Plastisol vs. Waterbased Ink Which Would You Like On Your Garment?

Branded Screen Printing and Design offers both water based and plastisol inks, here is some information to help you decide which inks you would like on your garments. Visit for more information.

Plastisol vs. Water-based Ink for Textile Printing

“There are two main types of ink that are used for textile printing. Water-based ink utilizes either dyes or pigments in a suspension with water as the solvent. Plastisol ink is a PVC (Some inks are Phalide Free) based system that essentially contains no solvent at all.

Both types of ink are very popular. However, for the most part, they are used in very different applications. Plastisol is the ink of choice for printing of finished goods such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, and tote bags. Water-based ink is the ink of choice for the printing of high nap goods (towels, fleece, etc.). Both inks have technical advantages and disadvantages for use in specific applications. They also each have their own environmental impacts and these should be considered for the particular application and shop setup.

Advantages of Plastisol

  • Plastisol best be described as a “user-friendly” ink because it is very easy to manage and can produce a crisper and brighter image.
  • Plastisol comes in strengths from transparent to very opaque and most printers will have the various versions available to use, depending upon the type and color of fabric they are printing on. The higher opacities available in plastisol is good for printing on dark garments.

Plastisol Disadvantages

  • Since Plastisol is a thermoplastic, it will remelt if it comes in contact with anything hot enough. For that reason, plastisol prints cannot be ironed at high temperatures. If a hot enough iron touches a print, it will smear the ink.
  • Plastisol ink also creates an ink film that can be felt with the hand. The higher the opacity of the ink, the greater the hand. This heavy hand is considered a disadvantage at the consumer level.

Advantages of Water-based Inks

  • Water-based inks are a good choice when a “soft hand” is desirable. A soft hand is the condition where the ink film cannot easily be felt with the hand when passed across the surface of the fabric..
  • Water-based ink is a good choice where ink penetration is desirable, such as in towel printing. Towels have a high nap fabric that must be printed in a manner where the ink penetrates or wicks through to the base fabric for adequate coverage.
  • Waterbased inks that are designed to wick into the fabric are excellent for this application. Ink wicking is not a desirable affect in most other fabric printing as it will destroy the design and registration of multiple colors.
  • Can be cleaned up with water, therefore does not have as high of an impact on the environment as plastisol inks.

Disadvantages of Water-based Ink

  • Water based ink does not produce the same crispness and cleanness as plastisol.
  • Water based ink is much harder on screens resulting in higher screen fees.
  • Does not have as many options suck as specialty inks (metallic, puff, etc.)
  • Lower opacity than most plastisols.
Type Print Ease Opacity Hand/Feel Curing Ink Recovery
Plastisol Easy Low-High Med-Heavy Easy Easy
Water Base Med (Dries Fast) Low-Med Low-Med Med Easy

Usage Recommendations      Plastisol           Water-base

T-Shirts/light colors                   Excellent                 Excellent

T-Shirts/dark colored                  Good                        Poor

Nylon Jackets                              Good                        Poor

Towels                                         Poor                      Excellent

Yard goods                                   Poor                      Excellent

Sporting Goods                             Excellent                    Poor”

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