Plastisol ink vs water based ink

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 each ink.

Water Based and Discharge 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, literally removing the color of the shirt and replacing it with the color of the image.
  • Longevity: Water based prints last as long as the garment does.
  • Brightness: Water based prints are bright and true to the mock up provided by Real Thread. Pending your choice of shirt and color, certain fabric dyes will react differently to water based inks. You can see a full collection of water based approved shirts here. 
  • 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 Inks

  • 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.

Learn more about the plastisol or water based inks you need to make the best shirt possible.

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