If you've ever researched the reality of screen printing and the types of industry standard techniques found in major retail markets, you've probably heard of water base inks yielding a soft hand feel with great results. The reality is that water base inks have their limitations just as plastisols do. Here is a detailed description on the differences between them.
Every project has it's limitations. It is our goal to help educate our clients on the capabilities of the project at hand. Choosing the right ink for the project affects pricing, timing of production, choice of goods, and overall quality of the project. Simply put, you can have it soft and lightweight or bright and heavy. Our sales and creative staff work very closely to advise the best ink option for every project.
Plastisol comes in two forms, its comes as RFU (ready for use) and as a system to mix, mixing base + pigments. Fabtex Graphics uses Rutland MX. The beauty with plastisol is the color consistency and accuracy. Pantones are set in a system and formulas create PMS colors. Plastisol contains resins and plasticizers and require a temp minimum of 350 degrees to cure. If this temperature is not met, the ink will under cure and crock/wash away.
Plastisol is the most common ink used in t-shirt printing. Unlike waterbase, this ink will not dry out and stay fluid in the screen. Plastisol can be used through all ranges of screen mesh counts. Works very well on lights and darks and key to using in designs that have halftones and gradients. Plastisol ink has a wide variety of specialty products and waterbase has a limited amount of specialty applications.
Plastisol is composed of resins and PVC. The hand feel is felt on the garment. Waterbase has virtually no hand. Because of the nature of the ink it is not suitable for vintage feel or hand. There are techniques that are used to lower the viscosity to make it reduced, this will help with hand but will not appear as soft as waterbase.
Water-based is pretty much as it sounds, it’s made with water. Plastisol is derived from plastics. Below we will take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of each ink to help you decide which is the best for you:
Waterbase ink is a great alternative to plastisol ink. With waterbase you are able to achieve a vintage – soft hand feel. Ink penetrates or soaks into the fabric and creates minimal hand. Since waterbase inks are free of plastics and PVC, it is also eco-friendly.
When printed on dark colors the results are muted and Pantone colors are muted and difficult to achieve. Waterbase prints best with vector artwork through open (low to medium 160-230) mesh counts. Halftones and gradients are difficult to achieve on multiple colored projects.