WHY DO YOU USE WATER BASED INKS?
QUALITY & COMFORT
Water based inks give you that super soft ink feel you may have encountered on your favorite shirt! In the industry, we call the feel of the ink “the hand” and water based inks give the softest hand possible. Traditional screen print inks, (called plastisol because………well they are basically plastic), have a heavy hand and the ink can feel like a thick plastic layer which stops the shirt from breathing when you wear it.
Although plastisol is a really great ink that lasts, it typically cracks as it gets old. Water based inks don’t generally age in the same way and tend to give you a more vintage look. Since the shirt dye also fades over time, we think old water based prints look better than old plastisol prints.
Water based inks are much thinner than plastisol ink, (which is more of a thick gloop until you stir the life out of it), so waterbased inks get driven into the fibres of your garment and become part of the shirt, whilst plastisol ink sits on top and remains a separate layer. With thicker layers of plastisol, you get a shiny plastic look, whereas water based inks look more natural.
Water based inks are also seen as more eco-friendly than plastisol inks. Our preferred Ready to Use ink is even approved by The Soil Society. Since the inks are water based, they only require water to clean them up. Plastisol inks can use some pretty harsh chemicals in the clean up process.
DO WATER BASED INKS WASH OUT?
NO! The pigments that bond with the garment are held in suspension by water, but once the ink is printed onto the shirt that water evaporates and the pigments and resins are heat treated during the cure process. The heat sets these onto the fibres of the garment and remain washfast.
WHY DOESN’T EVERY SCREEN PRINT SHOP USE WATER BASED INK THEN?
Good question! Water based ink is much harder to work with. As screen printers, we are constantly battling time constraints, and water based ink makes running a print shop much more challenging. The inks dry up in the screen, you can’t just use one ink for dark and light shirts and the chemistry is more complicated. Plastisol ink can sit in a screen for weeks and still be fine, whilst we have a maximum of an hour for water based inks.
Water based inks used to have a reputation for being rather transparent, but the industry has revolutionised the chemistry and the modern inks we now have can result in some fantastic brightness and opacity. Mixing up colours can be much more challenging and water based inks are more expensive. However, we prefer the superior end product and the environmental benefits far outway the costs.