The Comprehensive Guide to Plastisol Screen Printing Ink: Everything You Need to Know

Plastisol screen printing ink is a versatile and popular choice in the world of printing. Whether you are a professional printer or just starting to explore this field, understanding the ins and outs of plastisol ink is crucial for achieving the best results. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the details of plastisol screen printing ink, its characteristics, applications, and tips for optimal usage.

What is Plastisol Screen Printing Ink?

Plastisol screen printing ink is a unique type of ink that is widely used in the textile and garment industry. Unlike other printing inks, plastisol ink does not dry through evaporation, but rather through a heat curing process. It is composed of PVC particles suspended in a plasticizer, making it highly durable and resistant to fading. Plastisol ink is known for its ability to create vibrant and opaque prints on various substrates, including cotton, polyester, and blends.

The Composition of Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink consists of three main components: PVC resin, plasticizer, and pigment. The PVC resin provides the ink with its solid structure, while the plasticizer gives it the necessary flexibility and adhesion properties. The pigment is responsible for the color of the ink and can be customized to achieve a wide range of shades. Additionally, plastisol ink may contain additives such as thickeners, extenders, and curing agents to enhance its performance.

Advantages of Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink offers several advantages that make it a preferred choice for many printers:

Durability: Plastisol ink creates prints that are highly resistant to cracking, peeling, and fading. This makes it ideal for garments and textiles that undergo frequent washing and wear.

Vibrant Colors: Plastisol ink has excellent color opacity, allowing for vibrant and bold prints even on darker fabrics. It can also be easily mixed to achieve custom colors and special effects.

High Coverage: Plastisol ink provides excellent coverage, ensuring that the prints are opaque and vibrant, even on textured or dark-colored fabrics.

Easy to Use: Plastisol ink is user-friendly and suitable for printers of all skill levels. It has a smooth and creamy consistency, making it easy to work with during the printing process.

Wide Range of Applications: Plastisol ink can be used on various substrates, including cotton, polyester, and blends. It is commonly used in the production of t-shirts, hoodies, tote bags, and other textile items.

How Does Plastisol Ink Work?

Understanding the working mechanism of plastisol ink is essential for achieving optimal results in screen printing. When the ink is applied onto a fabric, it remains in a semi-liquid state until it is exposed to heat. During the curing process, the plasticizer in the ink evaporates, and the PVC particles fuse together, forming a solid and permanent bond with the fabric fibers. This results in a durable and long-lasting print that can withstand multiple washes and wear.

The Curing Process

To cure plastisol ink, it needs to be exposed to a specific temperature for a set period. This can be achieved using a heat press or a conveyor dryer. The recommended curing temperature for plastisol ink is typically between 320°F (160°C) and 330°F (165°C). It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure proper curing and avoid undercured or overcured prints.

Choosing the Right Plastisol Ink

Selecting the appropriate plastisol ink for your specific printing needs is essential for achieving the desired results. Consider the following factors when choosing a plastisol ink:

Color Options

Plastisol ink comes in a wide range of colors, including standard colors, metallics, fluorescents, and specialty inks. Determine the color palette you require and choose an ink supplier that offers a comprehensive range of options.


The opacity of plastisol ink refers to its ability to cover the underlying fabric color. Some inks have higher opacity, allowing for vibrant prints on dark fabrics, while others are more translucent, creating a vintage or faded effect. Consider the level of opacity required for your designs and select the appropriate ink.

Special Effects

Plastisol ink can be enhanced with various special effects, such as puff, glitter, metallic, and glow-in-the-dark. These effects can add a unique touch to your prints and make them stand out. Explore the range of special effects offered by different ink manufacturers and experiment with them to create eye-catching designs.

Preparing Screens for Plastisol Printing

The quality of the screen preparation plays a crucial role in achieving precise and clean prints with plastisol ink. Follow these steps to ensure optimal screen preparation:

Mesh Selection

Choosing the right mesh count is essential for achieving the desired level of detail and ink deposit. Lower mesh counts (such as 110 or 156) are suitable for bold designs and heavy ink deposition, while higher mesh counts (such as 230 or 305) are ideal for fine details and thinner ink layers.

Screen Tensioning

Proper screen tensioning is crucial to ensure consistent and accurate prints. Use a tension meter to measure the tension of the screen and adjust it accordingly. A well-tensioned screen will allow for precise registration and prevent ink from leaking under the stencil.

Emulsion Coating

Coating the screen with emulsion is necessary to create a stencil for the ink to pass through. Apply a thin and even coat of emulsion on both sides of the screen using a scoop coater. Ensure that the emulsion is evenly spread and free from any streaks or uneven patches.

Exposure and Stencil Reclamation

Expose the coated screen to UV light using a suitable exposure unit or exposure box. The exposure time will depend on the emulsion and the wattage of the light source. After exposure, wash out the unexposed emulsion using a pressure washer or a gentle stream of water, leaving behind a clean stencil ready for printing.

