How to Choose the Best Screen Printing Ink

When selling screen-printing, you need to know what type of ink you are going to use and what shirt it is going on.  We are here to break it down for you.

Plastisol and water-based are the two main inks for printing on fabrics like cotton and polyester. Both have their advantages and many printers swear by one or the other. When choosing the best ink for screen printing, you want to avoid dye migration, where small dye particles move around causing the tint in the ink to change color.

As mentioned, there are several distinct differences to both plastisol and water-based inks. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Plastisol Ink

Plastisol is the most commonly used ink in textile printing, chiefly because it’s cheaper and makes a thicker print. It is easy to handle because of its thickness, and because it has a petroleum base, it doesn’t dry on the screen very easily, allowing you to better manipulate it.  

Plastisol has a low-bleed property which means it’s easier to use on dark garments and doesn’t have as many dye migration issues, also making it a great choice when working with polyester fabric. It’s known for being true to its design and really popping off the shirt in a bright, showy way.

However, because of its thickness, plastisol ink is known to eventually crack, peel, and flake on the shirt.

Water-based Ink

This type of ink uses water as its base, making it softer and thinner, and thus it can more easily dry on your screen if the water evaporates. However, this type of ink typically holds more detail, making it ideal if you have an intricate design to print.

Another benefit of water-based ink is that they are gradually becoming more eco-friendly, especially as compared to plastisol inks. Water-based inks also have a softer feel than plastisol inks and feel extremely breathable to the user. Essentially, the ink becomes a part of the garment, known as a “soft hand.”  

Choosing the best ink for the right fabric

Cotton and polyester are the two most popular fabrics on which to screen print, with polyester being the most common choice for athletic wear due to its moisture-wicking properties and elasticity. However, it’s generally more difficult to print on polyester for those very same reasons. When printing on a polyester garment, like a piece of athletic wear, choose the proper ink that’s most likely to avoid dye migration, one that cures at the lowest possible temperature.

Check out our “Attain Wicking Shirt”, a 100% polyester knit featuring our patented “True Hue Technology.” This means that ink from the shirt doesn’t bleed and is guaranteed to prevent dye migration and allows you to decorate with confidence.  Our True Hue products are designed to prevent dye migration, under normal operating conditions making decorating more efficient.  Color reliability you can count on, guaranteed! We will replace any True Hue style that has color migration post decoration.  Shop all True Hue items, here.


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