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The Ink-credible Guide to Choosing the Right Screen Printing Ink

January 23, 2023

When it comes to screen printing, the type of ink you choose can make all the difference in the final product. The right ink can improve your project, from how the colors look to how long the design lasts. But with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to know which ink is the best fit for your project. That's where this guide comes in.

We will discuss choosing the right screen printing ink, which fabrics it works best on, and much more.

This article will help you choose the right screen printing ink for your project.

Types Of Screen Printing Inks

Screen printing ink affects print quality and appearance. There are many kinds of screen printing ink on the market, and each has its properties and qualities. Almost all printing jobs use plastisol, water-based, and discharge inks.

Let us explore the various screen printing ink types and discuss their key features and best uses.

Water-based ink

Water-based inks are popular for screen printing due to their many benefits. One of the main advantages of water-based inks is that they are eco-friendly. Water-based inks for screen printing don't have dangerous chemicals like PVC and phthalates like other inks.

This safety and sustainability make this ink suitable for various fabrics such as cotton, polyester, and rayon.

What are the Pros and Cons of water-based ink?

Pros Cons
The ink is eco-friendly and does not contain harmful chemicals, making them safer for the environment and the printer. It can be more expensive than other inks, especially for large quantities or special effects.
The ink produces a soft, smooth, and natural feel on the fabric, which is ideal for printing on high-quality or luxury garments. It is more prone to drying out and clogging the screen, requiring more maintenance and cleaning.
The ink is not as thick as plastisol inks, so they do not require as much pressure to print, which can help reduce wear and tear on the screen and printing equipment. It is less durable than plastisol inks and may fade or crack over time, especially with repeated washing or exposure to the sun.
The ink is also easy to clean and can be heat-set for improved durability. It may not work well on fabrics, such as nylon or spandex, which can cause the ink to spread or bleed.

 

Plastisol ink

Screen printers use plastisol ink for their ability to work on a variety of fabrics and produce high-quality prints. It is made from a mix of pigments, resins, and plasticizers, which gives it a thick, creamy texture that is easy to work with.

Plastisol ink is also known for being able to stick to different fabrics, like polyester, nylon, and cotton. Plastisol ink makes a good choice for screen printers who want to use a variety of inks.

Plastisol ink is great because it doesn't run when it gets wet. Plastisol ink is great for printing on clothes that will be worn outside or in places with a lot of moisture.

What are the Pros and Cons of plastisol ink?

Pros Cons
Plastisol ink is a great option for printing on a wide range of fabrics, including synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. Plastisol ink is less soft and flexible than other ink types, making it feel stiff on the fabric.
It is a thick and opaque ink, allowing vibrant and bold prints with good coverage. It is not environmentally friendly, as it is made from PVC and other synthetic materials that are not biodegradable.
Plastisol ink is easy to work with and has a long shelf life, so the garment can be stored for a long time without drying out. Plastisol ink requires high heat to cure, which can cause problems with certain types of fabric, such as those that are heat sensitive or prone to shrinkage.
It is durable and resistant to fading, cracking, and peeling, making it a good choice for garments worn frequently. It is unsuitable for printing on some natural fabrics, such as cotton, as it can cause the fabric to become stiff and uncomfortable to wear.

 

Discharge ink

Discharge ink is specifically formulated to produce vibrant, high-quality prints on dark-colored fabrics. It takes the color out of the fabric, leaving a bright and soft print.

Mixing the discharge ink with a discharge paste or activator makes the dye in the fabric react chemically with the ink. Because of this reaction, the dye is removed from the fabric, leaving a blank spot where the print will go. The design is then printed with the ink on the fabric, and the dye in ink replaces the dye taken out, making a bright print.

Discharge ink is especially useful when printing on dark-colored fabrics because it lets you make high-quality prints without adding a layer of white ink to act as a base. This means you don't have to use multiple layers of ink, which can make the print thick and heavy.

What are the Pros and Cons of discharge ink?

