When it comes to printing your brands designs, you want to make sure you know the difference between plastisol and discharge. Even if you are just a brand owner and aren’t doing the printing yourself, it critical that you know the difference because it produces two totally different outcomes! If you are making awesome designs, making sure that they look just as awesome on a shirt is one of the keys to a successful apparel brand.

So, what is the difference?


Plastisol is a PVC thermoplastic ink that sits directly on top of the fabric, sort of like putting a sticker on a shirt. If you have a really nice bright design that you want to show off, plastisol is definitely going to do that by making the colors really pop. The problem however with plastisol is that if you have a really large design and it’s all filled in with ink, it basically feels like you have a huge sticker on your shirt making it much less breathable. If you are exercising, running a 5K or doing anything active at all and you start sweating, the shirt is going to be very sticky and uncomfortable.


Discharge on the other hand is a type of water-based ink that actually rolls into the meshes with the cotton fabric on the shirt. It shows up pretty well but is less vibrant than plastisol. It is a lot more breathable and it’s not going to stick to your skin because the print and the ink are one with the shirt. Additionally, the shirt is going to be a lot softer to the touch. If you have a design that is a little more subtle and less vibrant, discharge is a much better choice. There are however a few disadvantages that are important to consider:

  1. The color and the ink are going to fade over time. The more you wear it and the more you wash it, the more the ink will fade.
  2. It’s tough to get the print and the ink color that you want because it is actually meshing with the cotton so its tougher to nail down the exact shade of color you want, along with considering that the color is going to fade over time.
  3. The process is a lot more involved and if the screen printers don’t know what they are doing it can easily get messed up and not look correct (which is why you should just call us to do it for you).

Aside from those disadvantages, discharge is still a great option, especially if you are looking for a subtle or vintage looking design. Just keep in mind, if you are printing on a shirt that is maybe only 20 cotton, the color is going to be very subtle and not show up very well. 

At the end of the day, when you are choosing which type of ink it all depends on your brand, what you are going for with your design, and what blank you are printing on. Sometimes, we like to do a combination of both for some of our designs. If we have parts on the shirt that we want to be subtle and have a more faded look we use discharge and then if there are small parts, we want to stand out more, we will do plastisol!

Bottom line is, if you have a brand with very vibrant colors you want to use plastisol, but make sure your designs aren’t too large and heavy because it will make the shirt uncomfortable to wear. If you are looking for a more subtle or vintage look, discharge is for you. If you aren’t sure which one to do, send us a message and we are happy to help out!


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