Understanding the differences between water based and plastisol screenprinting inks, and why this is important to your brand, your merch and the environment.

When it comes to printing merchandise, there’s a fair amount to consider. As well as needing to select merch which represents your brand, you also need to think about how you’re going to apply your logo. That means thinking about both printing methods and the inks for your designs themselves.

There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve already settled on screen printing for application. You wouldn’t be alone. This is, by far, the most common option, and for a good reason. Screen printing is efficient, easy, and cheap. It involves classically applying inks directly to your garments to achieve desired results. But, you now have to decide whether you want that screen printing process to use water based or plastisol ink. And, you’re at a loss as to which would best serve your merch.

Both options have their benefits, and can work incredibly well in the right situations. Making this choice comes down to what you want from your printing. To help you decide that, here’s a look at the pros and cons of both Water based and Plastisol inks.

Water based inks give a nice vintage t-shirt printing look.

Water based ink

As it says on the packaging, water based ink is made with water. It’s a soft and PVC-free ink which sinks into your t-shirts for a soft and comfortable finish. The water base of inks like these also makes them ideal options for the environment.

Let’s say that you’re an eco-friendly company who wants to spread the message without doing more damage to your environment in the process. This is the ideal ink for you.

The only real snag in printing inks like these is the fact that water based inks sometimes look muted on black bases. As such, they’re best left for bright t-shirts or white backgrounds.

Plastisol ink

Do you think plastisol ink really effects the environment?

As you may have imagined, Plastisol consists of plastics. This ink typically contains resins and plasticizers and needs to be at around 350 degrees when applied. Inks like these pretty much consistently create bold and striking prints. If you have black merch t-shirts or a dark background which matches your company logo, then, this is the ideal ink option for you. The downside being, of course, that the plastic content makes this a harsh choice for the environment. It’s also worth noting that this ink doesn’t provide the soft finish of its water counterpart. In the majority of cases, the ink will dry to form a feel-to-hand. Though, that could well be a plus-side if you’re aiming for a raised design.

Plastisol inks offer more of a variety of specialty inks with bolder colors on dark garments, but are not environmentally friendly.

So, which is better?

As is often the case in battles like these, there is no clear winner. Which ink you settle on depends entirely on your merchandise needs. If you want to send an environmental message or print soft designs on light t-shirts, then water based is best.

If, however, your company color scheme is dark in general, plastisol could be the right way for you to go. Either way you choose, you can bet that inks like these will produce professional looking merch you can be proud of.

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