Pros Cons
Discharge ink is specifically formulated to produce vibrant, high-quality prints on dark-colored fabrics without needing an additional layer of white ink. Discharge ink can be hard to work with because it needs certain conditions to work well.
Discharge ink produces soft-to-the-touch prints, particularly useful for apparel. The right amount of the discharge paste or activator must be mixed with the ink. If the mix is wrong, the prints may not be very good.
Discharge ink allows for a high degree of color vibrancy and consistency, making it ideal for designs that require a wide range of colors. The ink must be printed at the right temperature. The print will only be good if the proper temperature is maintained.
When used under the right conditions, discharge ink can produce consistent results. Handling discharge ink is dangerous because it can hurt you if you breathe or touch it. During the printing process, it's important to have enough airflow and wear the right safety gear.

 

Foil ink

Foil ink is a type of ink used in screen printing that gives the printed item a metallic or shiny look. It is a transfer ink printed on a release paper and then heated and pressed onto the material.

Many foil ink colors and finishes, such as gold, silver, copper, and holographic. Other inks can also be combined with foil ink to make unique designs with many layers. It is often used to make designs for clothing, advertising items, and packaging.

To print with foil ink, you must do a few things: First, the ink is used to print the design onto a piece of release paper. The release paper is then put on the material, and a heat press is used to press down on it. The foil sticks to the material because of the heat and pressure, giving it a metallic or shiny look.

What are the Pros and Cons of foil ink?

Pros Cons
A metallic or shiny appearance can be achieved with foil ink, which can help a design stand out and be one of a kind. Printing with foil ink is more complicated than other ways of printing because it takes more steps and requires special tools.
Many color options and surface treatments are available for foil ink, including holographic, gold, silver, and copper. Foil ink can only be used on flat surfaces. Foil ink can't be used on items with odd shapes or three-dimensional things.
It is possible to create one-of-a-kind designs with numerous layers by combining different types of ink with foil ink. Foil ink and the equipment needed to print with it can be pricey. This makes foil printing a more expensive option than other ways to print.
Foil ink can be used on various materials, like fabric, paper, and cardstock. Advertisers can use it to make promotional clothing, items, and packaging. Foil ink doesn't last as long as other types of ink; over time, it can chip, peel, or rub off.

 

Glitter ink

Glitter ink is a type of ink that gives a design a sparkly or glittery look. It is used in screen printing. It is a transfer ink printed on a release paper and then heated and pressed onto the material. When the ink is put on the material, the glitter particles make it look sparkly.

People often use glitter ink to design clothing, promotional items, and packaging. It comes in many colors, including metallic ones like silver, gold, and others. Other inks can also use glitter ink to make unique designs with many layers.

The way glitter ink is used for printing is similar to how foil ink is used. Glitter ink is used to print the design on release paper. The release paper is then pressed on the material with a heat press. Because of the heat and pressure, the glitter ink sticks to the material, giving it a sparkly look.

What are the Pros and Cons of glitter ink?

Pros Cons
Glitter ink is available in a wide range of colors, including silver, gold, and various other metallic shades. Glitter ink creates a sparkly or glittery effect that can add a unique and eye-catching aspect to a design. The process of printing with glitter ink involves several steps and requires specialized equipment, making it more complex than other printing methods.
To produce one-of-a-kind, multi-layered designs, glitter ink can be used with other types of ink. Glitter particles can fall off over time, reducing the durability of the print.
Glitter ink is used for celebrations and events of a more festive nature, such as concerts, festivals, and parties. Glitter ink and the equipment required for printing can be expensive, making it a more costly option than other printing methods.

 

Glow-in-the-dark ink

Glow-in-the-dark ink is a type of screen printing ink that glows in the dark or when there isn't much light. It is a special kind of ink that has phosphors in it. Phosphors take in light and give it back as a glow. Light can charge the ink by being exposed to it, giving off light when it's dark.

People often use glow-in-the-dark ink to make clothing designs, promotional items, and safety gear. It comes in different colors, like green, blue, and yellow. Other inks can also use glow-in-the-dark ink to make unique designs with many layers.

Using glow-in-the-dark ink to print is similar to using regular screen printing ink. It is important to remember that the ink is not as bright when it is not charged, so it is usually used as a secondary effect in designs.

