top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoey Gibson

Water-Based vs Plastisol Ink for Screen Printed Tees

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

When it comes to branded merchandise, the decisions that are made in production can have a major impact on the final product. For example, choice of ink for a custom t-shirt can have a larger impact than one would expect. The two most common choices of ink for screen printing are Water-Based and Plastisol Ink. Both are very useful and can add unique elements to any custom apparel.

Water-Based Ink

Known for creating unique textures and being soft to the touch, water-based ink is great for

breathable, textured screen printing.

What is Water-Based Ink?

Water-based ink is an ink that absorbs into the fabric as opposed to being deposited

on top. When heated to it’s correct temperature, the water base evaporates and leaves

the ink pigments that have dyed the fabric. This ink leaves a mark that has dissolved into

the shirt compared to the plastic deposit of plastisol.

How does it work?

Water-Based ink appears as dyed fabric when all is finished. The fabric is breathable and soft

to the touch. Though all inks have their eco-issues, water-based ink uses very little plastic thus making it more eco-friendly then most other inks.



Though water-based ink uses some chemicals, it hardly has any plastic. Using water-based

ink is an easy way to cut down plastic use.


The lighter and dyed-fabric nature of this ink allows more air to flow through the fabric.


Water-Based ink dissolves into the fabric only leaving the soft texture of the fabric.


Higher Cost

Due to the unique look and texture, water-based ink typically runs a little higher than

most plastisol inks.

Less Color Vibrancy/Accuracy

Because the ink dissolves into the fabric, the color opacity is naturally lower and requires

more passes of ink. This unfortunately effects the vibrancy and accuracy of the ink color

on fabric.

Plastisol Ink

Known for it's popular use, plastisol ink is a screen printing standard that will create long lasting, vibrant products.

What is Plastisol Ink?

Plastisol is a plastic-based ink. To be exact, it is simply liquid plastic. It is made up of

PVC particles and other polymer bits. When the ink is heated to it’s correct temperature,

the ink solidifies into a solid plastic that sits on top of the fabric it is printed on.

How does it work?

Plastisol is known for being the most common choice of ink. It is durable and can be

used for print on a range of items. It’s thicker ink deposit results in better color

vibrancy and accuracy. Specific brand colors are able to be printed with ease

and consistency.


Lower Cost

The use of plastic naturally lowers the average price of plastisol ink.

High Color Vibrancy/Accuracy

Because the plastic sits on top of the fabric, the color vibrancy and accuracy is nearly

flawless as it is unaffected by the color of fabric beneath it.


The plastic nature of the ink allows it to be used on more products than just fabric. It also

creates a sturdy feel that will stand the test of time.


Heavier Texture

Both a pro and a con, the heavier texture can often times be distracting to the person wearing the fabric.

Less Breathability

Less air is able to pass through the plastic ink deposit causing less breathability.

Next Steps

Now that you know the difference between the two most common inks for custom merchandise, it's up to you to you to decide how they will elevate your business to the next level. Will it be through company uniforms? Company t-shirts? Event Merchandise? Reach out to our account representatives and we will be happy to help you.

PromoSpark logo

bottom of page