Moving to Water Based Inks: Tips for Screen Printing Success

by Wendy Croxford

in Permaset Blog Screen Printing

12 Oct 2021  | 0 Comments

How can you easily make the move to water-based inks?

Making a move from printing with plastisol inks to water-based inks may seem a little daunting.  With a few expert tips you can become at expert at using these eco-friendly inks for screen printing t-shirts, tote bags, yardage, posters and lots more.

Firstly, what are water-based inks?

Water-based inks are just as they sound; they’re inks made from a water-based medium as well as pigments or dye. They’re an ideal alternative to plastisol inks, which are made up of a plasticiser medium containing PVC plastic particles. While plastisol inks were once the widespread choice, water-based inks are increasingly becoming the screen printing ink of choice as they offer great vibrancy, durability, softer prints and a safer printing process.

Why choose water-based inks?

Water-based inks are safer for people, both during the screen printing process and for the subsequent wearer of the printed textiles. They’re also safer for the environment. For example – PERMASET water-based inks don’t include any PVC or phthalates or require the use of harsh solvents to clean up, as is common with plastisol inks. PERMASET’s PERMATONE range of inks have passed the OEKO-TEX Class 1 standard with 60% to spare, and as such are safe to use on baby clothes, underwear and swimwear. You can explore more here on why water-based inks are the better choice.

PERMATONE Inks have Approval of the Soil Association of the UK

How to make the move from plastisol to water-based inks

You might have heard that printing with water-based inks is more difficult than printing with plastisol inks, but ink technology has evolved a whole lot in recent years. All you need is to keep a few basic tips in mind.

    1. Water-based inks can be a little thinner (or less viscous) due to their water content.
      This means when screen printing, you might choose a screen mesh of between 43-120T (110-305 tpi) depending upon the application. This allows the ink to flow easily while minimising the risk of clogging. Choose a water-resistant emulsion when preparing your screens to avoid issues during your print run.


  1. Water based inks can dry out a little faster than plastisol inks.

There are two handy techniques to save your water-based inks from drying out too fast:

  • Keeping a spray bottle handy to rehydrate the ink as you’re working with it, and
  • Keep your screen flooded with ink in between screen prints.

If you’re screen printing a large job using water-based inks, you might also consider investing in an ultrasonic humidifier to keep the air in the room from drying out.

Water-based inks can produce amazing vivid colour with the right preparation

For light coloured fabrics you can print PERMASET AQUA Standard colours straight on, for a lovely vivid print that’s also soft to the touch. For dark coloured fabrics use PERMASET Supercover Inks which are an opaque formulation specifically developed for printing onto dark fabrics without using an under base. However, if you wish to print the PERMATONE Ink colours onto dark fabrics you will need to print an under base of PERMASET Supercover First Down White first, flash the print and then print the PERMATONE colours over the top.

PERMASET water-based inks can produce amazing vivid colour

It’s still important to cure water-based ink prints with heat

You can ensure a colour-fast print when printing onto fabrics by heat curing using a drying tunnel, heat press, tumble dryer or even an oven to carefully ‘bake’ the fabric for a short period of time.

Printers love working with water-based inks

Not only does the eco-friendly aspect of your finished prints appeal more to your customers, but it’s also a great feeling knowing your print team isn’t constantly exposed to harsh solvents and chemicals. What’s more, a thoughtful printing process can result in clear, detailed prints that are beautifully soft and made to last.

To get started with PERMASET water-based inks, explore the full range today.


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