What’s the Difference Between Plastisol & Waterbased Inks?

The primary difference between plastisol ink and water-based ink for screen printing T-shirts is the composition of the ink.

  • Plastisol ink does not air dry, and will not dry on your screen while printing.
  • Water-based ink does air dry, and can dry on-screen and clog the stencil.
  • Both types of ink require heat to be fully cured. If they are not fully cured, both inks will wash out and/or crack when washed.

Plastisol ink is a type of thermoplastic ink that is made of PVC particles suspended in a liquid plasticizer. When exposed to heat, plastisol ink melts and bonds to the fabric, creating a durable and opaque print. Plastisol inks are easy to use and have a long shelf life. They are also popular in the screen printing industry for their ability to produce consistent color results on a variety of fabrics, including textiles with low absorbency.

On the other hand, water-based inks use water as a solvent rather than plasticizer. They are made with a mixture of pigments, binders, and additives and are more environmentally friendly than plastisol inks. Unlike plastisol inks that sit on the surface of the fabric, water-based inks soak into the fibers of the fabric, resulting in a softer and more breathable print.

Water-based inks tend to be a bit more difficult to work with than plastisol inks and will require more knowledge and skill on behalf of the screen printer. They can also be less durable over time or when washed incorrectly because they soak in to the fabric rather than laying on top of it.

In summary, while both plastisol and water-based inks can be used for screen printing T-shirts, they have different characteristics and are suited to different printing situations. Plastisol inks work well on most fabrics, produce opaque prints, are easy to use, and are more durable. Meanwhile, water-based inks are softer to the touch, have a lower environmental impact, and produce a more vibrant color animation can be delicate on the fabric if not treated carefully.