What are the Different Types of Screen Printing Ink?

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What are the Different Types of Screen Printing Ink?
Screen printing inks come in various types, each with unique properties. Plastisol is vibrant and durable, water-based is soft and eco-friendly, discharge ink creates vintage looks on dark fabrics, hybrid ink combines benefits, and specialty inks offer unique effects like metallic or glitter finishes. Choose based on your project needs.

Screen printing is a popular method for printing designs on various surfaces, from t-shirts to posters. One of the critical components of screen printing is the ink used. The type of ink you choose can significantly impact the final product's look and feel. Let's explore the different types of screen printing ink available and their unique properties.

1. Plastisol Ink


  • Thick and opaque
  • Stays on top of the fabric
  • Vibrant colors

Uses: Plastisol ink is one of the most commonly used inks in screen printing. It is favored for its bright and bold colors, which stand out on dark fabrics. Plastisol ink is easy to work with and doesn’t dry out quickly, making it ideal for beginners. However, it requires heat to cure, meaning it needs to be heated to a specific temperature to set the design permanently.


  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Ideal for vibrant and opaque prints
  • Easy to use


  • Not breathable; can feel heavy on fabric
  • Requires curing with heat

2. Water-Based Ink


  • Soft and breathable
  • Soaks into the fabric
  • Matte finish

Uses: Water-based ink is perfect for creating soft, breathable prints on light-colored fabrics. It seeps into the fabric fibers, making the print feel like part of the material rather than sitting on top of it. This ink is excellent for designs that need a soft, natural feel.


  • Eco-friendly and non-toxic
  • Soft, breathable prints
  • Suitable for detailed designs


  • Less vibrant on dark fabrics
  • Can dry out quickly, making it challenging to work with

3. Discharge Ink


  • Removes dye from the fabric
  • Soft feel
  • Works best on dark, natural fabrics

Uses: Discharge ink is unique because it removes the dye from the fabric instead of adding color on top. It works exceptionally well on dark, natural fabrics like cotton. The result is a soft print that maintains the fabric’s original feel. Discharge ink is often used for vintage or distressed looks.


  • Soft, breathable prints
  • Great for achieving a vintage look
  • Ideal for dark fabrics


  • Can be unpredictable in color results
  • Requires precise handling and curing

4. Hybrid Ink


  • Combination of plastisol and water-based inks
  • Balance of vibrant colors and soft feel

Uses: Hybrid ink combines the best qualities of plastisol and water-based inks. It provides the vibrant colors and opacity of plastisol while offering the soft feel and eco-friendliness of water-based inks. This ink is versatile and suitable for various applications.


  • Vibrant colors with a soft feel
  • Eco-friendly options available
  • Versatile for different fabrics


  • May require more complex curing processes
  • Can be more expensive

5. Specialty Inks


  • Unique effects and finishes
  • Includes metallic, glitter, and puff inks

Uses: Specialty inks are used to create unique and eye-catching designs. Metallic and glitter inks add sparkle and shine, while puff ink expands when heated to create a raised, textured effect. These inks are perfect for adding a special touch to your prints.


  • Unique and visually appealing effects
  • Great for special projects and custom designs


  • Can be more challenging to work with
  • Often more expensive


Choosing the right type of screen printing ink depends on your project’s needs and the desired outcome. Plastisol ink is excellent for bold, durable prints, while water-based ink offers a soft, natural feel. Discharge ink is perfect for achieving a vintage look on dark fabrics, and hybrid inks provide a balance of both qualities. Specialty inks can add a unique touch to your designs. Understanding the characteristics and uses of each type of ink will help you make the best choice for your screen printing projects.

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