Which is Better Plastisol or Water-based ink?

When screen printing, there are two main types of inks: plastisol and water-based. Begs the question, “Which is better?”.
Which is better plastisol or water-based ink

There are many ways of printing graphics on garments, but screen printing remains to be the most popular. When screen printing, there are two main types of ink: plastisol and water-based. Which begs the question: Which is better, plastisol or water-based ink?

Which is better plastisol or water-based ink?

The answer, is it depends. If you’re printing a complicated design on a light-colored cotton shirts, water-based is the way to go. Alternatively plastisol is your best choice If you want to print a simple pattern with bright colors on a dark garment. The ideal ink would be soft, lightweight, vibrant and breathable. It would also be versatile enough to print on a variety of garments, durable enough to withstand years of wearing and washing, cost-effective, and eco-friendly. Is there a single kind of ink that can accomplish it all? Not yet.

So the real issue isn’t which is better, but which is best for your particular project. There are several factors to consider, which we’ve laid out in the points below.

Water-based ink has a softer feel to it.

In the industry we often refer to the softness of the ink as its “hand”. Water-based ink inks can produce the softest and lightest prints available, with almost no hand. What makes water-based ink softer than plastisol? PVC particles and other polymers are the key ingredients in plastisol ink. When heated to a high temperature, plastisol ink solidifies. A plastisol print is essentially a layer of hardened plastic that lays on top of the cloth.

Water-based ink is typically water-soluble and absorbs into the fabric. When dried, the water-based solvents evaporate, leaving only the colored binder components behind. Water-based inks absorb into the fabric instead of sitting on top of it. This absorption is what makes a key difference in the hand of the fabric.

The plastisol ink has a much higher color vibrancy.

Plastisol ink exceeds in enhancing the brightness and saturation of prints on dark-colored garments. Water-based inks can print vivid colors on lighter-colored garments. But the truth is they fall short in comparison. Plastisol inks are typically more opaque than water-based inks, making it easier to produce vibrant prints. Plastisol is a 100% solid, so it adheres to the fabric fibers once it’s cured. To achieve vibrant prints on dark garments using plastisol ink. It is recommended that an under-base layer is printed.

Plastisol ink produces more color accurate prints.

To maintain brand consistency it is critical that your prints are color accurate. Plastisol is the best choice if your project requires precise Pantone colors. Whether on a dark or light colored garment If your print calls for a hyper blue 2728 C plastisol ink can achieve it.

When printing specific Pantone colors using Water-based results can vary. As mentioned before water base inks are a little more translucent making it a tougher to nail down the precise colors. There have been improvements over the years, but non have been enough to overcome plastisol’s accuracy. Even a little change in brightness might cause a color to seem to be many shades off. Thats before you even consider dye migration, curing, press conditions, and everything else.

Both water-based and plastisol are long-lasting.

When properly cured, both water-based and plastisol ink prints will last for years. There are several elements that influence the life of a print. Water-based prints are absorbed into the fabric resulting in a print that last the life of the garment. Similarly, plastisol is firmly adhered to the surface, it should last as long as your T-shirt.

Whether using water-based or plastisol ink, a print that is not properly cured can quickly disintegrate. Other factors, like ink quality and fabric type, can also have an impact. The care and handling of the garment itself is by far the most important factor. If you wash it with hot water, harsh detergent, and bleach every week, neither print will last long.

Water-based ink breathes better.

Although it may appear that a prints breathability is related with airflow, it is really dependent on the ability of moisture to move through the fabric. Because water-based inks penetrate deeper into the cloth, many of the gaps between the threads remain unfilled. These unfilled gaps are what provide the breathability felt with water-based prints. Plastisol ink tends to cover up those tiny gaps. The plastic compounds link to each other to build an impermeable plastic surface that does not allow moisture or air to pass through.

Plastisol ink is more adaptable.

Plastisol has the ability to be utilized on a variety of fabrics, with a variety of inks and additives, and under a variety of press settings. For that reasons plastisol has been the industry standard for decades.

It is possible to print plastisol on virtually any surface. Water-based inks, on the other hand, are a different story. They work best with 100% cotton materials. Blended textiles provide certain challenges since the synthetic components do not absorb ink as well as cotton does. Printing water-based inks on polyester isn’t recommended due to the fabric’s inclination to migrate colors during curing.

The Verdict

Between water-based and plastisol inks, we typically prefer plastisol. It can print full-color with precision. It produces photo-realistic simulated process prints and accepts a wide range of specialized inks. It’s cheap, durable, and easy to print. But as stated above it all depends on the look, feel and outcome you would like for your project. Have any follow up questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us at info@wolfgearprint.com.