How to Choose the Right Screen Printing Ink


Water based, discharge, plastisol, or specialty ink? Each one has advantages and disadvantages. Here’s our guide to understanding and evaluating each type to find out which screen printing ink is best for you.

Plastisol screen printing

When people think about screen printing, they usually think of plastisol first. Plastisol is derived from plastic. The ink lives on top of the material, and you can feel it stand out from the garment. This type of screen printing ink produces bright, long-lasting colors. Plastisol is best if you need an exact tone match. Grandline Graphics can mix any color to match your favorite pantone.

Why do people love plastisol?

  • Durable

  • Excellent choice for lights and darks

  • Halftones and gradients easy to achieve

  • Exact tone match possible

Important considerations:

  • Not as soft as water based screen printing ink

  • Not breathable

  • Prone to cracking, peeling and fading

Water based screen printing ink

Water based ink, as the name suggests, is made with water. This type of ink tends to soak into the garment rather than being printed on top. These inks are plastic free and a great option for a very soft-hand print. Since they don’t contain plastic, they are also environmentally friendly.

When water based ink is applied, the shirt color will affect the print color, as the water based ink interacts with the original color of the material. For example, a white water based print on a red shirt will appear somewhat pink. Therefore, water based inks are best for light-colored garments.

People choose water based screen printing inks because they don’t crack, peel, or fade over time like plastisol. Garments with water based screen printing ink are also breathable, making them the most comfortable choice.

Why do people love water-based screen printing inks?

  • Vintage look

  • Eco-friendly

  • Soft

  • Comfortable

  • Breathable

Important considerations:

  • Not suitable for dark materials

  • Best for open mesh counts

  • Halftones and gradients difficult to achieve

Discharge water based screen printing ink

Discharge water based ink is a form of water based ink, with a twist. Instead of being a base that has a pigment in it, discharge water based ink sets into the material and then bleaches out or redies the garment. This type of screen printing ink is best for dark garments. It is possible to combine pigments with the discharge water based ink to add color to the garment, once the original color is removed.

Why do people love discharge water based screen printing inks?

  • Same great, comfortable feel of traditional, water based prints

  • Long-lasting, vintage appearance

  • Ideal for dark garments

Important considerations:

  • Difficulties matching desired pms or tone

  • Best for open mesh counts

  • Halftones and gradients difficult to achieve

Specialty screen printing inks

Sometimes plastisol and water based inks aren’t enough for your screen printing needs. Specialty inks are your ticket to standing out. Do you need your garment to sparkle and shine? Try metallic, shimmer, and glitter ink additives. Do you love bright colors? Glow-in-the-dark and neon additives are a great option. You can also add texture to your screen print with 3D puff prints.

Huge selection of screen printing inks at Grandline Graphics

Grandline Graphics carries a wide range of screen printing inks, plastisol, and specialty additives. Check out our latest work in our gallery, and contact us for a quote. Order your custom screen print today!