What are the Pros and Cons of glow-in-the-dark ink?

Pros Cons
Glow-in-the-dark ink can make things easier to see and safer when there isn't much light. This makes it great for safety gear and promotional items. Glow-in-the-dark ink requires charging time before it can emit light, affecting the overall design.
With glow-in-the-dark ink, you can make a design stand out with a unique and interesting effect. Glow-in-the-dark ink can be more expensive than traditional ink(s).
There are different colors of glow-in-the-dark ink, like green, blue, and yellow, which can make designs more interesting. It's mainly used in low light conditions, not suitable for daytime.

 

Thermochromatic ink

Thermochromatic ink changes its color based on temperature change. It is a special kind of ink with pigments that change color when the temperature does. When the ink's temperature goes up or down, the pigments in the ink react, and the color changes.

Most of the time, thermochromatic ink is used to make designs on clothing, promotional items, and packaging. It comes in many colors and can make unique designs with many layers. It is often used to make designs that change color when heated, like when a hot mug or cup is put on it.

Using thermochromatic ink to print is much like using a traditional screen to print. The ink is put on the material in the desired shape, and then the material is heated or cooled to make the pigments in the ink work and change the color.

What are the Pros and Cons of thermochromatic ink?

Pros Cons
Thermochromatic ink can create a unique and interactive experience for the user, as the design changes color when exposed to changes in temperature. Thermochromatic ink is more expensive than traditional ink(s).
Thermochromatic ink can add an extra level of security. The ink can be used to create designs that change color when exposed to heat, making it difficult to copy or counterfeit. The color change of Thermochromatic ink depends on the temperature range of the ink and the temperature of the environment, which can limit its usability.
Thermochromatic ink is available in many colors and can create unique, multi-layered designs. Thermochromatic ink can be prone to fading or losing its color-changing properties over time.
Thermochromatic ink can be used on various materials, including fabric, paper, and cardstock, and can be used for apparel, promotional items, and packaging. The process of printing with thermochromatic ink is more complex than traditional screen printing and requires specialized equipment and conditions to produce optimal results.

 

Varnish ink

Varnish ink is used as a topcoat to give a design a glossy or matte finish. Varnish is a clear liquid on a printed surface to protect the ink from wear and tear, fading, and water damage. It also makes the color and shine of the ink underneath pop out more, making it more interesting.

People often use varnish ink to design clothing, promotional items, and packaging. It can have a glossy or matte finish, and varnish ink can also use to make a spot varnish effect, in which only certain parts of a design get a glossy or matte finish.

Printing with varnish ink is much like traditional screen printing, except that the varnish is added at the end. The varnish is put on the material's surface and hardened with heat or UV light.

What are the Pros and Cons of varnish ink?

Pros Cons
Varnish ink can add a glossy or matte finish to a design, making it more vibrant and eye-catching. The process of printing with varnish ink is more complex than traditional screen printing and requires specialized equipment and conditions to produce optimal results
Varnish can protect the ink from wear and tear, fading, and water damage. Varnish can crack, peel or smudge if not applied properly, reducing the durability of the print.
Varnish ink can be used on various materials, including fabric, paper, and cardstock, and can be used for apparel, promotional items, and packaging. If the varnish is not appropriate, the fabric may take on a different feel.
Varnish can be applied in a glossy and matte finish, creating a spot varnish effect. Varnish ink can be more expensive than traditional ink.

 

FAQs

 

What is the most popular type of ink used for screen printing?

Plastisol ink is the most common type of ink used for screen printing.

What kinds of fabrics work best with water-based inks?

Cotton, polyester, and rayon work best with water-based inks.

What are the drawbacks of using water-based inks?

Water-based inks can be more expensive than other kinds of ink, they can dry out and clog screens, and they might not work well on some fabrics.

What are the benefits of using plastisol inks for screen printing?

Plastisol inks can be used on a wide range of fabrics, make prints that are bright and bold, and last a long time without fading or cracking.

Is Plastisol Ink good for the environment?

No.