Standard water-based inks produce a super soft, breathable print that is soft, flexible, comfortable and durable. Shirts printed with water-based inks will not crack or peel, because they are dyed directly into the fabric instead of printed on top of fabric, like plastisol inks. Water-Based Ink is also considered to be more Eco-friendly.
Printing with water-based inks makes colors bold and vibrant. A vintage look can be achieved with water-based inks because it is semi-transparent. It also allows for nice tone-on-tone looks.
Water-based inks perform best on light fabric colors. Dark fabrics are printed with water-based discharge ink.
Discharge ink allows all of the qualities of water-based screen printing on dark garments. The way it works is that an active agent is added to discharge inks in order to displace the garment’s original dye, so the fabric is re-colored.
These inks work best on 100% cotton. Most cotton dyes discharge extremely well to produce vibrant print colors. Some garment dyes are harder and won’t discharge fully. This can make the printed colors become tinted by the fabric dye. Navy blue shirts are notorious for this.
Discharge Inks can also be printed on 50/50 Blends and Tri-Blends when you don’t have to have the exact ink colors. Because shirts are blended and not all cotton, only the dye of the cotton threads discharge when printing. This creates a nice “vintage” look.
Discharge Ink can be printed without actual color pigments. It will still works the same but it shows the fabric’s natural fibers. Clear Discharge results can range from bright white to light tan.
Plastisol is a PVC based ink. It relies on its high opacity and heavy solids to cover the fabric color. Because Plastisol prints sit on top of the garment instead of being absorbed into the garment like water-based, they can feel heavy and stiff. They also have the potential to crack and peel over time.
While Plastisol works on cotton and blends, it works better on synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, spandex, and polypropylene. It can also be a very inexpensive alternative if that’s more important to you. It is not eco-friendly.
Our shop does not use Plastisol, only water-based and discharge. However, if you need a referral for plastisol printing, we can help.
The best artwork for water-based and discharge screen printing is slightly different from the best artwork for plastisol printing. In water-based and discharge prints it’s best to avoid very precise artwork because the end result can have minor variations. Soft-edges, artwork with distresses and fades, and sketched or hand-drawn artwork generally looks best.
To ensure your print and image vibrancy remain, we always recommend machine washing your shirts in cold water and tumble drying on low heat. Foil prints should be washed inside-out and line dried. All printed garments should be washed prior to wear.
Prior to washing, it is totally normal to feel discharge inks on the shirt’s surface. After the first wash, this generally goes away leaving the shirt with a smooth feel. However, some specialty or high opacity inks may leave a texture behind.
A small amount of fading with water based or discharge prints should be expected. This is not a print defect. Because in this process the fabric is basically dyed, the printing will fade along with the fabric after repeat washings.
Discharge inks are effected by the base fabric color of the garment. Typical base colors are tan or light grey and affect the tone of the printed ink color. Our inks are consistent in tone but can appear different from shirt to shirt. This can even happen printing on the same color of shirt within the same run. This situation is unpredictable and we make no warranty against it.
Some fabric colors like dark blue, dark green and dark purple can resist the discharge process, so we are more careful with those or stay away from them. However, we will work with you to pick the best combination of apparel and inks for results you’ll be happy with.
We can work with just about any brand that is 100% cotton or a cotton blend. The brands we print the most often on with high success are: