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Water-Based Screen Printing

ECO-FRIENDLY WATER BASED INKS

Offbeat Press is an industry leader in eco-friendly water-based screen printing and a certified Gold Member of Green America. We opened our doors in 2008 as one of the first eco-friendly water-based screen print shops in the Midwest. We have spent countless hours and late nights studying the nuances of water-based printing. In comparison to most shops, who hate working with water-based inks due to the complexity and technical knowledge required, we actually prefer water-based inks because of the soft print, low-impact work environment and eco-friendly results.

What are Water-based Inks?

Water-based inks are pigmented inks with a base of water, designed for screen printing. The inks soak into a fabric, leaving a soft and permanent print that actually becomes part of the garment. Originally designed for printing only on light-colored garments, discharge printing allows us to custom print water-based inks on a huge spectrum of t-shirt colors. Whether you’re looking for a low-impact option, a softer print or the highest level of detail possible, water-based inks are the way to go.

When it comes to eco-friendly printing and apparel, water-based inks are hands down the best option. We use the industry’s best water-based screen printing inks, which are solvent free and do not contain PVC, phthalates or toxic chemicals. In contrast, conventional screen printing inks are plastics-based and sit on top of a garment creating a thick layer that doesn’t breathe and is prone to crack and peel. Not only are water based inks eco-friendly, but they also provide a quality and durability that is unsurpassed by any other ink type in the industry. For even greater environmental value, print on organic or recycled garments. Check out our Eco-Friendly Shirts page for more information.

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Water-based + Discharge Screen Printing

Water-based + discharge inks combine screen printing with chemistry. 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 trickier, and requires an ink additive known as discharge. When mixed with water-based ink, the discharge agent neutralizes the garment’s dye color and replaces it with the ink pigment. Water-based discharge printing is a heat-activated process, thus the final print color is only visible after the printed inks are heat cured. This allows for a soft print because the inks are literally part of the garment. Though it works to some extent, 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. We request a minimum order of 24 qty for all water-based ink orders.

Water-based Ink Comparison

There are various 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 the printed garment, than conventional inks. This is known as a “soft hand” and is due to the way water-based ink soaks into the fibers. In contrast, plastisol ink forms a cured print layer atop the garment. Water-based ink is consistently less viscous and cures partially through heat and forced-air induced evaporation, making the ink much more complicated to work with. Both inks have great durability and longevity when properly printed and cured.

Water-Based Screen Printing

Water-based inks work best on 100% cotton fabric and select high-percentage cotton blends. Plastisol ink is much more versatile, with the right ink additives plastisol 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.

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Although water-based + discharge inks work great 99% of the time, there are a few guidelines you should follow and a few disclaimers you should know about:

Water-Based Screen Printing

All in all, water-based + discharge inks are the best option available if you’re interested in keeping costs down, keeping your global footprint to a minimum and getting the best-looking print possible.
Contact us today for a quote!

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