Custom Shirts, Screen Printing

What Type of Ink Should You Use on Shirts?

How to choose the best ink for your custom project

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Ink containers

When screen printing your custom design on a t-shirt, you have three choices of ink to use: water based, discharge, and plastisol, which are all equally priced and equally durable.

We've been using and testing these inks since 2004 and have learned the best way to mix them for optimum results. Based on our experience, this is a general guide to help you determine what will work best for your project and preferred fabric type.

If you're still deciding on the shirt fabric type you want, we discuss the differences between them in detail here: Very Very Soft Prints

Water Based

Our water based ink is a translucent formula that is extremely soft. It feels like a part of the shirt once you wash it.


Discharge ink is water based ink with a chemical additive that removes the dye of your shirt and replaces it with your ink color. It generally only works with 100% cotton shirts and is a good option to maintain their breathability.


Plastisol ink is the most traditional ink. If you’ve seen a vintage shirt from the 80’s with a cracked print, that’s plastisol. Technology has improved and made this ink longer lasting. Don’t let the name fool you: we’re able to accomplish soft prints with this ink by using reducer and a screen with a finer mesh that can almost match the softness of our water based and discharge.

We created this infographic for you to download and help choose one of the three ink types.

What type of ink should you use on T-shirts?
Use this decision tree to pick the best ink for your project

Whenever you have your project details ready, one of our account managers may advise differently based on your artwork and shirt choice. Email your artwork to and we can discuss what will work best for your design.