What is Thermochromic Ink?

What is Thermochromic Ink?
3rd September 2022 5th Team

What is Thermochromic Ink?

Nowadays, you can achieve some seemingly miraculous results with commercial tee shirt printing. What do we mean? Well, professional screen printing offers a wealth of possibilities, one of which involves the skilled use of thermochromic ink. You’ve probably worn or seen a garment made using it. You know, those tees which magically change colour when you touch the print. How they’re created is all down to the ink employed in the printing process. To be specific, thermochromic ink uses a compound that responds to temperature.

As a result, thermochromic ink temporarily changes colour when it reaches the correct temperature. Incidentally, the temperature range involved for activation is approximately -10°C and +70°C. Basically, put thermochromic into the mix, add a bit of body heat, and magic can happen. It’s one of the many spells we’re able to weave if your design demands it. Choose Fifth Column as your tshirt printing company and you open up hitherto unimagined business opportunities. Our expert manufacturing processes and the use of specialist inks can bring your brilliant idea to life.

Best Uses for Thermochromic Ink Printing.

Thermochromic ink printing can create some fantastically fun products when it comes to customised clothes. In particular, thermochromic tees are a popular choice for indie brands and those companies and organisations who need promotional items with extra pizazz. They work extremely well in instances where the idea of change is integral to the concept or product. And they’re a superb choice if you need novelty appeal, a humorous aspect, or a sense of the unique. Remember the mood ring, back in the Seventies, where the ring changed shade according to body temperature? It’s a good illustration of the longevity and status which can be attained by such supposedly ‘novel’ products.

Variety of Usage.

It’s worth noting that thermochromic material is used in a wide variety of industries and markets. In truth, the concept stretches far beyond thermochromic ink screen printing and the fascinating garments this creates. For example, printed ceramics and toys. Another example, interactive product packaging and the food industry. Think about those packaged food and drink products such as cold activated bottles. Plus, cold and heat reactive labelling. And those areas where information made visible through temperature activation can have safety applications. In the latter, when temperature rises the reaction is irreversible. Whereas, the thermochromic ink process for clothing and retail items is reversible.

Need advice about specialist printing? Get in touch and let us help.

Pros and Cons of Thermochromic Ink.

There are two main types of ink which fall into the thermochromic category. Specifically, thermochromic liquid crystals and leuco dye. Liquid crystals are more sensitive and require specialised printing techniques. As a consequence, thermochromic leuco dye tends to be more common in the clothing customisation sphere because it’s easier to use. Leuco dye is usually mixed with other pigments and a binder that enables it to attach to the cotton of the garment. They can be solvent based or water based depending on usage. That said, thermochromic ink for textiles is usually water based.

There is no doubt, clothing with thermochromic properties can be an attractive idea. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of apparel printing with thermochromic ink.


  • As mentioned, it’s a fabulous way of making novelty items.
  • Allied to the above, promotional merchandise crafted with a thermochromic element has unique impact and leaves a lasting impression.
  • Thermochromic ink uses water as a base and such inks are generally considered to be kinder to the environment.


  • As printer, it costs us more to buy thermochromic ink (a specialist material). Therefore, garments printed using this method are commensurately more expensive.
  • Owing to the nature of the process, colour options are limited when compared to those you have with traditional inks.
  • Unlike photochromic dyes, exposure to UV light or high heat can reduce the thermochromic characteristics of the shirt.

Thermochromic Ink Printing Examples.

Below, you get an idea of what can be achieved with thermochromic screen printing runs. It’s useful to see examples when we ask how does thermochromic ink work. Why? Well, because it’s a technique which produces custom clothing unlike any other.

Orange becomes neon yellow is an example of Thermochromic Ink and How it Works.

Orange ink becomes neon yellow

Body heat makes a magical change with Thermochromic Ink and is How it Works.

Body heat makes a magical change

Thermochromic Ink and is How it Works creates printed tees with unique appeal.

Printed tees with unique appeal

Why Use Fifth Column for Your Thermochromic Ink Printing.

Hopefully, the above answers most of your questions about this wondrous substance. However, to conclude, let’s put aside such things as what is thermochromic ink used for and how does thermochromic ink work. Let’s consider one final question. That’s to say, why Fifth Column are a great choice of thermochromic ink printer.

Well, the key reason lies in the process itself. To explain, this is an art that falls under the umbrella of screen printing. Now, that’s an area in which we have decades of experience and an unrivalled track record. Furthermore, we’re familiar with every facet of the craft and the nuances contained within each one. The technicalities that thermochromic ink uses hold no mystery for us. We’ve got you covered when it comes to mesh count, ink laydown, temperature sensitivity and all the rest. Beyond that, we understand the importance of high quality merchandise, competitive pricing, and genuine customer service.

If you want to read more on the subject, we also have a resources article: Types of Ink for Screen Printing T-Shirts.

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