What is Discharge? - Screen Print Direct

What is discharge printing? A lot of printers have heard the term but don’t really know what it is or understand what exactly it does. In this post we will discuss what discharge printing is, when to use it and how to use it.

Discharge ink is a water-based ink that is formulated just a wee bit different so that when you get your discharge activator and mix it together with your ink, it makes a little chemical magic that allows you to remove the shirts original dyed color and replace it with the ink color. When you first print the design, it is going to look muted until it reaches its curing temperature. Once it does Bam! Here comes the color. 


How and When to Use Discharge Inks:

When you are silk screening with water-based inks there are a few things to know.

  1. Printing on a light-colored garment? Use water-based ink straight from the container, no need to discharge the ink 
  2. Printing on a dark colored garment? Mix your discharge inkwith its discharge activator so it can bleach the shirt back to its original color and dye the fabric with the colored ink chosen. 

How to use Discharge Activator? 

Add 3-5% discharge activator to your ink. For example. If you have 8oz of ink you will want to add .24-.40 ounces (6.8-11.4 grams) of discharge to your ink. 

When using as a discharge ink, add enough discharge powder to the amount of ink you need for the print run. Mix thoroughly to make sure no chunks or grains are visible. Once activator is mixed in the product has an hour lifespan. Therefore we suggest only mixing enough for the print run on hand, wasted ink is wasted money. 

As mentioned above when you first print with discharge the color will look muted. When you cure it the color will come to life. 




Please note that discharge ink has a lifespan of 1 hour once the discharge activator is added, so it’s very important that you only mix enough for that particular job.

Let's Talk 

Remember, we are here to help! Drop a comment below or email our support team at info@screenprintdirect.com 




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Thomas Brooks

Thomas Brooks

I’m confused you state above discharge water based ink only has a lifespan of 1 hour, but directly on your discharge product description on your site it says this. “Activated ink should be used within 8 hours”.

So which is it? There is a HUGE difference and can confuse people like myself.

Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Great information! Can discharge activator be used with any water-based ink or does it have to be matched with a specific kind of ink?



So if I want to use discharge I just need to add the activator to each of the inks I am printing with? Does it work well with white?



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