All Ink’d Up: plastisol vs. water-based, what’s best for printing?

Got your brand perfected? All your social media marketing ducks all in a row?
Well don’t stop there. Reward your customers for their loyalty with a real, tangible product that can also catapult your brand presence offline. A well-made, well-designed t-shirt can do just that. When executed correctly, a t-shirt can be quite a valuable marketing tool. Think of it as cost-effective, word-of-mouth advertising—social media in a real-life social setting. And who doesn’t love a t-shirt—especially when it’s free! Think of all the times you’ve seen fans go bananas for a free t-shirt at a Magic game or at a concert or event.

But of course, your customers have to actually wear it for the whole thing to work. Start with a graphic or message that will connect with your target audience, then make sure you meet what we call the “t-shirt trifecta”: comfortable material, proper fit, and quality ink.Your printer may never mention ink types when you place your order, so it’s up to you to address the issue when collecting pricing and quantities. Don’t overlook this important part of the process or you will risk printing t-shirts that you and your customers will never want to wear.

So what’s the best ink to use on your tee? There are two major types of inks used by today’s screen printers: water based and plastisol. The latter is a thermoplastic, so it will melt or smear when in contact with heat like an iron. It will also feel thicker to the touch than a water-based print. Plastisol inks are often cheaper for printers to use and, over time, they will chip or peel after repeated washings.

Thus, plastisol inks are not our favorite inks at BIGEYE. In our opinion, water-based inks are always the way to go. It’s a little more expensive, but totally worth it in the end. Water-based inks are softer, lighter, and more eco-friendly than plastisol inks. When you place your hand over a graphic printed with water-based ink, it won’t feel stiff like a plastisol-printed graphic would. In fact, you’ll barely feel the graphic at all since water-based inks seep deep into fabric.

We’ve recently designed and printed a variety of t-shirts for many of our clients, and the results have pretty impressive, especially when the “t-shirt trifecta” is met. It’s a great feeling when we see people around town wearing our clients’ tees or even our own.

Check out this photo of our newest BIGEYE tee, designed for the summer and of course, printed with our favorite water-based ink.

Our team can be a big help if you’re thinking about getting tees of your own. Call us at 407.839.8599.

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