What Are Water Based Inks?

Water based inks consist of dyes or pigments and you guessed it...water as the solvent. Other solvents may be added to aid in the curing (drying) process of the ink. The curing process must take place so that the ink will set and not wash out when cleaned. In order for the ink to cure properly, all of the water from the ink must be completely evaporated.

Water based inks provide a soft hand where the ink can hardly be felt to the touch. Once washed, the remaining ink residue should be removed, leaving a print that feels just like the fabric. This is due to the fact that water based inks sink into the fibers of the fabric as opposed to sitting on top of the fabric like standard plastisols (PVC based inks). Go grab an older t-shirt from your t-shirt drawer and rub your finger across the design. Assuming this was printed with plastisol, as most t-shirts are, you will notice a thick deposit of ink and maybe even some cracking or peeling. This will not be the case with any shirts utilizing water based inks as the ink becomes part of the fabric.

What Are Discharge Inks?

Sounds gross, I know. Standard water based inks are great for lighter colored garments but tend to look washed out or faded when printed on darker garments. Discharge printing was introduced as a form of water based ink that acts almost as a bleach, removing the dye from the fabric. A chemical reaction takes place once heat is applied to the the printed garment, where the discharge agent deactivates the dye in the fabric, allowing the ink to show up as if it were printed on a white t-shirt. The end result is a vibrant colored, very comfortable, super soft print.

Water Based Ink Cons

  • Time sensitive: can dry in the screen during print runs
  • More expensive than plastisol inks
  • Synthetic fibers tend to show through when printing on dark blended garments (ie: 50% cotton/50% polyester blend) resulting in a muted or vintage look
  • Will fade with the shirt after many washes. This depends on the quality of the garment

Water Based Ink Pros

  • Soft hand (little to no feel to the print)
  • Won't crack or peel like plastisol prints
  • Can be ironed unlike plastisol prints
  • Garment retains its breathability because the ink sits in the fabric as opposed to on top
  • Easier clean up
  • Environmentally friendly

As with anything in life, it will always have pros and cons. In this case we feel the pros heavily outweigh the cons and we think you will agree. So what are you waiting for? Get In Touch now and give water based inks a shot. You just might never go back.