What Ink Is Right For You?
Water based inks and plastisol inks are the two most popular inks in the screen printing industry. Here is a breakdown of the essentials you need to know concerning plastisol vs water based ink.
- The Basics: A high end ink made for super soft shirts (commonly used in retail printing).
- How It Works: The ink dyes the garment directly, and lays inside the fabric. On darker garments a white underbase is used in which case the water based colors then lay on top of the white base rather then in the fabric as does with the lighter garments.
- Longevity: Water based prints last as long as the garment does.
- Brightness: Water based prints are bright. Pending your choice of shirt and color, certain fabric dyes will react differently to water based inks.
- Feel: The water based print is super soft, breathable and literally a part of the garment. After the first wash, the print is unable to be felt on the shirt.
- Ease of Use: Water based ink is a higher quality ink that takes significant training to use. Due to the ink dying the shirt, water based screen printers need to have significant knowledge on fabric types and ink reaction.
Plastisol Ink Printing
- The Basics: A plastic based ink made for apparel. This is a cheaper ink, is the industry standard and makes for thick prints.
- How It Works: The soft plastisol ink lays directly on the fabric, covering the shirt with a layer of the graphic.
- Longevity: Plastisol ink prints do eventually break down. A break down usually results in a cracked, peeled or a flaked graphic on the shirt.
- Brightness: Plastisol ink prints are bright and true to the design.
- Feel: Plastisol ink prints feel thick, heavy and do not allow any breathability.
- Ease of Use: Plastisol inks were chemically formed to be highly easy to use for screen printers. The compounds allow for the plastisol inks to last indefinitely and coat any shirt.
Discharge (Water Based) Inks
- The Basics: Discharge (water based) inks actually remove color pigment from the shirt and replaces it with another color. This creates a soft hand feel similar to water based but can also achieve that soft feel on dark garments.
- How It Works: Discharge inks require an activator/catalyst to work. The activator/catalyst when mixed in the ink then removes the pigment dyes in the fibers (similar to bleaching) and replaces it, dying the fabric with the new color being applied.
- Longevity: Discharge (water based) prints last as long as the garment does.
- Brightness: Discharge ink prints can be bright depending on the fabric and how the fabrics react to the activator/catalyst. This process works the best with 100% cotton shirts and will be at their brightest. But even with blended shirts customers that may want a more distressed or vintage look discharge could be a great option. Especially when achieving a soft hand feel with white ink on a dark garment.
- Feel: The discharge (water based) print is super soft, breathable and literally a part of the garment. After the first wash, the print is unable to be felt on the shirt.
- Ease of Use: Discharge ink takes significant training to use. Due to the ink dying the shirt, and the chemicals involved in discharge, screen printers need to have significant knowledge on fabric types and ink reaction.