Plastisol ink is pretty much the industry standard for professional screen printing companies. The biggest advantage for using plastisol inks in a commercial operation is it does not cure without the application of heat. It does not evaporate either. The ink remains in a fluid state until it’s cured by substantial temperatures around 330 Fahrenheit. This is typically done on a piece of machinery known as a belt dryer. Another great advantage is plastisol allows for wet on wet application, permitting for multiple colors to be laid down on the textile. Plastisol inks have the distinct and highly desirable characteristics of being durable, vibrant and opaque.
Water based inks are becoming more popular due to the perception they are environmentally friendly and the feel of the ink once it’s been applied to an item of clothing. However, using water based inks requires a different skill set and often times different equipment from traditional plastisol printing. The plus side of using water based inks is the ability to print over seams and hems. This allows for an allover garment print and often compliments hand drawn styles of artwork. A huge drawback is it is very difficult to print on darker garments. This will require additional skills and additives to handle the challenge.
Both plastisol and water based screen print require a screen to be “burned” to push the ink through as seen below.
The digital printing method typically uses water based pigment inks. The advantage of using the digital printing method is producing photo like qualities that are difficult to reproduce using regular screen printing methods. The ink is laid down in multiple passes and is cured on a press. This method of printing allows affordable, durable and quality single print orders.