonds well to screen positive films and is far more scratch resistant, so films can be kept for re-use later – a big cost saving plus for repeat order print jobs. Print speeds are also limited when using the original pigment inks as the printer has to print at high resolution (and therefore a slow speed) to lay down a high enough ink coverage for the screen positive making process. The superior film forming and light blocking characteristics of the i2i Absolute Black ink means the printer can now be set to print at a higher speed to increase productivity.


Which printer should I buy for printing screen separations?


We have recently started recommending Canon printers for the production of screen separation films in place of Epson models. The benefits of Canon over Epson are numerous:-


  • The most recent Epson Printer models have a much reduced print head life compared to older machines. Print heads appear to be lasting less than three years before failure, and the cost of replacing a print head can run to nearly $ 2,000 and requires a service tech visit. Canon print heads are a fraction of this cost and are customer replaceable – they simply click into place, a process which takes less than 5 minutes.
  • Canon wide format printers feature an ink system with a novel sub tank design. This enables the machine to keep printing for a period when a cartridge is completely empty, and cartridges can be replaced without stopping printing.
  • The print quality, resolution, and print speed of the latest Canon machines is comparable to Epson at a slightly lower purchase price.


We currently recommend the following Canon models for screen separation printing:-


For smaller print volume customers who need to print 13” wide or less – Canon Pixma iX6820.


For larger print volume customers who need to print 24” wide or less – Canon ImagePrograf TM-200.


For larger print volume customers who need to print 36” wide or less – Canon ImagePrograf TM-300.


For the above Canon models, we recommend installing Absolute Black inks in all cartridges. These machines are all four color (CMYK) print devices with five cartridges installed – there are two black inks installed but only one black is at a time used while printing. This is because the two black ink options provide better results when full color printing on different media types – the standard black ink (BK) is used for color printing on glossy or luster papers, and the matte black ink (MBK) is used for color printing on matte papers. With Absolute Black installed in all five cartridges, the printer can be set to print using a luster paper setting which will use ink from the BK cartridge. When the BK cartridge is empty, the printer can then be set to print with a matte paper setting which will use the MBK cartridge for printing. This means both black cartridges can be fully utilized for screen separation printing.


For first time users of Absolute Black, we recommend reading our ‘Ordering guide for Absolute Black inks’ PDF for guidance and advice on the best ink set up for your application.


Does the printer need to be flushed before installing Absolute Black inks?


For Canon and Epson desk top Photo printer models (excluding the Photo R3000), Absolute Black inks can be installed directly on top of the original inks, and performing three or four cleaning cycles will flush out the original inks and bring the Absolute Black inks to the print head. If you are going to install the inks onto a brand new desk top printer that has never had inks installed before, then we recommend installing the original cartridges that came with the printer to check that the machine is functioning correctly before installing the Absolute Black inks.


For brand new Canon wide format printer models, we only recommend installing the Absolute Black inks from the start in machines that have never used Canon original inks. Just install our cartridges into the machine out of the box and the printer will prime itself with ink. We do not recommend installing Absolute Black inks on to existing Canon wide format machines that are currently using original inks. Because of the sub tank ink system design used on Canon, it is very difficult to flush out the existing color inks.


For brand new Epson wide format printer models and the Epson Photo R3000, we also recommend installing the Absolute Black inks from the start as this will eliminate any unnecessary purging out of inks or flushing. Just install our cartridges into the machine out of the box and the printer will prime itself with ink.


For Epson Pro wide format printer models and the Epson Photo R3000 that are already installed with the original inks, we recommend ideally flushing the printer out before installing Absolute Black inks, and we provide cleaning cartridges or cleaning fluid in bulk bottles for this purpose. However, if you are changing the Epson pigment photo black ink only to Absolute Black ink then flushing is not required. In this case, we recommend running an initial fill routine with the Absolute black ink installed to ensure that the original black ink is removed from the machine. Failure to do this can result in some inconsistent print results when a mixture of the two inks is being used. Details on running initial fill routines are included in our installation guides section of this website. If you intend to install the Absolute Black inks in every channel of a Pro model or Photo R3000 that has the original inks already installed, then flushing with cleaning cartridges or cleaning fluid is recommended before installing Absolute Black. Failure to do so can result in inconsistent printing and jet clogging. Flushing procedures are included in the installation guides on this website.


For users of other dye based black inks for making screen positives, Absolute Black can normally be installed directly on top of the existing inks without purging or cleaning.


Should I use single use cartridges, or refillable cartridges and bulk inks?


For Canon and Epson desk top printer users, we only offer the option of bulk ink for use with refillable cartridges.


For Canon wide format models, we only offer single use cartridges.


For Epson Pro wide format printer users, the choice of whether to use single use cartridges or refillable cartridges and bulk ink is down to how much printing you do and whether you are happy to work with liquid ink. If you only make a few screen separation prints a week then single use cartridges are probably the way to go as bulk inks could go out of date before you use them (2 year shelf life). Alternatively, if you are going through a cartridge or more of ink every month or so, then refillable cartridges and bulk ink will be the most economical option. To calculate ink usage, a figure of 1.5 ml of ink per square foot of black print is typical when printing screen positives. Another point to consider is if you or the printer operator is happy to work with liquid inks. Although our refillable cartridges are very easy to use, refilling does involve pouring liquid ink from bottles into the cartridges and accidents can happen such as spillages or even filling the wrong ink into the wrong cartridge. If you print set up does not include dedicated printer operators then single use cartridges are probably the most reliable option.



Absolute Clear inks for non-active channels in Epson screen positive printer applications


Many Epson printers used in screen positive applications are dedicated to black only screen separation production, and are never used for printing full color images. These machines normally print using the black cartridge only or multiple black cartridges when used with dedicated screen separation RIP software. The other non-active ink channels on the printer are never used and are essentially redundant. Unfortunately, Epson printers require that these non-active ink channels have cartridges installed and ink flowing through them to prevent print head damage during cleaning cycles. Using regular color pigment inks in these non-active cartridges is both expensive and wasteful, and can cause jet blockages should the printer ever be needed for full color printing in the future. Using the i2i Absolute Clear ink provides a cost effective and ideal solution for keeping print heads clear and fully functioning while enjoying significant cost savings at the same time. Absolute Clear is essentially an ink without any colorant, and is manufactured at the correct viscosity and using the same humectants that are used in regular color inks to preserve print head life. Costing over 50% less than regular color inks, Absolute clear is fully mixable with the original Epson pigment inks and can simply be installed one channel at a time as regular cartridges run empty. Should the printer ever be needed for full color printing in the future, then simply install regular color ink cartridges in place of the absolute clear inks, and a quick purge through using the machines initial fill feature or cleaning cycles will return the machine to full color mode.


Absolute Clear inks are supplied in ready to use cartridges for Epson Pro wide format printer models or in bulk bottles for use with our refillable bulk ink cartridges. For 13’’ wide Epson desk top printer models, the inks are supplied in bulk bottles only for use in our refillable cartridge kits.


If you are using an Epson printer for screen positive printing only, then the i2i Absolute Clear inks will not only provide considerable cost savings but also increase the usable life of your printer. Absolute Clear can happily be used alongside the Epson original black inks so, even if you don’t use our specialist black inks for screen positives, you can still enjoy considerable cost savings from using our products in the non-active channels on your printer and preserve the life of the machine.


To find products for your printer, click on 'Shop by printer model' in the menu to the left. Each heading will expand and list the printer models that we support. Clicking on your printer model will show the options available.



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