Discharge Printing – Soft feel print on dark t-shirts

Ok…so we have been doing a lot of discharge printing lately and have got it down to a fine art!!

What is discharge printing? Have a look at the video below and keep reading to find out more…(WARNING: Loud music alert in the video!)

Well, in order to get bright opaque colours onto dark coloured t-shirts, you have to use a “base” print. This is a “bridging” layer of usually white ink that you print the colours on top of. So white goes down on to the t-shirt and then all the colours go on top of the white print. This gives them “pop”. If they went directly onto the black t-shirt they would look very dull and transparent, which some people don’t mind, it gives a “vintage” look to the print.

But it also leaves you with a heavy feeling print. What a lot of people call “plasticy” (I know…a very technical term). The technical term is “heavy hand”.

This is undesirable for a lot of people. The trend at the moment is to have very soft prints that feel part of the t-shirt, or have a “soft hand”. So this is where discharge printing is awesome. Discharge ink actually bleaches the colour out of the fabric and replaces it with the colour you have mixed into the discharge ink. So the result is an opaque but very soft print, as you have dropped the white base print you would normally have to do in order to get the opaque colours on dark t-shirts.

When initially printed the print looks very dull. The colours are almost completely transparent (as you can see in the video). But as they t-shirt goes through the heat in the drying tunnel, the discharge activates and bleaches the dye out of the t-shirt and replaces it with the colour printed. Cool hey?!

Now, before you run out and place your order for discharge printing there are a few things you need to be aware of.

Firstly, different garments discharge differently. Between suppliers, colours, styles and even between identical t-shirts. It comes down to how the garments were dyed, what colour the base fabric was and also if the garment is constructed of 100% cotton, which it has to be, well in most cases, we have successfully discharged American Apparel Tri-Blend t-shirts. For this reason we can’t guarantee results, but will always print a test garment first, and if any issues arise we’ll get your approval before proceeding.

Secondly, PMS colour matching can’t be guaranteed. Colours will be as close as possible. Because of the potential inconsistencies of the original base colour of the t-shirt fabric, you sort of don’t know what to expect. It may also slightly change between different coloured t-shirts as they can discharge a little differently.

Lastly, it costs a little more than standard inks. Once the ink is activated it can’t actually be stored and at the end of the print run needs to be discarded. So to allow for this wastage and the additional time it takes to mix up the inks the pricing is marginally higher…but don’t worry we are talking cents not dollars!! 🙂 And hey, you have an awesome super soft print on dark t-shirts!!

So I hope you are keen on trying out a discharge print on your next run. Let us know if you’d like some print samples. Just get in touch by calling 1300 853 474 use our contact form to let us know what you are after and we will get in touch from there.