Screen Printing Ink Plastisol: A Comprehensive Guide to the Perfect Print

When it comes to achieving vivid and long-lasting prints, screen printing ink plastisol is the go-to choice for many professionals. Whether you’re a seasoned printer or just starting out, understanding the ins and outs of this versatile ink is crucial to producing high-quality results. In this blog article, we will delve into the world of screen printing ink plastisol, exploring its components, application techniques, and tips for achieving the best print every time.

So, what exactly is screen printing ink plastisol? Plastisol ink is a type of PVC-based ink that remains in a liquid state at room temperature but cures to a solid when exposed to heat. This unique characteristic allows for easy application and manipulation, making it a preferred choice among screen printers. With its excellent opacity and vibrant color options, plastisol ink is ideal for printing on dark fabrics, providing a striking contrast that truly stands out.

Understanding the Composition of Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink is composed of several key elements that work together to create its unique properties. These elements include the base, pigments, plasticizers, and additives.

The Base

The base of plastisol ink is typically made up of PVC resin, which gives the ink its characteristic durability and opacity. This resin is in a powdered form and needs to be mixed with other components to create a smooth, workable ink.


Pigments are responsible for the color of the ink. Plastisol ink comes in a wide range of vibrant colors, thanks to the addition of pigments. These pigments are finely ground particles that are mixed into the base to create the desired color.


Plasticizers are added to plastisol ink to improve its flexibility and adhesion to the fabric. These substances help the ink to remain pliable even after curing, ensuring that the print does not crack or peel off over time.


Additives are optional components that can be added to plastisol ink to enhance its performance or achieve specific effects. Some common additives include thickeners, which can be used to adjust the viscosity of the ink, and extenders, which increase the ink’s transparency.

Choosing the Right Mesh for Optimal Results

The mesh count of the screen plays a crucial role in achieving the desired print outcome. The mesh count refers to the number of threads per inch in the screen fabric and determines the level of detail and ink penetration. It’s important to choose the appropriate mesh count for your specific design and fabric to ensure optimal results.

Factors to Consider

When selecting the mesh count, there are several factors to consider:

  • The type of fabric: Different fabrics have different textures and thicknesses, which can affect ink penetration. Thicker fabrics may require a lower mesh count to allow for better ink coverage, while finer fabrics may require a higher mesh count for finer details.
  • The level of detail: If your design has intricate details, a higher mesh count will be necessary to achieve sharp lines and fine dots. However, if your design is more basic, a lower mesh count may be sufficient.
  • Ink viscosity: The viscosity of the ink also plays a role in mesh selection. Thicker inks may require a lower mesh count to allow for proper ink flow, while thinner inks may work better with a higher mesh count.

Mesh Count Recommendations

Here are some general recommendations for mesh count based on fabric type:

  • For cotton and other standard fabrics: A mesh count between 110-160 is commonly used for standard fabric printing. This range provides a good balance between ink coverage and detail.
  • For fine fabrics and detailed designs: Mesh counts above 200 are often used for printing on fine fabrics or when intricate details are required. This higher mesh count allows for finer ink deposition and greater detail.
  • For specialty applications: Some specialty applications may require specific mesh counts. For example, printing on heavyweight fabrics may require a lower mesh count, while printing on sheer fabrics may require a higher mesh count.

Mastering the Art of Color Mixing

Color mixing is an essential skill for screen printers, enabling them to create a wide range of shades and hues. Understanding the color theory behind plastisol ink and practicing proper color mixing techniques can help you achieve accurate color matches and vibrant blends.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel is a fundamental tool for understanding color relationships and mixing. It consists of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, which can be combined to create an infinite range of hues.

The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. These colors cannot be created by mixing other colors and are used as the base for all other colors. Secondary colors are created by mixing equal parts of two primary colors. They include orange (red + yellow), green (blue + yellow), and violet (red + blue). Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a neighboring secondary color, resulting in colors such as red-orange or blue-green.

Achieving Accurate Color Matches

When aiming for an accurate color match, it’s important to start with the right base color and then fine-tune it by adding pigments. To achieve the desired color, start with a base color that is closest to your target and add small amounts of pigment until the desired shade is achieved. Mixing colors on a palette or in small containers before adding them to the ink can help you control the proportions and achieve consistency.

Creating Vibrant Blends

To create vibrant color blends, consider using a wet-on-wet printing technique. This involves printing one color on top of another while the first color is still wet. The colors will blend together on the fabric, creating a smooth transition between hues. This technique works best when using colors that are close to each other on the color wheel.

Proper Ink Preparation and Storage

Proper ink preparation and storage are essential for maintaining the ink’s quality and consistency. Taking the time to prepare your ink correctly and store it properly can save you from potential printing issues and ensure consistent results.

