Plastisol vs Water-Based inks - Screen Print Direct

In screen printing there are two major players when it comes to inks, you have your water-based inks and your plastisol inks.


Plastisol inks are extremely easy to use and convenient when you are on press. If you are new you can take your time printing and don't have to worry about the ink drying or clogging your print area. Plastisol, which sits on top of the shirt, allows for a nice vibrant punch in color but over time if not cured properly will begin to crack and eventually flake off.


  • You get a nice and vibrant print
  • Will not dry out even when left open
  • You can use any type of emulsion
  • Easy learning curve for new printers


  • You can feel it on the shirt
  • You may need different inks for polyester/ blends
  • You need Plastisol ink cleaners



Water-based inks are a totally different breed of ink. These inks become a part of the garment and do not sit on top of the garment like a plastisol ink would. Water-based inks produce an extremely soft hand as the ink penetrates the garment fibers. Discharge inks will require an activator to print on darker garments. Unlike plastisol inks, these inks will begin to dry if you leave them open, or unattended on the screen for a short period of time (you will get different results based on your environment.) Water-based inks are also perceived to be “eco-friendly” but do your due diligence on that one since some may contain pigments, binders, thickeners, etc. Now that's not to say that water-based inks are not "eco-friendly", they are just not 100% eco-friendly as people may think.


  • These inks will become part of the garment so there is almost no feel
  • They are cleaner than plastisol inks 
  • Easy to clean up


  • Can dry in screen and clog your mesh
  • Requires a longer cure time than plastisol inks
  • You need a water-resistant emulsion
  • Discharge ink requires an activator which shortens shelf life to 8 hours when mixed


If there are any other questions or concerns you have regarding plastisol vs water-based inks feel free to reach out to us.

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