Find out more about ACE's various apparel printing styles:

Plastisol is the most popular ink used in the garment printing industry. Screen printing plastisol ink is very versatile, it is opaque on dark garments, and features great adhesion to most t-shirt, athletic jerseys, hoodies, heat transfers, and most textiles in general.

Plastisol inks can be printed on most any item that can withstand the heat required to cure the ink and is porous enough to permit good ink adhesion. Plastisol inks sit on the surface of the garment and can produce crisp clear designs – even on dark garments.

Discharge printing is the process of bleaching the dye out of the garment, leaving its natural color showing through (usually a tan color). We can also print colors in discharge ink, however results vary depending on shirt color & brand. The only real drawback with this kind of apparel printing is that the customer will need to wash the shirt to achieve the softest handfeel.

What Is Discharge Printing?

Discharge printing is the process of using water-based inks with discharge additives to bleach the manufacturer’s dye out of a shirt and replace it with whatever ink color you choose. This kind of screen printing is done with water-based inks that soak into the fabric, instead of just sitting on top of it. Typically, this is done with 100% cotton tees that are black or darker in color.

Discharge Printing Advantages

There are a few great advantages to choosing discharge printing for your custom apparel printing.

  • Softer look and feel Everybody loves those super soft cotton tees with a smooth feeling graphic. Custom t-shirts made with discharge printing have a softer look and feel than t-shirts made with plastisol ink.
  • Lighter weight Discharge printing is also great for big prints, so you can have that huge design you want, without all the heavy ink.
  • Vibrant colors Want bright, vibrant colors for your custom t-shirt design? Although discharge printing is typically done with darker materials, you can still get those bright, awesome colors your design needs to pop.

So, you’re probably reading this thinking, “Wow, this is great! But there has to be a downside to discharge printing.” Well, you’re right. Not every color garment discharges well. Due to the intensity and amount of the dye used to make the shirts bright and vibrant, the following colors do not work well when using discharge ink:

  • Kelly Green
  • Red
  • Royal
  • Lapis
  • Cobalt
  • Purple
  • Forest
  • Teal
  • Turquoise

If you are going to print on these shirt colors, please note that lighter ink colors like white and yellow will be influenced by the shirt color remaining underneath. Our design experts at ACE USA can help you determine the best printing method for your custom apparel.

Water-based printing features inks that are soft, breathable and able to soak into the fabric of the garment, rather than sitting on top. When printed correctly, they result in crisp, bright prints that you can't feel to the touch!

When to use Waterbase Printing

  • For super-soft, no-feel prints
  • On white or light-colored garments
  • On dark-colored garments for a strong faded/vintage look (color of garment impacts the ink)

Can waterbase inks be printed on dark garments?

Absolutely. When waterbase inks are printed on dark garments we typically call this Discharge Printing, since we need an extra element to bleach the original color out of the shirt before printing the super soft waterbase ink. However, we can also print straight Waterbase onto dark garments in order to achieve a faded/vintage effect or a tonal effect.

This is the print style that you will want to use when you have a full color design or a photograph. We are huge fans of Simulated Process Printing in these situations. We know that we can get great results every time with Simulated Process.

What is the difference between Four Color Process and Simulated Process printing?

Four Color Process printing, also known as CMYK, uses only 4 colors to achieve your photorealistic image (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). This process is typically performed on white or light colored garments and will not produce prints with a high amount of color detail.

Simulated Process printing goes above and beyond Four Color Process by blending in standard spot colors to achieve high amounts of photorealistic detail. This process works well on both light and dark colored garments.

How do I know which process to use with my unique artwork?

Don't worry, let us decide! We're experts in this category and want you to have the best experience and the best product possible. Our Artists are trained to determine the best method of printing for your unique design.

Foil t-shirt printing is a great option to really make your shirts pop! Sheets of foil are heat pressed on top of plastisol inks. We can also mix foil with standard printing but waterbase inks must be used for the other colors being used. Keep in mind that foil does not last as long as normal printing and can start to peel after only a few washes if shirts are not taken care of. To extend the life of the foil please wash these garments inside out in cold water then hang dry. We print a similar color of ink under the foil to help make the shirts last longer when they do start to peel.