Water Based Ink vs Plastisol Ink for Screen Printing

Water Soluble Screen Printing Ink

Water Based Ink vs Plastisol Ink for Screen Printing

December 05, 2021

Every company in the screen printing industry has to make a choice of water-based ink vs plastisol ink. But whether to use water-based ink or plastisol ink for screen printing always depends on the purpose and fabric types.

In this post, We’ll go through the key distinctions between these two basic screen printing ink kinds in terms of feel, printability, and overall constituents. At the end of this article, you will have an understanding of water-based screen printing vs plastisol and which one is best for screen printing on t-shirts. 

But before we move on to plastisol ink vs water-based ink, let’s start with the basics.

What is water-based screen printing ink?

Water based screen printing ink is made up of water and pigment. One of the most notable characteristics of this type of ink is that it does not contain any plastic in its base, making it a more environmentally friendly option. 

Rather than sitting on top of the fabric, the ink seeps into the fabric and colors it. After a few washes, this gives a more uniform feel as well as a more vintage look.

Pros to Screen printing Water based Ink is that it is made up of natural substances and prints are breathable to the skin. It observes sweat. 

Cons of water based ink screen printing  is that it can be worked on limited types of fabrics and have low shelf life compared to the plastisol ink.

What is Plastisol screen printing ink?

Plastisol Screen Printing Ink

Plastisol ink is the most common ink used in garment screen printing. PVC particles suspended in a liquid plasticizer make up the material. It is extremely robust, versatile, and simple to utilize in the screen printing process.

Pros of Plastisol Ink is that it has good coverage and there is little to no waste of the ink during screen printing. It is suitable and easy to work on all types of fabrics. There are additives that are also available to offset the thick feel of the plastisol. Plastisol screen printing ink is cheap, durable and prints are vibrant with more color accuracy. 

Cons of plastisol ink screen printing however lies on the feel of the plastisol print. Since it is made up of plastic, it sits on the top of the fabric. The print on a plastisol ink shirt has a thicker feel. This obstructs the breathability of the skin through fabric. Along with that, it’s not considered environmentally friendly and sustainable due to it being plastic derived. 

Water based Ink Vs Plastisol Ink For Screen Printing

There are many factors to compare and consider when it comes to screen printing plastisol ink vs water based printing ink. 

Feels of the print: 

Water based screen printing ink has a softer feel to it as it has water soluble color pigments and it absorbs into the cloth material. Upon curing, water based solves of water soluble ink evaporates leaving only pigmented binding compounds. This makes fabric feel like just dyed. 

Plastisol is plastic based and is made up of PVC particles. This ink is basically plastic in liquid form. When it is heated or cured it solidifies. Thus plastisol print is layered on the top of the fabric. It has a thicker and harder feel to the print.

Color Vibrancy:

Plastisol ink has better shine and detail to the color than that of waterbase ink. It can look good and bright even on the darker fabrics. Plastisol inks are solid and don’t fade after being cured. This blocks dye to create opacity to undebased, able to print bright, bold and fluorescent colors. 

Water based inks are vibrant but comparatively lesser than that of plastisol screen printing inks. 

Not only are the water based inks more transparent than Plastisol, but getting a brilliant white under base is more difficult, and employing discharge will give you an off-white under base at best, reducing the possibility for an overall colorful print.

Color Accuracy: 

color vibrancy and accuracy of plastisol ink

Plastisol ink has a significantly greater viscosity, resulting in a more opaque print. Increasing coverage, especially on dark clothes. Plastisol ink provides a higher level of gloss and color detail than water based ink. Even on darker textiles, it may appear nice and vibrant. Plastisol inks are permanent and do not fade after curing. This prevents dye from causing opacity in the under base, allowing for the printing of brilliant, bold, and fluorescent colors thus having better color accuracy. 

Because of the viscosity (thickness) of the ink, water-based ink does not have a high opacity (coverage). It is genuinely liquid in form with minimal viscosity, resulting in very pale colors when printed directly on dark clothes.

Breathability:

Water based inks absorb moisture from the fabric and hence gives the water based ink prints more breathability than plastisol ink prints. 

Plastisol being thick and solid print, it creates a hard surface on the fabric that doesn’t let the moisture and air pass through it. 

Versatility:

Plastisol is a multifunctional material. It’s simple to combine to make almost any color you can think of. Plastisol ink allows you to pick the precise color you desire. You may even make suede, glow-in-the-dark, glitter, shimmer, or metallic effects.

100% cotton fabrics are ideally suited for water-based ink. Blended textiles provide certain challenges since the synthetic elements of the cloth do not absorb the ink as well as cotton does. It cant be used with polyester fabrics. 

Durability:

Both screen printing plastisol ink and water based ink are durable in nature.

Since the ink is absorbed into the fabric, water based ink prints last as long as the garment does.

Likewise, the polymer bond of the plastisol ink is permanent, and the plastisol print on t-shirt too shall last as long as the t-shirt does.  

Read here on how to wash Screen Printed T-shirts for durability.

Ecofriendly:

Waterbase ink is more eco friendly being water based than plastisol. Though water based inks contain plastics like acrylics and other binding elements, they are PVC free.

Plastisol on the other hand is made up of PVC and is not considered healthy to the planet. 

To actually know if  water-based ink is really eco-friendly, you have to fact check it here yourself.

Cost:

Plastisol inks are considered rather cheaper than water based screen printing inks. Working with plastisol ink is easy and they last for a long time. 

Water soluble inks however evaporates and clogs the printers. They need to be cured and pose difficulty when working with fabrics that are not cotton. 

Workability :

Plastisol screen printing inks being versatile, they are easy to work with. They are stable and they don’t need to be cured. Working with plastisol inks is simple and requires a little time and processes. 

Water based inks are hard to work with due to their viscosity and also require low cure additives, dye blocks and acrylic inks which are highly solid.

A quick look chart for Water-based ink vs Plastisol Ink for Screen Printing

PropertiesPlastisolWater-based ink
Vibrancy & brightness
Breathable
Design detail
Cost-effective
Durable
Versatile
Color accuracy 
Softness
Lightness
Discharge ink
Eco-friendly
Ease of use
washability
Heat setting

What to choose between Water-based ink vs Plastisol Ink for Screen printing?  

At DFW Impression, we normally work with plastisol ink as they are easy, versatile and color accurate. In some rare circumstances we do use water-based ink for cotton fabrics. 

As a general rule, consider whether there is one detail that you value above all others. You won’t want to use plastisol if you’re seeking an environmentally friendly screen printing alternative. Need a really vivid print on a dark mixed (not 100 percent cotton) fabric? Plastisol is the only choice, or a combination of the two methods. Are you looking for a way to produce super-soft personalized t-shirts? Then water-based ink comes out on top.

In almost any instance, great results may be achieved using both ink kinds and the proper strategy. But, if you have to make only one choice on the ink type then plastisol ink wins the Plastisol Vs Water-Based Ink for screen printing debate. 

 

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