Screen printers constantly debate which ink is better. Of the options, two stand out. Plastisol versus water-based ink—two contenders vying for the title of supreme inkiness. It's a clash of the titans in the world of printing, and printers everywhere have taken sides, ready to defend their ink of choice like a warrior with a squeegee.

person scooping out ink from a container of fn-ink mixing white


Let's start with the reigning champion, plastisol ink. Picture liquid plastic. This stuff spreads like a dream at room temperature and cures without a fuss. Plastisol is the king of the ink jungle because it's user-friendly and doesn't vanish into thin air. You can leave it on your screen overnight, catch some Zs, and wake up the next morning to resume printing like it's nobody's business. Talk about convenience.

But that's not all, folks. Plastisol also boasts a remarkable opacity. It covers shirt colors like a boss, concealing any mistakes you might make along the way. Oops, did you mess up that design? No problemo. Just slap another layer of plastisol on top, and voila! Mistake? What mistake? Plastisol's got your back.

a miami retro print


When it comes to printing with plastisol ink, most emulsions can handle the job. But for an extra boost, some printers swear by using a dedicated plastisol emulsion. This emulsion is built to endure those marathon plastisol print runs when you've exposed it like a paparazzi photograph. No flimsy stencils allowed.

Now, let's talk about curing. With plastisol, all you need to do is crank up the heat and let the magic happen. Raise the temperature of the entire ink layer to the cure temperature, and voila! Full cure achieved. No chemistry evaporation shenanigans here. You can use a heat gun, a heat press, a flash dryer, or even a conveyor dryer. Plastisol doesn't discriminate when it comes to curing. It's the perfect ink for beginners with limited resources and a tight budget. It's like the MacGyver of inks—making the best of what you've got.

The final product of a plastisol print may look a little matte but can look glossy depending on the curing method. Longer curing times or using a heat press can cause a glossy print. Plastisol ink is the go-to for those seeking a forgiving ink that's as versatile as they are.


a gallon of white and a gallon of black water-based ink


Water-based ink, the hipster cousin of plastisol, is all about being soft, flexible, and eco-friendly. It lays down a thin, gentle layer of ink on your garment, creating a feel as smooth as a baby's bottom. It's like printing with a cloud.

And here's the environmentally conscious bonus: water-based ink requires minimal chemicals. That means you can reduce your eco-footprint while still leaving a fashionable mark on the world. No need to sacrifice style for sustainability. Water-based ink is the more guilt-free choice for all you eco-warrior printers out there.

But let's be real. Water-based ink isn't a walk in the park. It contains water, and that mischievous liquid tends to evaporate fast. If you need to take a break from your masterpiece, make sure to wipe off the image area before you wander away. Otherwise, you might come back to a dried-up disaster.

person scooping black water-based ink onto a screen


When it comes to screen creation for water-based printing, using a waterproof emulsion is best. Water-based ink is a bit more abrasive than its plastisol counterpart and can slowly wear down your stencil over time. Unless you want your stencil to look like a battle-scarred warrior, go waterproof or go home.

Now, let's dive into curing water-based ink. It's a tad trickier than curing plastisol ink. First, you gotta evaporate the water from the ink. Once all the H2O has vanished into thin air, it's time for the remaining ink layer (the resins in the ink) to reach the recommended cure temperature. Hold it there for a minimum of 20 seconds, and you'll have yourself a cured print.

But what if your print shop doesn't have the ideal curing setup for water-based ink? Add in a little magic concoction called Warp Drive. Mix it in, print your designs, and watch as your ink chemically cures over 48 hours. It's like having an insurance policy for your prints. Because who needs stress when you can have peace of mind?


person pulling a squeegee across a screen filled with light blue ink


So, which ink reigns supreme? The answer lies in the needs of your customers and the setup of your shop. If softness is the name of the game, water-based ink is your MVP. Need something vibrant and eye-catching? Plastisol ink will give your prints that extra oomph.

If you're just starting your printing journey, plastisol ink might be your trusty sidekick. It's forgiving, versatile, and a bit of a low-maintenance diva. Cleanup can be a hassle, but hey, nothing worth having comes easy. Embrace the mess—it's all part of the process.

Water-based ink can work wonders too, given the right equipment. If you don't have a heat press or a forced air dryer, grab yourself some Warp Drive and witness the magic. It's like a cheat code for your printing adventures.


In the end, there's no definitive answer. Both inks are fabulous and capable of producing jaw-dropping results. So, put on your lab coat, mix some inks, and let the magic happen. Experiment, explore, and discover which ink suits your shop setup. Let the ink wars continue!