T Shirt Printing: Plastisol vs Water Based Inks

Screen printing of t-shirts or any fabric necessitates a few important production decisions; arguably the most important of these is the choice between plastisol and Water Based Inks. These two types of ink are the core products used in textile screen printing, but differences in their manufacture, storage and application, result in strikingly different looks for  printed t shirts.

Water Based Inks:
The Water based formula uses water as a solvent solution to hold and transfer dye and pigments to the t shirts. This lends many properties to the ink; most notable is its ability to fully permeate the t-shirt, leaving little or no surface residue. Particularly useful for printing onto t shirts which require ink to soak into it, water based inks will cure right into the fabric. This makes them ideal for cloths or bed sheets and especially useful for jobs like T shirt printing.

That is not to say screen printing t-shirts or other garments must be accomplished with only water based inks. Indeed, fashion trends and production processes change, and so the use of non water based inks is becoming more popular in the screen printing of clothing. This is primarily due to the invention of new co-solvents which enhance water based printing solutions with unique properties which make them more suitable for screen printing custom designs to clothing.

You can usually recognize plastisol by its slightly raised appearance and feel on fabric. You might have an old T-shirt with a strangely rubbery textured logo or image printed onto it; if you do then the main disadvantages of plastisol will be apparent in its possible cracking and elevated profile above the fabric. Plastisol also carries a heavier environmental weight than water based inks –the main ingredient of plastisol is PVC.

On the bright side, plastisol usage and disposal has become much more efficient over the years, and it is significantly less energy hungry than Water based inks which demand lengthy drying time in high temperatures. It is also still unbeaten when it comes to printing bright, clean and complex designs, which make it ideal for high quality t-shirt printing.