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Water-Based Ink Options

(September 2015) posted on Mon Oct 19, 2015

Numerous types of water-based inks are available for apparel printing, and each has its purpose.


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By Rob Coleman

• Traditional
     o 88- to 92-percent water;
     o Transparent, designed for printing on 100-percent cotton light backgrounds (pastels and whites);
     o And, virtually no hand.
• Discharge
     o 88- to 92-percent water;
     o Designed to print on 100-percent cotton, reactive-dyed dark garments;
     o Works through a “bleaching” process, where the color of the ink replaces that of the garment;
     o Capable of producing very bright colors;
     o Can be used as underprints with traditional water-based (or plastisol) inks printed on top;
     o Most use ZFS activator and should be washed prior to wearing to remove residual formaldehyde;
     o And, little or no hand, particularly after wash.
• High solids (also known as HSA, or high-solids acrylic)
     o 30- to 40-percent water;
     o Opaque inks designed for printing on 100-percent cotton, dark-colored backgrounds;
     o Excellent ink coverage that maintains a very soft feel;
     o Dark goods are printed similarly to plastisol, with a white underbase;
     o Most commonly used PVC-free alternative to plastisol;
     o Can be used on a range of fabric types;
     o And, underbase gray ink is used on polyesters for dye-migration resistance (similar to plastisol).
• Hybrid acrylic/polyurethane
     o 35-percent water;
     o Most often contains a blend of acrylic and polyurethane polymers;
     o Good stretchability, durability, and opacity;
     o And, ideal for stretchy woven fabrics.

See also:

Mastering Water-Based Inks
The Challenges of Water-Based Inks
Best Practice Tips for Water-Based Inks


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