There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing between Plastisol and Water-Based Textile Inks for screen printing. Water-Based Inks are harder to work with in general. However, it depends on the color and material of the apparel/fabric being printed on, as well as the design. When it comes to screen-printing, some designs do better with one method over another.
Water-Based Ink is a mixture of water with dye that sinks into the fibers of the substrate creating good ink penetration, essentially becoming part of the fabric, desirable with towels and other high nap fabrics, while still having a soft hand and even coverage. Water-Based Ink is breathable and more comfortable to wear since it becomes a part of the fabric, opposed to another layer that lays on top of the fabric. It is also more environmentally-friendly since it does not contain PVC and can be cleaned up with water opposed to toxic chemicals. It also prints over seams better because the ink seeps into the fabric. It is great for printing faded/vintage/distressed looking designs. It can also layer over Plastisol Ink without problems.
The cons of Water-Based Ink is that it is more expensive, it doesn’t work well (at all) on dark colored garments because of its lack of opacity. Also, layering causes problems because you can see through the colors. It is also harder to Pantone Color Match, it fades after being washed, the colors are duller/less crisp, and it can dry in screens and clog them (increasing screen fees). It is also more time consuming.
Plastisol Ink is PVC-based. It is thicker and heavier than water-based ink. The colors are bright and crisp. It is good for printing on dark or light colored garments (t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, tote bags). Plastisol comes in different strengths- transparent to very opaque. The higher opacities are better for printing on dark garments. Plastisol Ink is the best choice for Pantone Color Matching and is resistant to fading. It layers easily over other colors without bleeding and is cheaper than water-based ink. It doesn’t require a running water source and won’t clog the screen because it won’t dry until it is cured at 350 degrees.
The cons of Plastisol Ink is that since it is thermoplastic, it will re-melt if it comes in contact with anything hot enough, causing the ink to smear. It has a thick hand and it chips and peels over time since it does not penetrate into the fibers, but rather lays on top of the fabric. It is not good for creating distressed/faded vintage looking designs. It can bunch around the seams and it is not environmentally-friendly since it’s PVC-based and requires toxic chemical for clean up. Check out our full line of Textile-Printing Inks.