The Future of Clear Inkjet Film by Terry Combs

All the Epson 3000 users (and similar printers from five or six years ago) ask me regularly, “Why is this clear film so hard to find these days?”

For years, clear film was the least expensive product for inkjet film positives, and did a perfectly satisfactory job for burning screens. It took a little while to dry so we couldn’t stack our printed films right away, but it was simply the nature of the beast.

Waterproof film worked much better, every printer would have to admit, but not better enough to justify the cost. Waterproof for many years was twice the cost of standard clear film. Most importantly, there were no discernable differences in the final screens we produced using standard clear film or waterproof film.

Here’s where the screen print world changed a bit. The newer Epson printers on the market require the use of waterproof film to achieve a dense and consistent lay down of ink. Waterproof film accepts the ink better than standard clear film. These newer Epson devices do not lay down enough ink to achieve an acceptable film positive on traditional standard clear film.

As Epson 3000s, the Cadillac of output devices, head one by one to the junk heap, the market for standard clear film gets a little bit smaller. Every dead Epson 3000 means one less device using standard non-waterproof film.

Ladies and gentlemen of screen making, I have sad news for you if you’re using standard clear film. Fewer and fewer manufacturers are making this product. As a result, fewer and fewer suppliers are carrying this product in deep inventory, if they still carry the product at all. This film will likely disappear altogether in the next 18-24 months unless some innovation in the industry makes it viable for use with the new printers on the market.

But I have good news too. The very expensive waterproof film of the past – that dries faster and accepts ink better – has been steadily coming down in price for the past year or so. In fact, the prices on waterproof today are certainly in the neighborhood of the prices we were paying not too many years ago for standard clear film.

Sooner or later (probably sooner) we’ll all be using waterproof film. On the plus, it’s a better product, for very close to the same prices we’ve paid in the past for standard film.

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Terry Combs is a 30+ year veteran of the garment decorating industry, offering training and consulting through his website TerryCombs.com. Terry is also editor of the management and production newsletter Screen Print Weekly.

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