Printing Techniques with Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink offers various printing techniques that allow you to create unique and eye-catching designs. Explore the following techniques to expand your creative possibilities:

Spot Color Printing

Spot color printing involves printing individual colors separately to create a design. Each color is applied using a separate screen, resulting in crisp and vibrant prints. This technique is commonly used for logos, simple graphics, and text.


Halftones are a technique used to create the illusion of continuous tones and gradients using a series of small dots. By varying the size and density of the dots, you can achieve different levels of shading and depth in your prints.

Simulated Process Printing

Simulated process printing is a technique used to reproduce full-color or photographic images using a limited number of screens. By using a combination of halftones and spot colors, you can create vibrant and detailed prints that closely resemble the original image.

Curing Plastisol Ink

Curing plastisol ink is crucial to ensure its durability and washability. Here are some methods and equipment commonly used for curing:

Heat Press

A heat press is a popular and convenient method for curing plastisol ink. Place the printed garment on the heat press, ensuring proper alignment, and apply heat using the recommended temperature and time settings. The heat press provides consistent heat and pressure, resulting in a durable and long-lasting print.

Conveyor Dryer

A conveyor dryer is a larger-scale curing equipment suitable for high-volume production. The printed garments are placed on a conveyor belt and pass through a heated chamber, where the ink is cured. Conveyor dryers offer precise temperature control and ensure uniform curing across the entire print area.

Flash Cure Unit

A flash cure unit is used for partial curing or “flashing” of plastisol ink between colors or layers. It quickly heats the ink to a tacky state, allowing for additional layers or colors to be printed on top without smudging or bleeding. Flash curing is particularly useful for prints with multiple colors or intricate designs.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Screen printing with plastisol ink can sometimes encounter challenges. Here are some common problems and their possible solutions:

Ink Bleeding

Ink bleeding occurs when the ink spreads beyond the intended print area, resulting in blurry or distorted designs. To prevent ink bleeding, ensure that the screens are properly aligned, use the correct amount of squeegee pressure, and avoid overflooding the screen with ink.

Improper Adhesion

If the ink does not adhere properly to the fabric and peels off easily, it may be due to insufficient curing. Make sure to follow the recommended curing temperature and time, as undercured prints can result in poor adhesion. Additionally, ensure that the fabric is clean and free from any contaminants that may hinder ink adhesion. If necessary, use a pre-treatment solution to enhance the fabric’s ability to bond with the ink.

Color Matching

Color matching can be challenging, especially when reproducing specific shades or matching a client’s brand colors. To achieve accurate color matching, work closely with your ink supplier to obtain color matching guides or Pantone references. Conduct regular color tests and adjustments to ensure consistency and accuracy in your prints.

Health and Safety Considerations

When working with plastisol ink, it is essential to prioritize safety and take appropriate measures to protect yourself and the environment. Consider the following health and safety considerations:


Ensure that your workspace has proper ventilation to minimize exposure to ink fumes. Use exhaust fans, open windows, or work in a well-ventilated area to maintain good air quality.

Protective Gear

Wear appropriate protective gear, such as gloves, goggles, and a respirator, when handling plastisol ink. This will protect you from potential skin irritations, eye injuries, and inhalation of harmful fumes.

Ink Disposal

Dispose of leftover or expired ink responsibly. Follow local regulations and guidelines for proper ink disposal to minimize environmental impact. Avoid pouring ink down the drain or throwing it in the regular trash.

Tips and Tricks for Working with Plastisol Ink

Here are some valuable tips and tricks that can enhance your experience and results when working with plastisol ink:

Storage Recommendations

Store plastisol ink in a cool and dry environment to prevent premature curing or ink separation. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight or extreme temperature fluctuations. Stir the ink periodically to maintain its consistency.

Ink Mixing

To achieve custom colors, experiment with ink mixing. Start with small quantities and record the ratios and measurements used to replicate the desired color in the future. Mix thoroughly to ensure an even distribution of pigments.

Achieving Special Effects

Explore the range of special effect inks available, such as puff, glitter, or metallic inks. These inks can add texture, sparkle, or shine to your prints, creating visually striking designs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper usage and curing.

Continuously test and experiment with different techniques, ink combinations, and substrates. This will expand your knowledge and help you discover new possibilities in creating unique and captivating prints. Keep a record of your experiments for future reference.

Plastisol screen printing ink is a powerful tool that allows you to create remarkable prints with durability and versatility. By understanding its characteristics and mastering the techniques associated with it, you can unlock endless possibilities in the world of screen printing. With this comprehensive guide, you now have the knowledge to confidently navigate the realm of plastisol ink and take your printing endeavors to the next level.

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