Plastisol Ink: Advantages And Challenges

If you are trying to run a customized t-shirt print shop, picking the right ink for screen printing might be a hassle as there are many standard color options available. It can be challenging to narrow down the available bespoke clothing selections to the one that best suits your needs.

Plastisol ink is the clear winner when it comes to screen printing no matter whether you are using vibrant colors or cool white. This ink is great for usage in a wide variety of custom garment designs due to its longevity, adaptability, and user-friendliness. Discharge is also easy with regular screen printing accessories. Ultimately, it comes down to your own priorities. No ink could ever be considered ideal.

There are pluses and minuses to every choice. For choosing the best ink for your next screen print, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of plastisol ink printing.

What Is Plastisol Ink Printing?

Plastisol ink screen printing is a sort of screen printing that makes use of plastisol ink. These inks are more robust and cover more surface area than water-based alternatives since they are produced from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers.

Screen printers use plastisol inks because of their wide range of applications and low maintenance requirements.

Printing Using Plastisol: How It’s Done?

Screen printing is used to apply the plastisol inks to the garment that is made of 100% cotton or 100% polyester. For each ink color, a separate screen is made. The ink is then transferred to the garment by forcing it through the screen.

To set the ink permanently in the garments heat is applied by a heat transfer machine or flash dryer. For DIY projects heat transfer can be replaced by an iron or hand dryer.

Plastisol Ink

The Origin Of Plastisol Ink

Originally designed as an alternative to water-based inks, plastisol ink has been around for decades. These inks were developed specifically for use on smooth, nonporous materials like glass and plastic.

Plastisol inks weren’t originally intended for use on cloth, but screen printers quickly learned otherwise. The rapid adoption of plastisol inks as screen printing ink made them the industry standard.


1. Cures are quicker for plastic ink.

Plastisol ink needs to be heated to its fusion temperature in order to be cured. Heating the ink to its melting point takes some time. For example, FN-INKTM is a low-cure ink that only needs to be heated to 260 degrees Fahrenheit before it is ready for use. When the ink layer as a whole reaches a fusion temperature, the curing process is complete.

Expert advice: Plastisol ink still needs to be maintained at cure temp for about 5-10 seconds to ensure increased ink longevity. A longer conveyor dryer is the most practical method of maintaining ink at cure temperature.

2. Your screen will not dry

Plastisol ink is convenient to use because it doesn’t dry up, Because of its chemical composition, it retains its fluid state until it cures. In what ways does that impact you? Ink won’t dry on the screen if you start a print job, go for lunch (or a nap), then come back to it later. You can even leave plastisol ink on your screen all weekend if you’re feeling particularly daring. It needs to be heated in some way, such as in a flash dryer, heat press, or conveyor drier before it will dry on the screen.

If, on the other hand, you’re using water-based ink for your screen printing, you should clean your screen before leaving it idle for any length of time. This timeframe is highly variable and will be affected by factors such as the shop’s environment and the local climate. However, this is never an issue when printing with plastisol ink.

3. Plastisol ink has greater translucence

This ink is more discreet in comparison to water-based ink. Plastisol remains the more opaque of the two, despite the progress of some water-based inks like high solids acrylic (HSA) water-based inks. Because of its opacity, it provides better coverage than water-based ink would on a white t-shirt. Plastisol ink allows for quick, vibrant printing with lesser effort.

Although it’s preferable to use opaque ink, this typically results in relatively thick ink. Plastisol ink has optimal performance between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Your ink may not be ready to use straight from the bucket if your workshop is on the cooler side. 

Using plastisol ink additives, just stir the mixture to combine the ingredients. This will adjust the ink’s consistency, blending colors and making printing easier. In order to facilitate ink flow at production temperature (75-80°F), a curable reducer may be added. However, you should add as little as possible to the ink to avoid ruining it.

The Challenges of Using Plastic Ink

Plastisol is a thermoplastic, therefore it will remelt when exposed to a heated object. Therefore, plastisol prints cannot be ironed. The ink on a print will run if an iron is used on it.

As with other types of ink, plastisol ink produces a coating that can be felt when touched. The greater the ink’s opacity, the heavier the hand. Consumers see this heavy hand as a drawback.

1. Maintaining the process

Maintaining a clean ink supply is a must while working with plastisol. As a result, it is crucial and economically sensible to prevent dirt, lint, and other ink colors from contaminating plastisol hues.

Less ink will be wasted if the business is kept tidy. Once the ink has been cleaned, it can be put back into the original cartridge. As long as plastisol is not combined with other colors or tainted by other substances, its quality remains unchanged.

2. Recycling issue

Plastisol that has been tainted by ink from other colors like scarlet red or white ink can be saved for use in recycling as long as it is kept in a separate container. This excess ink can be recycled into other colors, or it can be over-pigmented with new pigment to produce a dark hue, like black, for use on dark fabrics. The amount of discarded plastisol ink can be cut down to almost nothing with careful management.

3. Take a long time to cure

Most municipalities don’t classify solidified, useless plastisol products as hazardous waste (cured). It is advisable to heat the trash can to 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit) for a long enough time to cure the ink completely. A one-gallon container of plastisol can fully cure in about an hour under normal conditions.

Plastisol in its uncured state must be discharged in accordance with legislation governing the disposal of hazardous chemicals. Always check with local regulatory bodies before disposing of anything, cured or uncured.

4. Environment Issue

Cleaning screens and other equipment is where plastisol use poses the greatest threat to the environment. Ink remover is needed to emulsify the ink to easily remove inks from screens, squeegees, flood bars, spatulas, and t-shirt printing. In order to reduce pollution, used ink and solvent must be disposed of away correctly.

Screen printers have taken the initiative to develop tools that lessen the necessity of such cleaning procedures. There are solvents that are “less” harmful to the environment than conventional petroleum-based ones.

Furthermore, many different types of filtration and ink removal systems can be used to collect inks and solvent residues after t-shirt printing, thereby reducing the amount of solid waste that is flushed down the drain.

Final Words

With plastisol ink, direct printing is possible in dark fabric. Plastisol transfers take lesser time and curing is also a faster process that counts as a specialty of this ink.

Heat transfer press can cure your printed cotton shirt or other garments. But always be careful with this type of ink as it can be harmful to nature.

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