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Ink Options



While most print shops always use the same inks, Offbeat Press offers 3 distinct ink options: water-based (+discharge) inks, industry standard plastisol inks and vintage plastisol inks. Each ink has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s an overview of the 3 ink options, along with a rating system below to help clarify the complexities. It’s important to remember that every fabric blend, garment dye and apparel brand differs.



Offbeat Press has focused on mastering eco-friendly, soft, water-based screen printing since we opened in 2008. Currently, we print 60-70% of our orders with eco-friendly, water-based inks. Manufacturers design most water-based inks for printing on 100% cotton fabrics, but they can work with other natural fabric blends. When printing water-based inks on blends, the ink colors will not be as vibrant, leaving behind a somewhat subtle print. Different brands, fabric content, fabric dyes and dye batches will react differently to the inks leaving the potential for slight color variances within an order or between orders. While our office staff is knowledgeable about the suggested use of inks on various fabric blends, garment dyes and more, the client has final approval on the ink choice and the client takes responsibility for approving ink choices. If you would like to see an ink color sample, please order a water-based test swatch.


Water-Based Screen Printing


Plastisol inks are the industry standard. They lay on top of the garment fabric and are versatile to the point of working, to varying degrees, on nearly all fabrics. Plastisol inks are ideal for printing vibrant prints, but can be used in different ways. To achieve vibrant ink colors on dark and specialty fabrics, it is usually necessary to print an underbase of white ink and then print the bright color on top of that underbase. For example, when printing a bright yellow ink on a black shirt with plastisol inks, this is a 2-color print: (color 1) White underbase + (color 2) Yellow overprint. It’s like painting a black wall yellow. You’re going to need a primer or more than one coat to make the yellow completely opaque.


Vintage printing with plastisol inks is used to achieve a more subtle print. To achieve a vintage print, we remove the white underbase from the equation and only print a single coat of the final ink color directly onto the garment. For example, when printing a yellow ink on a black shirt, a vintage print is just a 1-color print. The end result will have more of a ”vintage” or “faded” look. Vintage plastisol inks are not recommended when trying to match specific Pantone ink colors.

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