T-shirt printing is big business thanks in part to a continuous demand from every corner of the country. Corporations and schools make T-shirts to create a team atmosphere at events. Families use them as personal identifiers at large reunions. And charities give them away as gifts in exchange for donations. These T-shirts may all sport their own unique designs, but most are printed using one of only three ink types, each featuring their own benefits and drawbacks.

Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink is the more commonly used paint by professional T-shirt printers. The reason that this type of ink is used more often by most is because it is a very versatile ink and it is also quite durable. Plastisol ink is so versatile that it can be used on any color of T-shirt, allowing the printer to create a solid, bright color that will continue to look great one wash after another.

Water-Based Ink

Water-based inks are generally considered the preferred option when working on white or a very light colored T-shirt. Water-based inks usually do not work well on colored shirts because you cannot get the opaque results that you can get with the Plastisol inks. Water-based inks hold up well for a few washes, but then they will start to soften and fade with repeated wear and wash. They are, however, preferred by many because they often have a softer, more comfortable feel for the individual wearing the garment, although in recent years Plastisol inks have begun to be mixed in such a fashion that they are able to rival the softness of water-based inks.

Special Effects Ink

When the printer wants to create a special effect surface that is florescent, glittery, reflective, raised, metallic or glow-in-the-dark, there are choices. All of these special effects inks come in both water-based as well as Plastisol inks but each takes some practice as these inks are often more difficult to work with than the standard paints are. The printer will simply consider the color of the garment that is being printed on when choosing whether or not water-based or Plastisol ink is a better option. The special effects ink are not suitable for all garments and are generally not as resilient as the standard inks, but if the right ink is chosen it will still hold up well under repeated wear and wash.