Water Based Ink 101

March 25, 2019

Water Based Ink 101

Ok, water-based printing is something that everyone and their moms are wanting to do now. That doesn’t mean you should rebel and not print with it but that doesn’t mean you need to follow the crowd either. Like most things that come with screen printing it is all preference at the end of the day. You can go to the store yourself and find a wide variety of prints these days and notice that the most common print types you will see are going to be plastisol and water based. Oh and also heat transfers but we don't talk about those here.

In the early days water-based printing was a headache, with inks drying and being hard to work with on the screen. Water based ink technology has drastically changed but there is still a learning curve that comes with it. Yes, it has gotten better since the early days of water based printing, its more opaque, it has much more of a body now instead of being what we would all picture water based ink as which is water and it wont dry as easily as it used to. Yes, they have become much more user friendly, but that doesn’t mean its going to be as easy as 1, 2, 3 either.

Water based printing has become popular because a lot of consumers are pushing for a soft feel on their shirts. With normal plastisol inks you can achieve a soft print, but you can only get so soft with it where as water based is going to be as soft as the shirt is going to be since it gets absorbed by the fabric itself.

When you are printing darker garments, you need more of an opaque ink and that is where the water-based ink will not be as soft as you think it might be. A white water-based ink can be as heavy as a plastisol because you are going to have to put down layers of it to get the nice coverage you want.. But wait there's more! You also have the option of Discharging now with water-based but that is something we will cover in a whole other blog post of its own.

So now that we briefly went over the old vs new types of water-based inks there are some other things that you need to take notes on when you plan to print with it. For starters water-based inks require different screen mesh, cleaners and emulsion than your typical plastisol inks.

Water based inks require

  • Screen mesh 160+
  • Water based press/screen wash
  • Water Resistant emulsion
  • Dryer capable of forced air


Catch you guys later and remember if you have any questions hit us in the DM on instagram or drop us a line on our live chat that is available Monday-Friday.

- SPD Crew!

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