Benefits of Using Water-Based Inks for Printing: How They Can Enhance Your Print Projects


Water based inks are used for printing on a variety of materials. These include ones that other inks, such as plastisol would not be suitable for.

Cheap and usable, these inks have a simple curing process. This makes them suitable for a home environment. They are also good at printing finer details, and work well with both screen printers and lightweight print.

Key Takeaways

Ideal base color fabric

Water based inks are an excellent way to print on light colored fabric. This gives a soft feeling over the print area. It is also an eco-friendly choice.

Importance of curing time

When using water based ink for screen printing, make sure to give it time to cure properly. This means the fabric must be dry before wearing it. Water based inks are not suitable for dark garments. For this application use plastic based inks.

Use of solvents

Don’t use the same solvent you use with plastisol inks, read the instructions beforehand.

That being said, the abundance of options on the market can make it difficult to choose the right ink for water based printing, as many products simply lack the quality needed to create long lasting prints.

Post Content

    Here we explain everything you need to know about water based inks. This includes their composition, common uses, as well as their pros and cons.

    With DIY printing presses becoming more popular, people started looking for an easy-to-use and affordable type of ink that won’t leave stains on their clothing.

    The solution was water based inks, which offered clean and colorful prints without sacrificing durability.

    Furthermore, water based inks are more eco-friendly than plastisol, as they dissolve much faster.

    What Are Water Based Inks Made From?

    First, let’s explain the composition of each water based ink. Since the main solvent for these inks is water, each bottle will be a mixture of a chosen pigment or dye, and pure, distilled water.

    Union ink is just one of many quality water based inks on the market.

    This ink is then poured into vacuum tight sealed bottles to prevent air from entering, and sold to amateurs and industrial users alike.

    How To Use A Water Based Ink For Printing?

    The water based emulsion is much easier to use than plastisol inks. But that doesn’t mean you can just pour it onto the item you wish to print on and expect good results.

    It is a common misconception that there is no skill involved in using these inks. While learning water based inks is easy, there is a certain procedure you will need to follow to get the desired results.

    1. Choose the correct piece of clothing

    Printing with water based inks is possible on dark garments. But the image will be much less visible than printed on a lighter surface. Thus, you should only use these inks for lighter clothing, without much regard for the fabric type.

    2. Choose the correct mesh density

    When compared to plastisol ink, water based inks are much thinner. This means you will need a thicker mesh to produce the same image quality. The mesh count for water based inks is between 150 and 200, compared to 230 to 300 for plastisol ones.

    3. Use co solvents

    Like with plastisol, water based inks can be combined with chemicals. This is done to serve to increase the vibrancy of the color. It also makes it more solid and resistant to washing.

    You can easily find these additives in vintage and printing shops. Still, remember to read the disclaimers on the bottles before combining any set of inks and their solvents.

    4. Use water resistant emulsion

    Water based inks don’t use the same emulsions as plastisol based ones. As a result, you will need to check if you have purchased the correct emulsion before you start preparing your garment for printing, as well as use separate emulsions if you print with both types of ink.

    5. Don’t let the screen get covered in dried ink

    If the printing process lasts long enough, or you decide to print several garments at once, your water based inks will start drying on the screen. To prevent this, refill the ink from time to time. Or spray the screen with a water sprayer.

    6. Make sure to properly cure the fresh screen print

    Once printed, the image on your t-shirt will need to be cured before you can wear it. The curing process is extremely simple. Leave the t shirt to dry. Avoid applying excess heat and wait a full day if necessary.

    Doing this will ensure the durability and wear resistance of the print. It will also make the print softer to the touch.

    What Are The Main Differences Between Water Based Inks & Plastisol Inks?

    While both of these types of inks are used for screen printing, there are some notable differences between them.

    First, water based inks are more easily soluble as they only require water, and printing with water based inks results in a soft hand print.

    In addition to this, the carbon footprint of water based inks is much lover, as they can be more easily dissolved due to not containing any plastic.

    On the other hand, plastisol print gives more vibrant colors, is more easily visible on darker garments, more durable and resistant to repeated washing, and can be mass produced more easily.

    Pros and cons of water based inks

    Now that we have explained the process of screen printing using water based inks, here are some pros and cons of using them when producing your unique garments.

    Pros of using water based ink for screen printing

    • The inks are easily soluble and don’t require much skill to use
    • They can be used on various types of fabric and other materials
    • They are easily available and can be bought in any DIY shop
    • The resulting print is more eco friendly than those done with plastisol or acrylic inks

    Cons of using water based inks for screen printing

    • Not suitable for dark shirts and garments
    • Less durable than plastisol inks

    How To Remove Water Based Inks If Applied By Accident?

    Sometimes you will accidentally use the wrong type of ink, print the wrong photo, or even have a malfunctioning stencil that let the ink get where it shouldn’t. In these cases you will need to know how to remove the freshly applied water based inks from your garment.

    Thankfully, the process is relatively simple and consists of only a few steps.

    1. Spray the stain with water until it is fully soaked, then cover it with another, clean piece of cloth.

    2. Once the ink has had time to dissolve, apply some detergent to the mix, and give it some time to react to the ink (around five minutes should be more than enough for most water based inks)

    3. Wash the fabric under hot water, rubbing it energetically until the ink is washed out. Keep in mind that this will only work on a relatively freshly applied ink that hasn’t had the time to cure properly.


    As screen printing spreads from being just a part of the clothing industry and enters people’s homes, water based inks are becoming more and more popular as a simple and effective way to create your own unique t shirts or other garments.

    Due to this, more and more water based ink brands are entering the market, some of which much better than others, making having correct information about their properties and uses a necessity.


    Why are water based inks better?

    Water based ink is not inherently better or worse than plastisol ones: rather, it has a different purpose. They are much easier to use for lighter garments and more eco friendly, but are less resistant and not as visible when used to print on darker clothing.

    What are water based inks used for?

    The main use of water based inks is to print text and images on light colored clothing, such as a t shirt or a blouse. They are also suitable for small screen printers, making them a popular DIY choice for enthusiasts.

    Is water based printing good?

    Water based prints can have really high quality in the right circumstances and are certainly the correct choice in many cases. That being said, if you need a red, vibrantly coloured band logo on a black t shirt, you may be better off using a plastisol ink set instead.

    What is the difference between plastisol and water based inks?

    The main difference is obvious in their names, and lies in the type of solvent you need to use them. For water based inks it’s pure, distilled water, while plastisol inks are dissolved in various chemicals that can be used as PVC solvents.

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