When To Use Discharge Ink (And When Not To)
It’s well known that using a discharge ink will give your prints a softer and more vibrant appearance. This is because the fabric, once discharged, creates a nice white surface for colored ink to lay on, WITHOUT adding another layer of ink to the shirt. That makes for nice soft prints and it’s a great solution for any 100% cotton or natural fiber garments. A perfect pairing with water based ink, which is usually on the more transparent side.
But, there are some situations in which it is better to NOT use discharge ink, and to simply stick with the water based print alone.
Here are some tips to help guide you when you are trying to decide when to use discharge ink, and when not to:
Using Only Water Based Ink:
Many printers prefer water-based printing over discharge. Why? Because water-based ink is always the same in any batch of fabric. You know how to print and what you are going to get.
Water based printing (without adding discharge) will give you a more consistent print regardless of the fabric type was chosen. It can be printed on all colors and most fabric types. Although 100% cotton is the best choice, it can be printed on 50/50 and tri-blend garments without having to change much to the printing process. There are even options that allow you to print on polyester with water based inks. This consistency allows you to be reactive to your customers needs and offers a wide range of options for the job.
When To Use Discharge Ink:
Discharge is a good option if you’re trying to get the job done fast, or want to have the softest print possible. Because you can often avoid having to print a white under base, it makes the process quicker. That said, discharge only works on cotton fibers, certain types of dyes and colors. Colors such as royal blue, forest green, and maroon are not dischargeable. This limits your garment color choice if discharge ink is your preferred method. In addition, higher-quality garments tend to discharge better than lower quality garments, which are sometimes re-dyed depending on marketing demand.
Tips For Picking Discharge-Safe Garments:
It is best to get to know your supplier if you are going to print discharge since you can ask them if the garments you are planning to discharge are first-run or re-dyed.
What is a re-dye? Sometimes manufacturers end up with an excess of garments in a color that did not have good sales that year. They will then send those garments back to be re-dyed (often black). The black dye used to re-dye the garments is typically a different and more powerful formula than the standard black. These garments will give mixed results when discharging because there are now several layers of dye in the garment.
These garments are fairly easy to identify, though; they tend to be a little softer as if they have been washed, they are almost always black, and the big indicator is a discolored label in the neck (because they are dyed after they are sewn).
So, when should you use discharge ink and when shouldn’t you? If you don’t know the status of your garment, your best answer is to use water-based printing for a more consistent print.