What Is Discharge & Water Based Screen Printing


Discharge water based screen printing is becoming a hot commodity in the t-shirt/printing industry. It is taking the place of regular plastisol (plastic based) ink printing. Plastisol printing is the traditional way of screen printing. It is much thicker and heavier than discharge water based ink. By replacing it with a smoother and softer look and feel, it is overall more desirable, especially in the retail world.

Discharge water based screen printing removes the dye of the cotton fibers in a material when it reaches a specific temperature. Water based printing creates what is known as a soft hand, which is where one can run their hand over the fabric and can barely feel the printed image or design.

Certain colors do give better results than others do; darker colors tend to process better than lighter hues.

Advantages of Discharge Water Based Screen Printing

  • Water based inks work well when do large-scale screen printing or high speed roll-to-roll printing.
  • Discharge inks are much softer to the touch and to wear. They are smoother when running hands along the printed fabric.
  • Water based inks are more natural and better for the environment. The creation and use of plastisol or plastic based ink is harmful and unnatural.
  • It works great when printing on 100% cotton and darker colors and is easier to work with than other screen printing inks.
  • It is a good ink to use when the desired outcome is for full penetration of the ink, such as in printing on towels.
  • Discharge ink can give a shirt the “distressed/vintage” which is desirable.
  • Water based discharge inks allow for more detail and less ink. The underbase does not need to be dyed prior to the discharge ink.
  • Overall cost of water based discharge inks is cheaper and more cost effective. It is easier to manufacture and uses less products to make than plastisol inks.

Disadvantages of Discharge Water Based Screen Printing

  • One of the biggest disadvantages to discharge water based printing is that the fabric must be washed prior to the screen printing process in order for them to have the “soft touch”.
  • It can be difficult to use for full color process printing.
  • Very fine printing sometimes doesn’t take well during the printing process.
  • Printing works best on 100% cotton, and may not be as effective on all fabric types.
  • Discharge water based inks do not always work best with all types of ink. Powder pigments that are added to the ink may not have the desired effect on certain colors. Dark pigments work best.

If you have not jumped on the water based discharge ink bandwagon, now is a great time to experience the beautifully soft features this screen printing technique has to offer. This ink is tailored for cotton and darker colored shirts. It produces unique results with a great improvement upon detailed designs. The benefits of discharge water based inks far out way any negatives. They create an expertly dyed fabric.

(Image Source: Dayton Design and Print)


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