A soft hand print is the ideal complement to our super soft tees at BELLA+CANVAS. Although, discharge ink can be one of the best ways to get this effect on dark garments, there are a lot of considerations with this printing technique. We get a lot of questions about what kind of tees are best for printing with discharge ink, so we made a video to help answer some questions you might have about discharge printing!
What is discharge ink?
Discharge ink is a water-based ink that you use on dark garments to give it a soft hand feel. It’s created by adding a discharge agent to water based ink that removes the dyes in the fabric and replaces them with the desired ink color.
How does does discharge differ from plastisol?
While plastisol ink sits on top of the substrate (garment), discharge ink is absorbed into the fabric, stripping it of its original color and taking on the color of the ink. Because the ink is interacting with the dye of the fabric, results can vary much more than when working with plastisol. In terms of the end result, with plastisol, you will be able to feel the print and with discharge, you won’t.
What type of fabric is best for discharge printing
100% cotton is best for discharge printing because the discharge agent works best with natural fibers, however some blends work great too! When discharging with a heather or triblend, the effect might not be as bright, depending on the color of the polyester. Garments with black polyester won’t discharge because the agent isn’t able to strip the color from polyester.
The way fabric is manufactured and dyed will have a big effect on the way it discharges. High energy eco-friendly dyes, like that ones we use at BELLA+CANVAS are ideal for discharge. It’s a common practice for some manufactures to over dye their fabric (which we never do!). This is when they take existing tees and dye them a new color. If that’s the case, a screen printer is in for a not-so-pleasant surprise when a run of black tees discharge to purple.
Another consideration with discharge is the color of the garment. Certain colors, like Kelly Green, Royal Blue and Red can be tricky. Discharge ink responds very powerfully to reactive dyes, but these colors have less reactive dyes so tfhis results in a more muted discharge. Designs that plan for this, look incredible, but it’s important to understand this so you aren’t expecting a bright white
Because of all these variables, we recommend this hack: Put a drop of discharge agent on the swatch cards of the brands you carry and run them through the conveyor belt. Then you’ll know what to expect when you’re on press.