A List of Tshirt Screenprinting Inks.
John David Wilson
Owner of Rimshot T-Shirts

(This post has some additions since i first published it in 2018)  Over the years the screen printing industry has added various inks to meet different needs.  Here i will break down the most common types offered by capable TShirt screen printing shops, and provide the pros and cons of each.

T Shirt Screen Printing Inks


This ink is by far the most widely used ink amongst Tshirt Screenprinting Inks.  One of the reasons for it’s popularity among screen printers is that it takes a LONG time for this ink to dry.  Inks can sit on the shelves for years if stored properly and definitely does not dry out while in a screen.  It’s the curing process (heat) that makes it a durable ink on a tshirt that can stand up to a lot of washes.

Pros: Durable, One of the most opaque, Flexible in that additives such as Puff, Glitter, Metallic Flake, etc. can be added to it.  Since it is so common and there is no extra steps in the printing process, it is among the cheapest.

Cons: Does not work with 100% Polyester garments unless underbased with a Poly ink.


Water Based

This one has been around a while and is gaining popularity in available Tshirt Screenprinting Inks.  It is getting popular for the very reason why it it was not desired in the past.  It is a very translucent ink, so if not underbased the tshirt’s color will affect the hue.  For example a yellow ink printed on a red garment ends up a weird ‘orangey’ color.  But, along with it’s low density, also comes a very thin ink.  Thus making it an awesome choice for today’s designs where you are going for a distressed, worn out look.

Pros: Durable, Eco-Friendly.  Will not crack or peel over time.  Has a very ‘soft-hand’ feel, which is very popular, especially on today’s super thin garments.

Cons: Unless underbased the garment’s color can ruin a great design.  Dries very quickly, so a lot of screen printing shops that are not environmentally controlled avoid it because it can clog up a screen.


T Shirt Screen Printing Inks
T Shirt Screen Printing Inks

Discharge Inks

This ink is gaining popularity for the same reasons water based ones are.  Again, of the Tshirt Screenprinting Inks available, it is a good one for that ‘soft-hand’ feel.  It is also water based, but has a (safe) chemical in it that actually removes the dye from the garment.  Colors can be bright on a dark garment without the need of an underbase.  The ink is actually IN the shirt, rather than ON it.

Pros: Durable, Since it is in the garment it has a very thin, hardly noticeable presence.  Will not crack or peel and will last for the life of the garment.

Cons: Does not work with any blend other than 100% cotton.  Also, there are many colors it does not work well on: such as Red, Royal Blue, Kelly Green, etc.- and these are very popular colors.


Special Effects Inks

As mentioned before, there are effects additives you can add to plastisol inks, but special effect inks that are manufactured and good to go usually achieve better results.  of all the ones available of the Tshirt Screenprinting Inks available, here are some of the most popular: Gold and silver metallic inks, Glitter, Reflective, Glow in the Dark, and Puff inks.  Puff was extremely popular in the 80’s and 90’s.  There is another one i love but has never seemed to catch on: Suede.  I like it because it achieves a suede feel, sometimes like worn leather.

Pros: If used properly, you can get some unique, cool effects.

Cons: the inks are long lasting, but eventually the effect lessens.  For example, a puff ink will eventually go flat.


T Shirt Screen Printing Inks
Screenprinted TShirts

DTG, Laser, and Vinyl

Since these printing methods are gaining popularity, it is good to mention them here.  To date, although these methods have their advantages, they still do not match traditional screen printing inks’ results overall.  DTG and Laser prints are awesome for a less inexpensive solution for designs with lots of colors with a low quantity run.  Their main draw back is the ink washing out or cracking eventually after 4-10 washes.  If printed properly, plastisol inks pretty much last the life of the garment.  Vinyl prints are pretty limiting because the colors are basic.  I would guess that it is only a matter of time before these methods become the norm, whether the quality is superior or not.  EVERYTHING is going digital!  Future generations will look at a paintbrush and wonder what it was for.

T Shirt Screen Printing Inks
So there you go!  A pretty good list of Tshirt Screenprinting Inks being used today.  If you are inspired to try to use these on your next t-shirt order, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Rimshot TShirts is all about quality and great prices.  What if i told you a tee that costs 28 bucks at CustomInk can be done for less than 10 dollars?  Take a look at the gallery page on this site for stuff we have done recently.  All ways to contact Rimshot is below.  Thanks for reading!


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John David Wilson

1529 Tuley St.

Cedar Hill, TX 75104

Phone: 214-543-7137

Email: john@rimshotgraphix.com

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