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Screen printing ink comes in a variety of types, manufacturers, styles and of course colors. The easiest way to narrow what ink you need is to determine what you are silk screening. The three most common screenprinted items are textiles (t-shirts, hats, jerseys, etc.), paper (cardstock, posters, etc.), metal (aluminum, steel, etc.) or plastics (nalgene bottles, coroplast, vinyl sheets, etc.).

The three ink "categories" you can choose from are: Plastisol, Water-Based, and Solvent-Based.

Plastisol inks are used ONLY with textile applications. Plastisol ink is a plastic based ink that can be screened to most fabrics and wearable garments. Plastisol ink tends to be thick, and sits ON TOP of the substrate to which it is printed. This ink gives a raised feel with texture depending on the quality of the print, or specialty additives.

Water-Based inks can be used with most substrates, depending on the specific ink. Some water-based inks are made specifically for textile applications, while others are made for paper and cardstock substrates. You will have to determine the suitability of each ink for your specific use, as every manufacturer has it's differences. Water-based inks are much thinner than plastisol inks, and in most cases absorb into the fibers of the shirt. Most waterbased ink sets are not adequate for dark colored garments because colors get "muted" when they absorb into the fabric. This requires the use of an underbase white, which is a white print that goes underneath your image. This is another process entirely that is used throughout screen printing in all it's forms and is a technique that should be learned if entering the screen printing business.

Solvent-Based inks are much more robust and intended for industrial use. These inks are combined with solvents to adhere to substrates that are hard to print on such as metal signs and some types of plastic material. These inks are industrial use only, and should not be used without the proper health and safety conditions. Always refer to manufacturer's information sheets when using these inks.
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