Water-Based Screen Printing

Offbeat Press is proud to offer water-based screen printing inks for our more environmentally conscious customers. Water-based screen printing has proven to be not only environmentally friendly, but offers exceptional quality and durability. We use the industry’s best water-based screen printing inks, which are solvent free and do not contain PVC, phthalates or toxic chemicals. Inks come in a variety of stock colors and can be mixed to match any requested custom color, just like plastisol.

Water-based inks are available in all standard colors and some specialty colors. Its important to note that water-based screen printing inks are designed to print on 100% cotton garments so make sure the garments you order allow for water based inks. Water-based ink will always perform better when printed on a lighter colored garment, although dark garment printing is possible with a special additive called discharge.

Water-based screen printing ink technology has evolved to allow for professional-grade inks to print effectively on both light and dark shirts. Printing water-based ink on dark shirts is substantially trickier, and requires an ink additive known as discharge. When mixed with the water-based ink, discharge will remove the garment’s dye color and fully replace it with the ink it has been mixed into. This allows for a softer feel after first washing, even softer than water-based ink normally affords. It is not recommended that discharge ink be printed on any garment that is less than 100% cotton. Although possible, it will not perform as intended and results can be rather unpredictable.

There are a variety of differences between conventional plastisol ink and water-based ink systems. The most noticeable is that water-based screen printing has a much softer feel on garment than conventional inks. This is known as a “soft hand” and is due to the way water-based ink soaks into the fibers. Whereas plastisol ink forms a cured print layer atop the garment. Water-based ink is consistently less viscous and cures partially through evaporation, making the ink much more complicated to work with.

We have spent countless hours and late nights studying the nuances of water-based printing and curing techniques. Water-based inks work best on 100% cotton fabric and a select few hi-percentage cotton blends. Plastisol ink is much more versatile and–with the right ink additives–can be printed on and adhere to virtually any imaginable garment style. If a customer has a specialty fabric they would like to see printed, using plastisol or water-based ink systems, we would encourage the ordering of a sample for testing. This ensures the garment and ink performance meets both your needs and our quality standards before we move forward with a full print run, saving time, money, and resources.

Neither water-based nor plastisol inks should ever be ironed and all screen-printing is suggested to be washed inside out and dried on low heat to preserve the print. Water-based ink is exceptionally washfast and does not crack or wash out when properly cured.

Water-based screen-printingADDITIONAL COSTS
Until recently water-based inks were more expensive. As of 2015, Offbeat Press has begun offering water-based inks at the same price as conventional inks for quantities over 24qty per design. Water-based inks are more complicated to work with, and take more time and attention during the printing process. All water-based inks and discharge printing inks are mixed custom. Because of the additional prep time, our standard minimum for water-based screen printing is 24qty for all water-based and water-based discharge printing.

If sustainability is a concern you have while ordering shirts then we recommended choosing an organic or recycled garment along with our water-based ink printing. We pride ourselves on our organic garment selection and our ability to find a style that matches your needs. This is possible due to the wide range of suppliers we source our blank pieces from. For more information on some of the more popular organic garments we offer, visit our garment options page.

In addition to our ink systems, our screen-printing processes and practices allow us to make for a low-waste work environment. Our 100% manual printing presses are human powered, saving energy and increasing print quality. This reduces our global footprint and increases our ability to ensure quality printing and quality jobs.

Our ecologically conscious processes do not end at the press. We use low-impact chemicals during screen reclamation and shop cleaning. Additionally, we benefit from a large variety of other green processes in the shop, the office and in our daily lives. Read more about our Sustainable Practices here.