Screen Printing Ink Variations

Ink Variations

(all things ink, from samples of different inks to ink details we want you to think about)

Ink selection is very important in really using those creative juices in order to achieve the look and feel that you are going for with your design. Some inks work on only certain garment fabrics, so sometimes your ink type will be limited to your garment selection.

So what makes one ink different from another, you ask? Well, there are 3 basic factors that the type of ink will determine when printing onto apparel:

  • Print Detail – particular inks are only able to produce a certain amount of detail in the print while others are intended for high detail designs.
  • Opacity – some inks are much more opaque than others, making the selection process simple depending on what final look you are going for.
  • Texture – because of the various bases that inks are made with, each leaves a slightly different texture on the garment.

Soft-Hand Plastisol Multi-color Print
Soft-Hand Plastisol Print

PLASTISOL: This is an oil-based ink that is opaque with a subtle glossy sheen. This ink sits on top of the fabric, which gives it opaque qualities and a textured feel. This is the ink that is the most used ink in this industry, given its very opaque nature, color saturation, durability, ability to print in high detail and that its the most budget friendly ink out there. Traditional plastisol can be color matched for color accuracy and it works on almost any garment type.

  • Colors can be very bright and pop off the garment
  • Have subtle glossy sheen
  • Somewhat textured feel, depending on the color being printed
  • Very durable, print will last the life of the garment
  • Can be Eco-Friendly
  • Can be safe for Children’s clothing
  • Works well with Pantone color matching

SOFT HAND PLASTISOL: Soft hand inks is a plastisol-based ink with additives, allowing the texture of the garment to show through while keeping the garments movement and feel. Its similar to but less opaque than standard plastisol, it still sits on top of the garment, yet the feel of this ink on the final product is indeed much softer.

  • Softer hand feel than standard plastisol
  • Resembles a vintage worn look
  • Very durable, print will last the life of the garment
  • Can be Eco-Friendly
  • Can be safe for Children’s clothing
  • Works well with Pantone color matching
Graphic Screen Printed with Water-Based Ink
Water-based Ink

WATERBASED INK: This is an ink that is similar to the inks that were used before the popularization of screen printing. This ink is not favored by most screen printers, mainly due to the cost of the ink, the quick drying properties of the ink in the screen, screen breakdown problems, regulating humidity and temperature controls while printing, and the level of difficulty in getting a solid looking print. Although it’s slightly more difficult to print, the end result is usually much nicer and softer, giving it a vibrant super soft final print. This ink is also much more ecofriendly and usually water-soluble. Waterbased inks on dark garments are slightly more difficult and require somewhat different inks, but remain soft, vibrant and very friendly to our environment.

  • Softest hand feel is on white and light colored garments
  • Slightly thicker hand for dark garments, but still soft.
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Safe for Children’s clothing
  • Works well with Pantone color matching
Discharge Printing Before and After being cured
Discharge Ink Before and After Being Cured

DISCHARGE INK: Discharge ink is a waterbased ink made with an activator that is added to the inks that creates a process where the dyes from the garment are removed, allowing the natural fiber colors to show through. This creates an off-white or bleached out natural canvas-like color, unless a color pigment is added. These pigments can be slightly color matched to meet the color needed in your design (no exact color matching). Bright white colored discharge is very difficult to achieve. Discharge inks work primarily with 100% cotton garments.

  • Prints best on 100% cotton garments
  • VERY soft hand feel (mainly after the first wash)
  • Garments in the blue/green/purple shades are not dischargeable.
  • Prints easy over seams
  • Cannot guarantee a perfect Pantone color match
  • Printing discharge on 50/50 or Tri-Blend material will create a vintage worn look
  • Not recommended for Children’s clothing (if abiding by OSHA or CPSIA standards)
Screen Printed Logo with Metallic Ink
Metallic Plastisol Ink

METALLIC SHIMMER INKS: Metallic inks are a plastisol-based ink with metallic flakes suspended within the ink to give a shiny metallic look to the print. This makes the ink very thick but also very shiny in nature. Due to the makeup of the ink, we recommend using art with minimal fine details since its extremely difficult to achieve fine detail in the print by using a very low mesh screen, which is required to print metallic inks.

  • Prints on most 100% cotton and blend material
  • Thicker textured hand feel
  • Not possible to print very detailed artwork
  • Requires extra special care to preserve the life of the print
  • Can be Eco-Friendly
  • Can be suitable for Children’s clothing

FOIL TRANSFERS: Foil transfers are not an actual ink but an application process where clear adhesive ink is printed onto the garment, then a foil sheet is applied to the fabric, heat pressing it to the adhesive. Printing foil on a shirt really makes the design pop, but also requires a very special set of care instructions to preserve the life of the print. Sometimes foil on a shirt is better suited as a distressed look or as an accent.

  • Done as a 2 step screen printing process
  • Set colors are available for this, no color matching
  • Requires a special set of care instructions to preserve foil
  • Better done as accents or distressed look rather than large areas of foil
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Can be safe for Children’s clothing

GLOW IN THE DARK: GID ink is a transparent oil-based ink that glows in the dark. Its best used as an overprint on white or light colors to enhance the glow effect. This ink does have a slight green cast to its color, so color matching is not available when using GID inks. Also, these inks carry many phosphorescent properties requiring them to be cared for properly. The better cared for, the longer the glow effects will last.

  • Plastisol based pigment ink
  • Best used as an overprint on a light colored ink
  • Must be cared for properly to preserve the life of the glow
  • Color matching not available
  • Safe for Children’s clothing
  • Eco-Friendly
Puff Ink Print on Fleece
Puff Ink Print on Fleece

SPECIAL EFFECTS PRINTING: We offer a number of effects inks and applications to customize your project. These effects include glitter printing, puff ink, super gels, high density inks and a various number of styles of vintage effects, retro looks and natural styles that we can accommodate to. Each of these styles require a different set of requirements but all are possible with our experience in special effects printing.

  • Some SpFx inks are plastisol, others are waterbased inks
  • Most SpFx inks have a hand to them (able to feel them on the shirt)
  • Almost all must be cared for properly to preserve the life of the print
  • Color matching usually not available
  • Most are safe for Children’s clothing
  • Most are Eco-Friendly