Is Your Shirt Bulletproof? Why Water-Based Inks Should Matter to You
There are two main types of ink that are typically used for textile printing: water-based inks and crap. The former provides a nice look and
There are two main types of ink that are typically used for textile printing: water-based inks and crap. The former provides a nice look and lovely feel to your shirt — which is preferred by many, especially millennials — and the latter feels gross and heavy. Which one is right for you? The answer is pretty clear. Here are the advantages of water-base, and why:
People in the industry talk about the awesome feel of water-based ink shirts. What exactly does it feel like, you ask? Nothing. It feels like nothing at all. And that’s what makes it so special. The low viscosity of the ink allows for maximum penetration of the fibers. Unlike other inks, it doesn’t just sit on top of the fabric; it becomes a part of it. The ink is at one with the shirt. If you want an ultra-soft feel, it’s the only way to go.
It just looks better. The ink on the shirts are more robust, but not noticeable the way it is on bulletproof-ink shirts. (By the way, the term “bulletproof” comes from the notion that Plastisol ink is so thick, it could stop a bullet.) Water-based looks like it’s organically part of the fabric, creating a cooler vintage soft touch.. “To me it’s a no-brainer,” says Kevin McCracken of Social Imprints. “I don’t understand why more people don’t do water-based inks, especially for younger people.”
Plastisol ink contains chemicals derived from petroleum. Sure, it’s easier to use, but plastisol inks contain PVC and phthalates, two chemicals that are damaging to the environment. Water-based inks, by comparison, contain neither PVC nor phthalates. Plus, solvents aren’t needed to clean the screens after they’ve been used.
As for the type of fabric, water-based inks work best on organic, hundred-percent cotton. The weave of pure cotton fabric allows for easier ink implementation, resulting in a richer and vibrant saturation. Also, as McCracken explains, “water-based tends to be less opaque on polyester blends or other polyblends.”
The (Not So) Bad
As far as disadvantages go, they are few and far between. Sure, water-based cost a little more, but not by much. And don’t fear, consumer, only the printers who produce your shirts face challenges using water-based inks.
The Sum of It All
- Softer, more breathable and flexible prints
- Works best on 100% cotton garments
- Variations in print color are to be expected
- Great for printing over seams or stitching
- Comparatively more eco-friendly
- Best for large logos or prints