Ink Stirring

Before using plastisol ink, it’s important to give it a good stir to ensure that all the components are well mixed. The pigments and additives in the ink can settle over time, so stirring will help distribute them evenly. Use a spatula or stirring stick to mix the ink thoroughly, scraping the sides and bottom of the container to ensure a homogeneous mixture.

Pigment Dispersion

If you’re using powdered pigments to create custom colors, it’s crucial to disperse them properly within the ink. Poorly dispersed pigments can result in uneven color distribution and affect the print quality. There are various methods for pigment dispersion, including using a mixer or a homogenizer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific pigments you’re using to achieve the best dispersion.

Storage Practices

Proper storage is key to maintaining the ink’s viscosity and color integrity. Here are some tips for storing plastisol ink:

  • Keep the ink containers tightly sealed to prevent air exposure, which can lead to drying and thickening of the ink.
  • Store the ink in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Exposure to heat and light can affect the ink’s viscosity and color.
  • Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations, as they can cause the ink to separate or thicken.
  • If possible, store the ink containers in an upright position to prevent leakage or accidental spills.

The Importance of Proper Screen Preparation

Proper screen preparation is crucial for achieving high-quality prints. Preparing the screen correctly ensures that the emulsion adheres properly and that the stencil is durable enough to withstand multiple prints. Follow these steps to ensure optimal screen preparation:

Screen Degreasing

Before applying the emulsion, it’s essential to degrease the screen to remove any dirt, oils, or contaminants that could affect the emulsion’s adhesion. Use a screen degreaser or a mild detergent to thoroughly clean both sides of the screen. Rinse the screen with clean water and allow it to dry completely before proceeding.

Emulsion Coating

Coating the screen with emulsion is the next step in screen preparation. Place the screen on a clean, flat surface, preferably in a darkroom or a controlled environment with minimal light. Apply a thin, even layer of emulsion on one side of the screen using a scoop coater or a squeegee. Ensure that the emulsion covers the entire screen mesh, leaving no gaps or streaks. Repeat the process on the other side of the screen, if necessary.

Screen Exposure

Once the emulsion is applied, it needs to be exposed to light to create the stencil. This process is known as screen exposure. Place the coated screen in a UV light exposure unit or a sunlight exposure unit, ensuring that the emulsion side is facing the light source. Exposure times may vary depending onthe emulsion type, mesh count, and desired stencil thickness. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper exposure times. After exposure, rinse the screen with water to remove any unexposed emulsion, leaving behind a hardened stencil ready for printing.

Techniques for Achieving Crisp and Precise Prints

Mastering various printing techniques can make all the difference in achieving professional-grade prints. By utilizing the right techniques, you can ensure sharp and well-defined designs. Here are some techniques to consider:


Underbasing involves printing a layer of white or light-colored ink as a base before applying the actual design colors. This technique is particularly useful when printing on dark fabrics, as the underbase creates a neutral background that allows the design colors to stand out vividly.


Flashing refers to briefly curing or partially drying the ink between each color layer. This technique prevents colors from bleeding into each other and helps maintain sharp edges and details. Flashing can be done using a flash dryer or a heat gun, depending on the scale of your operation.

Highlight White

Highlight white is a technique used to create bright and vibrant prints on colored fabrics. By printing a layer of white ink under the design colors, you can enhance their visibility and opacity. This technique is especially effective when working with transparent or light-colored inks.

Stencil Modification

Stencil modification techniques involve altering the stencil to achieve specific effects or improve print quality. Some common stencil modifications include trapping, which involves slightly overlapping the colors to prevent gaps or misalignment, and halftone screens, which create gradients and shading effects by using tiny dots of varying sizes.

Troubleshooting Common Print Issues

Print issues can sometimes arise, but fear not! Identifying and troubleshooting common problems during the screen printing process can help you overcome challenges and achieve optimal results. Here are some common print issues and their possible solutions:

Ink Bleeding

Ink bleeding occurs when the ink spreads beyond the intended design boundaries, resulting in fuzzy or blurred prints. To minimize ink bleeding, ensure that the ink is properly cured, and consider adjusting the ink viscosity or using a lower mesh count to reduce ink flow.


Ghosting refers to the faint outlines of a previous print appearing in subsequent prints. This issue can be caused by insufficient flash curing or inadequate cleaning of the screen between prints. To eliminate ghosting, make sure to properly flash cure each layer and thoroughly clean the screen to remove any residual ink.

Poor Adhesion

Poor adhesion occurs when the ink does not properly adhere to the fabric, leading to peeling or cracking. This issue can be caused by inadequate curing, improper screen tension, or using the wrong ink for the fabric type. Ensure proper curing conditions, maintain correct screen tension, and choose the appropriate ink for the fabric to improve adhesion.

