Plastisol Inks and Water-Based Inks: Which one should I choose?

by Jul 24, 2019

We’ve covered the most popular printing techniques but what about the actual ink that goes into your design? How does it impact your finished look and the durability of your design? We have put together a guide that will give you an insight into how water and plastisol inks work. As they are two of the most prominent types of ink, they come with different advantages and disadvantages.


What are Plastisol inks and how do they work?

In their chemical composition, plastisol inks include plastics. They contain tiny particles of PVC plastic and no other volatile components. Another property that plastisol inks have is the ability to be thermoplastic, which means that they will need to be heated before being achieving a finished look.


The pros of Plastisol Inks

The reason why they are so much favoured by many industry professionals is that they have the power to produce great colour consistency and are much more durable in the long term.  Another plus to using plastisol inks is that they won’t dry out in the screen as fast as the water-based ones, remaining fluid and easily manageable.

In terms of garments they work well with, they produce amazing results on both dark and light garments. Another fact about plastisol inks is that they are also easily applied over other inks without producing any bleeding or different opacities. And they are also compatible with most of the adhesives that are used to fix screen stencils.


The cons of Plastisol Inks

There are a couple of cons as well. The designs printed with plastisol inks will results in a certain ’’thicker’’ feel to touch, which can be treated as a matter of taste. If you are into bold designs, then that won’t be a problem, but if you’re into lighter and faded designs then, plastisols inks aren’t for you. There is also the issue of getting “chipped” or “cracked” but this happens when the design is printed over areas that can easily get creased, such as seams or sleeves. The designs printed with plastisol are also more susceptible to damage produced by ironing. They are thermoplastic, remember? Anything that is too hot for them will result in smeared designs. 

There is a final note on plastisol inks regarding their eco-friendly profile. Most of them still contain phthalate plasticiser which is considered to be a harmful substance to the environment. Measures are being taken at the moment, as a response to the presume from environmental bodies and hopefully, their composition will be more eco-friendly. 


What are water-based inks and how do they work?

As the name suggests, water-based inks are made in combination with water. Within their chemical composition, you won’t find PVC or plastics which further means that they are quite eco-friendly. Their curing process involves evaporation as well as heat.  But how exactly are they different from other inks?

Think about the way the fabric reacts when it comes into contact with the ink. In case of the water-based inks, they act directly and dye it as the ink penetrates into the fabric, rather than forming a coat on the top of the fabric. The difference lies when you touch the garment after it has been printed. With water-based inks, you will only feel like the ink is part of the garment.


The pros of Water-based Inks

They are also becoming more popular within the industry as they are more environmentally compliant and can combine new methods and effects in the printing process.

One of the main advantages is that with water-based inks the printer is able to reach difficult areas and it can also print on a variety of fabrics. Another plus to water-based inks is that it creates beautiful vintage prints as the inks will have a more faded-out look to them. Since the ink does not leave a heavy film on the fabric, the garment will feel much more comfortable.


The cons of Water-based Inks

One of the main cons is that water-based inks tend to dry really quickly in the screen and they are also going to take longer during the curing process as they need to be left to evaporate.

It is recommended that you will stay away from using water-based inks on dark garments, as they are more suitable for light coloured fabrics. The reason why using water-based inks on dark fabrics is not a good idea is simply because the vibrancy of the colour won’t be just as strong. The water-based ink will blend in with the dark fabric and your design won’t be visible.