Water Based Ink 101 - Screen Print Direct

Water-based printing’s popularity has skyrocketed lately! If you’ve been shopping recently, you’ve noticed that the most common print types you see are plastisol and water-based.

What is water based ink? 

Water based inks are screen-printing inks that are water soluble. They are different than plastisol inks for several reasons. Water based inks can be printed on more than just textiles and garments. Water based inks can be used for poster prints, canvas and more! Water based ink is thinner and will dry up much quicker on the press than plastisol ink. 

In this blog post we will discuss: Pro’s & cons of water-based ink, difference between ready to use and dischargeable ink, supplies required and how to cure water-based inks.

In the early days of water based printing ink, so much could go wrong – inks would dry and would be hard to work with on the screen. While water based ink technology has dramatically improved, there is still a learning curve when it comes to mastering the skill.

Pro’s & Con’s:

PRO: You might be wondering why water-based printing has grown in popularity. One of the most common reasons is because consumers want their items to feel soft.  You can achieve a soft print with plastisol ink too, but water-based prints are simply softer in nature because the ink is absorbed by the fabric.
CON: A downside to water based ink is when printing on dark garments, you need an opaque ink. In this scenario, water-based ink can end up being as thick and as hard as plastisol because a darker garment will require multiple layers of ink to achieve the coverage you desire. Water-based ink also dried up quicker on the press. 
Water-based ink can be used as either a ready to use or discharge ink.

Ready to Use:
Ink is ready straight from the container.

Discharge printing is a screen-printing process in which the water-based ink is mixed with an activator. This activator allows the ink to penetrate the fabric and dye the garment versus traditional printing which puts the ink on top of the fabric. Discharge printing creates the softest results as the ink is now embedded into the fibers.

Not all water-based inks can be discharged they must be a discharge ink. All Ecotex Inks are dischargeable except Jet Black and Snow White.
For more information on how to Discharge Print visit this blog post.
Supplies Required:
When preparing to use water-based ink, remember to take into account the factors below:

  • Screen mesh 160+
  • Water based press/screen wash for clean up
  • Water Resistant emulsion: The following emulsions we carry are for water-based inks


Curing should be a minimum of 90 seconds. Water based ink cure temperature is 320°F. For the best results 2-3 minutes at 320°F. Note: Curing water based ink with a heat gun can be done as long as the ink reaches the above temperature for 2-3 minutes.

  • Flash at 105°C/220°F - 7 - 12 seconds


Get the best water based screen printing ink here at Screen Print Direct.


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I am also a little confused about the mixing base. Thought I was getting the whole package but it turns out a little more research was required and the base is not sold on SPD!

Raynald Laflamme

Raynald Laflamme

What fabrics can I use Ecotex ink on?

Adrian Jantz

Adrian Jantz

Can someone walk me through the cms mixing system for ecotex wb inks. Some recipes have “mixing white” and “mixing base” in them. Can you please tell me the difference and point me in the right direction of a mixing base. The 14 color set you offer only includes a “mixing white”.

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