Plastisol Ink Printing

Plastisol Ink Printing
13th October 2022 5th Team

What is Plastisol Ink?

As the name might suggest, the key point about plastisol ink is that it’s plastic-based. That is, made of PVC particles in an emulsifying liquid. Currently, it’s the most commonly used ink in the clothes printing industry. You’d see one pot after another were you to take a stroll round most professional print shops. And, a question we’re often asked, can you screen print plastisol? Well, yes, that’s a big thumbs up. Plastisol is one of the cornerstones of commercial screen printing. Whether that be tees, hoodies or any other customisable garment. For us here at Fifth Column, t-shirt printing and whirling carousels are at the heart of our world. As a result, plastisol prints are something we produce every day of the working week.

Now, this widespread usage and general popularity begs further examination. For example, what are the qualities of plastisol which differentiate it from other screen printing inks and make it attractive to printing professionals. Similarly, why would you as a customer think plastisol ink a good way of getting your designs off the drawing board and onto fabric. What, if any, are the comparable alternatives if you don’t fancy firing up the plastisol ink printer? Okay, all good questions. And ones we’ll address. So, read on and let’s take a closer look at screen printing ink plastisol style. What makes it special and marks it out from other approaches.

Best Uses for Plastisol Screen Printing.

For most print runs, cost is a factor which can’t be ignored. With that in mind, plastisol ink is relatively inexpensive compared to many other inks. As such, it’s considered a good option for cost-effective wholesale and bulk t-shirt printing. That’s to say, those projects where high volumes and a strict budget are priorities. Clearly, when your idea is compatible with this type of ink. By which we mean the combination of artwork and garments make it viable.


Which is an opportune moment to look at its practical attributes. As screen printers, plastisol has plenty of appeal for us. Not least because it lends itself to lots of projects. Basically, we can work with it. Notably, it’s easy to handle. And, get those printed tees onto the conveyor dryers and curing is straightforward. Furthermore, leave plastisol on the precious screens in the evening and you can go again the next day. It doesn’t dry out overnight. Plus, printing errors are easier to fix. Beyond that, high opacity means it covers well even with a dark garment. By the way, white plastisol ink is the most often used ink in screen printing. In terms of the finished product, some inks color the material by soaking into it. But plastisol prints tend to sit on the surface. Consequently, they’re great if you want a bold, bright graphic.

Historical Context.

Nowadays, there are many types of inks. But plastisol screen printing is the thing that facilitated mass production. So, when we ask what is plastisol printing, the answer is more profound than you might think. Without doubt, it goes beyond a mere definition. In effect, back in the day there was a screen printing ink plastisol revolution which spawned our modern industry. As a plastisol ink printer, it’s not only significant for us now but historically central to the trade. Shirt printing would certainly be very different without it.

Need advice about screen printing ink plastisol or others? Contact us today.

Plastisol Ink Vs Water Based Ink.

Water based ink is the logical step if you’re after an alternative to plastisol for screen printing. Before going further, let’s put this in context. There isn’t a wrong or right here. Either of the two will produce awesome custom apparel. And both are widely used. For example, each will work with an automated press and you can get water-based or plastisol heat transfers. However, their properties differ and therefore create somewhat different end results.

  • As mentioned, plastisol offers a reliably bright finish. This is not always the case with alternatives.
  • Also, plastisol colours are consistent and don’t experience the variation in a print batch which can occur with water.
  • Plastisol is very versatile in that it can be used on 100% cotton, cotton blends and polyester fabrics. In contrast, water is unsuitable for polyester.
  • As discussed, plastisol is usually less expensive.
  • Whilst plastisol is easier to use, designs tend to feel less soft to the touch and rather plasticky. An aspect which some find off-putting. Especially if you want a vintage, second-hand kind of vibe to your tees.
  • In some instances, plastisol prints can peel or crack over time whereas this won’t happen with water.
  • From a technical standpoint, dye migration can happen more quickly with plastisol ink.
  • Notwithstanding improvements in the environmental impacts of plastisol, water based is still thought of as more eco-friendly.

Plastisol Printing Examples.

Okay, let’s round off with some pictures to give you an idea of what can be achieved with plastisol ink. Come on, we were never going to pass up an opportunity to demonstrate our handiwork. Below are a selection of images from garments crafted here in our London print shop. Incidentally, if you want to read more on the subject, we also have a Resources article: Types of Ink for Screen Printing T-Shirts.

Easy to use and vibrant results with plastisol ink printing.

Easy to use and vibrant results

Get excellent coverage even on dark tees with plastisol ink printing.

Excellent coverage even on dark tees

Get a consistently bright finish with plastisol ink printing.

With a consistently bright finish

Plastisol ink printing is great for high volumes.

And great for printing in volume

Decorate more than cotton with Plastisol ink printing.

Plus prints more than cotton

The positives of plastisol ink.

All positives with plastisol ink

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