Discharge printing is a method where the ink application actually removes the pigment in a shirt similar to bleach but in much more controlled way. Nothing like the bleaching videos you’ve seen on YouTube where the lines are not crisp and are typically done freehand.
The desaturation of the t-shirt fabric is executed by a special discharge ink with an activation agent and the application of heat to cure it. Some fabric colors can be problematic such as the infamous color red. Red is the bane of most screen printers and a testing of the fabric beforehand will be the deciding factor on whether the product can be used.
What makes discharge print so desirable is the soft feel of the print. It’s very different from traditional plastisol ink which has a considerable structured feel. Discharge ink is water based and contrasts from plastisol because it sinks into the garment removing the original color of the fabric instead of being laid down on top of the fabric. It’s basically re-dying the fabric so it works best on darker garments. Discharge print is also very desirable because it’s fashionable.
Discharge printing does not work really well on certain colors like royal blue, Kelly green, and purple. Instead of discharging down to a whitish color, you will get a lighter hue of the original color. Some manufacturer’s products work better than others for these colors.
For a great discharge print, you need to print on 100% cotton t-shirts. Cotton poly blends are not ideal since the discharge process will not react with polyester fabric. You cannot remove the color in plastics which is what polyester consists of. However, if you’re good with a very vintage look and muted colors in your design, cotton poly blends can be used but no two shirts will look exactly alike. Some heathered blends will accept discharge well and are consistent with the soft hand and vintage look that make discharge so enticing.
Colors can be used in discharge printing through the addition of pigment to the ink; however color matching such as Pantone Color Matching cannot be done due to the exact precision expected from PMS colors due to the nature of the process.
Don’t expect a crisp white color from discharge since the color revealed during the process is the natural color of cotton which is an organic look. Fans of discharge print consider this part of the attraction.
Discharge printing in multiple colors is done by printing the darkest colors first then layering the lighter colors on top with a wet-on-wet technique. Since discharge ink doesn’t actually begin to appear until heat is applied, the screen printer will need to depend on years of experience and confidence in his or hers ability to know if the outcome will look right.
A final note, this printing process will absolutely require washing the garment before wear to get rid of the smell and residue left by discharge printing procedures.
Are you interested in trying this fashionable print application for your custom t-shirt order? Hit chat below or give us a call at the phone number above for your custom quote!