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Why we use Plastisol inks on our garments as Screen Printers

Screen printing is, at best an art form, and at worst a kind of weird science with heaps of variables. Getting good results depends on so many factors not least is the choice of ink used. There are a variety of inks on offer but which one is best as they all have their own unique elements? Here are a few titbits of info on them all.

1. Water-Based Inks:

One less common type of ink used in screen printing is water-based ink. It is lauded for its eco-friendly nature and the soft feel it imparts to printed fabrics. However, it is unclear just how eco-friendly they may be. Most print shops (not us!) end up flushing their inks into the water system as opposed to having them chemically treated elsewhere. Water-based inks also have limitations, particularly when it comes to printing on dark or coloured fabrics. The colour vibrancy tends to be subdued, and achieving opacity can be challenging. It’s a trade-up or down situation. Do you want the soft feel on the shirt or more vibrant colours on the garment, but don’t be fooled by the suggestion that they are more eco-friendly.

2. Discharge Inks:

Discharge inks are another alternative that works by removing the dye from the fabric and replacing it with the desired pigment. This produces the softest hand print you can get on the market, but few screen printers will print with this ink now. While it’s an effective ink on dark fabrics, discharge inks can be inconsistent, and the process involves the use of chemicals that may be harmful to the environment and the team in the print shop.

3. Plastisol Ink:

Plastisol ink, composed of ink particles suspended in a liquid plasticizer, emerges as a standout choice for screen printing. Its popularity stems from its versatility, durability, and vibrant colour reproduction. Plastisol inks are suitable for printing on a wide range of materials, including cotton, polyester, and blends, making them a go-to option for many screen printers.

Advantages of Plastisol Ink:

a. Durability: Plastisol ink creates a durable print that can withstand repeated washes without fading or cracking. This durability is crucial, especially for garments that are subjected to regular use and laundering.

b. Versatility: Plastisol ink excels in versatility, accommodating various fabrics and substrates. It adheres well to both light and dark-coloured materials, providing consistent and vivid results regardless of the base colour.

c. Ease of Use: Screen printers appreciate the ease with which plastisol ink can be handled. It has a forgiving nature, allowing printers to work at a comfortable pace without the risk of drying in the screen, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced professionals.

d. Colour Reproduction: Plastisol ink boasts exceptional colour vibrancy and opacity. Whether working with Pantone colours or custom shades, plastisol ink delivers precise and consistent results, ensuring the printed design matches the intended colour scheme.

e. Economic Viability: While plastisol ink may initially seem more expensive than some alternatives, its cost-effectiveness becomes evident in large-scale production. Its durability and reliability reduce the need for reprints or touch-ups, ultimately saving time and resources.


At the Ministry of Shirts we have a few other tricks up our sleeves with plastisol ink.

1. We use a Stampinator system in-line with our automatic presses. What this does is reduces the amount of lint and fibrillation on the print surface allowing for a smooth and solid coating of ink to form in the print. This has the effect of producing a print that’s as soft as waterbase ink but durable and vibrant!

2. We remove all inks and chemicals from the washout process and have them removed off site where they can be chemically treated making us as environmentally safe as a lobster at the bottom of the ocean!

3. Using plastisol inks means we can use environmentally sound washup chemicals made from soya!

So, for us humble screen printers we believe plastisol is the stand-out ink of superior choice for its durability, versatility, ease of use, and vibrant colour reproduction. Couple that with our print techniques and you have a print that is amongst the smoothest in the business! While other inks may excel in specific niches, plastisol's ability to provide consistent and high-quality results across Tees, Hoodies, Polos and bags makes it the best choice.


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