Water Based Ink 101 - Screen Print Direct

Water-based ink 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 screen printing 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 the Pros & Cons of screen printing water-based ink, the difference between ready-to-use and dischargeable ink, the supplies required, and how to cure water-based inks.

In the early days of water-based ink printing, 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.

Pros & Cons:

PRO: You might be wondering why water-based screen 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 ink 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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