Inconsistent Print Quality

Inconsistent print quality can result from various factors, including uneven ink application, improper squeegee pressure, or poorly prepared screens. Consistently check and adjust ink application, use proper squeegee techniques, and ensure thorough screen preparation to achieve consistent and high-quality prints.

Curing Plastisol Ink: Best Practices

Proper curing is vital for achieving durable and long-lasting prints. Inadequate curing can lead to ink washout, cracking, or fading. To ensure optimal curing of your plastisol prints, follow these best practices:


Temperature plays a crucial role in curing plastisol ink. The ink needs to reach a certain temperature to fully cure and bond with the fabric fibers. Most plastisol inks require a temperature range of 300-320°F (150-160°C) for proper curing. Use a reliable and accurate temperature gauge to monitor the curing temperature and make adjustments if necessary.


The duration of curing is equally important as the temperature. Plastisol ink needs sufficient time at the required temperature to cure completely. The recommended curing time is typically around 30-60 seconds, but it can vary depending on the ink type and thickness of the print. Consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific curing times for your ink.

Heat Sources

Various heat sources can be used for curing plastisol ink, including conveyor dryers, heat presses, or flash dryers. It’s crucial to ensure that the heat source provides consistent heat distribution and sufficient airflow to prevent scorching or overheating. Regularly calibrate and maintain your heat source to ensure accurate and reliable curing.

Test Prints

To ensure proper curing, it’s always a good practice to perform test prints and wash tests before printing a large batch. This allows you to assess the curing quality, wash durability, and color fastness of the prints. Make adjustments to temperature, time, or ink formulation if needed, based on the results of the test prints.

Exploring Specialty Plastisol Inks

While standard plastisol inks offer a wide range of colors, there are also specialty plastisol inks that can add unique effects and textures to your prints. These specialty inks can help you create eye-catching designs and expand your creative possibilities. Here are a few examples:

Metallic Inks

Metallic inks contain metallic particles that create a shiny, metallic finish on the fabric. These inks can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to your designs, making them ideal for creating prints with a metallic sheen or a faux-metal effect.

Glitter Inks

Glitter inks contain glitter particles that add sparkle and shine to your prints. These inks are perfect for designs that require a touch of glamour or a festive look. Glitter inks are available in various colors and particle sizes, allowing you to achieve different glitter effects.

Puff Inks

Puff inks create a raised or textured effect when heated, adding dimension to your prints. These inks expand when exposed to heat, creating a raised surface that provides a unique tactile experience. Puff inks are commonly used for creating bold logos, lettering, or designs that require a 3D effect.

Glow-in-the-Dark Inks

Glow-in-the-dark inks contain phosphorescent pigments that absorb light and emit a visible glow in the dark. These inks are great for creating designs that stand out during nighttime events, parties, or for adding a fun element to children’s clothing.

Eco-Friendly Alternatives: Water-Based vs. Plastisol Ink

As sustainability and environmental consciousness become more important in the printing industry, exploring eco-friendly alternatives is crucial. Two popular options that offer environmentally-friendly qualities are water-based ink and plastisol ink. Let’s compare these alternatives:

Water-Based Ink

Water-based ink is a more environmentally-friendly option compared to plastisol ink. It contains fewer harmful chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and is easier to clean up with water. Water-based ink also offers a softer hand feel, as it absorbs into the fabric rather than sitting on top of it. However, it may require additional steps, such as pre-treating the fabric or using a heat press for curing.

Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink, while not as eco-friendly as water-based ink, still offers advantages in terms of durability, opacity, and ease of use. It requires less pre-treatment and can be cured using a simple heat source. Plastisol ink also provides greater vibrancy and color options, making it a popular choice for many screen printers. However, it does contain PVC and phthalates, which are considered harmful to the environment.

Choosing the Right Option

The choice between water-based and plastisol ink ultimately depends on your specific needs and priorities. If environmental sustainability is a top concern, water-based ink may be the better choice. However, if you prioritize durability, vibrant colors, and ease of use, plastisol ink may be the preferable option. Consider your printing requirements, customer preferences, and sustainability goals when making this decision.

In conclusion, screen printing ink plastisol is a versatile and reliable choice for achieving stunning prints. By understanding the composition, employing proper techniques, troubleshooting potential issues, and exploring specialty inks, you can unlock endless possibilities in the world of screen printing. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, continuous practice, experimentation, and refinement of your skills will lead to the perfect print every time. Remember to consider eco-friendly alternatives and make conscious choices that align with your sustainability goals. With the right knowledge and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to creating impressive and long-lasting prints with screen printing ink plastisol.

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