Plastisol Ink vs Water-Based Ink: Which one is right for you?

The great debates of our time: Back Street Boys vs *NSYNC, Tupac vs Biggie, Shake Shack vs In and Out… and now plastisol ink vs water-based ink. Ok, maybe this debate isn’t as popular, but we feel passionate about it and truly believe each ink has a purpose. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly of both options.

The two most commonly used inks in screen printing are plastisol ink and water-based ink. If you aren’t sure which one to pick or think you have to pick one, let us make it easy. At Morningstar Screen Printing, we don’t discriminate. We offer both inks and even have a hybrid option. Now the question is which one is right for your design? Keep reading to get the full rundown on plastisol ink vs water-based ink.

screen printed t-shirt

Let’s Get Touchy Feely

Plastisol ink and water-based ink yield completely different feelings literally and figuratively. Plastisol is a plastic-based ink that sits on top of the fabric fibers, creating a thick layer of ink. Due to this, the fabric can feel heavy and the design can peel and crack over time. Water-based ink replaces the color of the fabric with the color of the ink. This allows the shirt to maintain its natural breathability and the design won’t peel or fade. Water-based ink allows the design to become part of the fabric it’s printed on.

Material Matters

If you have a specific shirt already picked out for your design, then the decision between the plastisol and water-based ink may already be made for you. Remember we said we’d make it easy? Both inks perform well on cotton shirts but if you want to use a 100% polyester garment or 50/50 blends, plastisol gives the best outcome. Water-based inks perform best when used on 100% cotton shirts but can sometimes be used on blends depending on the desired outcome.

Color Payoff

If you’re looking for saturated color, we recommend using plastisol. Since the ink lays on top of the fabric it provides bold, saturated color, and plastisol ink can also be matched to Pantone’s. We compiled a library of over fifty of the most popular PMS colors that you can download on our website, or we can get an exact color match by working with one of our Daymakers. If you are in need of an exact color match, plastisol is the option for you. Water-based ink can come off vibrant and bright on 100% cotton. On dark colors or blended materials, water-based ink provides an awesome vintage faded look to the design.

Whether you need a Classic Tee using plastisol ink, a Soft Tee using water-based ink, or Hybrid Tee for something in between we’ve got you covered. Get in touch with a Daymaker, to get your next project started!

Looking for more? Check out our blog on Dye-sublimation vs. Water-based Screen Printing.