When it comes to printing new apparel items, it’s always good to be prepared and know what you’re getting into, especially when it comes to knowing your screen printing inks. The most commonly misunderstood decision that a client makes when placing an order is what type of ink to use. The options are many and each one of them has pros and cons. Also, there are situations where they do work and don’t work on certain apparel choices. So, where are we now? Decisions…Decisions…
This guide will help you understand what inks to use, why to use them and how to use them. We’ll break apart each ink, give you the details on what to expect, and leave you feeling awesome, I mean “prepared” to place your orders in the future.
Premium Standard is Threadbird’s ink style of choice. This is a blend of multiple printing types, a discharge ink underbase, and house blended topcoat of ink. The topcoat is a plastisol base with additives to soften the ink and take a lot of the shine out of the print. Many shops have tried to duplicate our style and haven’t been able to do so. You’ll see print facilities offer Fashion Soft inks and say they are comparable, but they are not. Fashion soft is a softened plastisol, but the key component is the discharge underbase. This allows you to get the feel of a garment with one layer of soft ink while getting the brightness of a garment with a full underbase layer.
Pros: The big benefits you’ll see when using Premium Standard are softer prints and vibrant colors, pending the use of the correct garments. You won’t experience big “vinyl shield” prints that you’ll see from straight plastisol print shops (your standard local print facility). We offer this at no additional charge, so it’s a great option for those who want a good quality print on a budget.
Cons: Much like discharge inks, Premium Standard inks have restrictions for both garment type and garment color. Due to the discharge component, premium standard will not be able to provide true color matching on the following garment colors: Kelly Green, Red, Royal Blue, Lapis, Cobalt, Purple, Forest, Teal and Turquoise. These colors will cause a tint to the topcoat color. As a “for instance”, if you use a white or yellow ink on a Royal Blue garment and opt for premium standard, your yellow can come out with a green tinge and the white will look more like a light blue.
Garments That Work With Premium Standard Screen Printing Inks: The only garments that work with Premium standard inks are 100% cotton, 90% Cotton / 10% Polyester, 80% Cotton / 20% Polyester with 100% Cotton Facing. This means it’ll work on most of your standard t-shirt options, and works well with fleece items made by American Apparel, Independent Trading Company (ITC) and Bayside. Companies like Hanes are also trying to creep into the market with PrintProXP items that are 80/20.
Sample Photos With Premium Standard Inks:
Waterbase (Water Based) Inks
Water base ink, much like the name would imply, is ink with a water base, not a PVC base like Plastisol ink. Water based ink is a translucent ink with lower opacity than plastisol or premium standard, which means it can give very visible results on white or very light shirt colors, but on darker colored garments the colors will be heavily influenced by the shirt colors beneath. Water base inks are also more eco-friendly, free of more harmful PVC’s and phthalates.
Pros: This eco-friendly ink will give you a no feel print every time that will provide a vintage look immediately, working into the shirt to dye the fabric as opposed to sitting on top of the fabric like a plastisol print. This will help to create a life long print that will not crack, peel, split or otherwise be wrecked by constant wear.
Cons: The vintage look is a double-edged sword, if you know what to expect, it’s fantastic and one of our favorite looks. If you use it incorrectly, it can wreck a perfect design quickly. Using water base on dark colored garments will cause the garment to overwhelm the ink color, causing your design to appear incorrect on the shirt. We would not recommend the use of water base on dark colored garments for first time clothing brands or people whom aren’t familiar with screen printing.
Garments That Work With Water Based Ink: The benefit of water based ink is that it will work with most any garment, but you need to be mindful more of garment color than material make up. There are certain cases and situations where water base inks won’t work (nylons, 100% polyester, etc.) but you won’t run into many with normal screen printing items.
Sample Photos With Water Base Ink:
Discharge is a form of water base ink, but with a bit of a twist. Discharge inks have an additive in them, abbreviated as ZFS (Zinc Formaldahyde Sulfoxylate) that will remove the dye used by the manufacturer. I know the chemical name may sound awfully imposing, but truthfully is quite safe. There are three different versions of discharge: clear, white and pigmented. Clear will only remove the dye from the garment, leaving either the color of the garment pre-dying behind or the color of the garment after interacting with the ZFS (as for instance, Royal Blue, will turn to a mid-grey color). White is as you would expect, white, and pigmented discharge will remove the dye in the garment and replace it with a pigmented dye. As discharge is a water based ink, it will work it’s way into the fabric, giving you the most long lasting print you can get, but there are some drawbacks.
Pros: Discharge can give you a no feel print, with bright colors on dark garments. Resting in the garment as opposed to on the garment, this will give you a long lasting print that, like water base, will not crack, peel, split or otherwise be wrecked by constant wear. To get the no feel print, the shirt must be washed to rinse the residual ink out of the garment.
Cons: The most frustrating con with discharge ink is the coloring issues caused. Right off the bat, discharge is not recommended with the following garment colors: Kelly Green, Red, Royal Blue, Lapis, Cobalt, Purple, Forest, Teal and Turquoise. As a whole, when using discharge, there’s a storm of different factors at play, bleaching additives, possible manufacturer over-dying, pigments, there’s no fail-proof formula. That said, we can print discharge on 100 shirts and get varying shades of the color you chose, it’s an arduous and often times impossible task to color match using discharge, so it’s best to use this ink in a situation where the design isn’t anchored to having exact colors.
Garments That Work With Discharge Inks:
The only garment types that work with discharge inks are 100% cotton and tri-blend material. Please note on tri-blend material you will see a great deal of the heathering through the print.
Sample Photos With Discharge Inks:
Plastisol is your standard screen printing ink. Sitting on top of the garment as opposed to in the fabric, plastisol will give you the brightest possible print and it’s what you may be used to seeing from screen printed garments from most print shops. Plastisol is a suspension of PVC particles in a plasticizer and can be printed on virtually any surface that can be heat cured and is porous enough to permit good ink penetration. If the item isn’t porous, like in the case of a nylon windbreaker, we can add a bonding agent to help the ink stay on the garment. Plastisol inks do not color the fibers like a dye. Instead, the ink adheres to the fabric when printed and heated, forming a bond with the material. You can add a handful of additives to plastisol to make it work in different ways, so the applications are very versatile.
Pros: Plastisol will work on every type of garment, providing the brightest prints that you’ll be able to achieve. It will allow you to manipulate it in many different ways to have different applications.
Cons: The biggest cons in printing you will usually see with plastisol inks. The hand of plastisol printing is the heaviest of all print types that we offer. We won’t provide you a vinyl shield like other shops, even with plastisol inks. The other issue with plastisol inks will be the differences in texture with printing. As the ink is thicker, it sticks to the screens when printing, so the prints can either be very smooth or it can come out rough, it’s unpredictable for the texture of the print, it can be swayed by ink color (whites are thicker than other colors), ink coverage amounts, there are lots of deciding factors.
Garments That Works With Plastisol Inks: Plastisol inks will work on all garments.
Sample Photos With Plastisol Inks:
We hope this guide helps you make an informed decision on what inks to use on your apparel choices. If you would like to know more information on other print types (metallic, foil, glow, gel, puff, etc.) please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll work to get you the information you need!