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How to Choose the Right Ink for Your Screen Print Project: Plastisol vs. Water-Based Ink

In screen printing, the two most common types of ink used are plastisol and water-based ink. Each ink has its own unique properties that make them better suited for certain projects. Plus, some screen printers have distinct preferences for one ink over the other. So, is there one type of ink that’s better, and what types of projects are they best for? Continue reading below as we lay out the differences in these inks and how you can choose the right one for your needs. 

 

What is Plastisol Ink?

Plastisol ink is a thick PVC-based ink that requires heat to cure. You can think of it like a liquid plastic, meaning it sits on top of the fabric you’re printing on rather than absorbing into it. This type of ink is widely used because it is easy to handle, forgives mistakes, and results in long-lasting designs that won’t crack, fade, or peel.

 

What is Plastisol Ink Best For?

Plastisol inks are best used for designs that use bright colors, and it is suitable for many types of fabrics like cotton and polyester. Given the vibrant and opaque designs you can create with plastisol ink, it’s often a good choice if you’re printing on darker-colored items. Plus, many beginner screen printers find that plastisol ink is easier to work with and more forgiving. 

 

If you’re using plastisol ink, use our Camie 480 Screen Opener to wipe away inks and clean your screens after use easily. Whether you’re going to store your screens or use them again with a different color, this screen opener will instantly clean plugged screens to reduce downtime and help speed up your production.

 

What is Water-Based Ink?

Water-based ink is made with water as the primary solvent and pigments or dyes to create the desired color. It has a thinner consistency than plastisol inks and absorbs into the fibers of the fabric rather than sitting on top of it. Designs made with water-based inks will leave a thin, smooth, flexible layer on the item. This type of ink is seen as the more eco-friendly option since it doesn’t contain chemicals or plastics.

 

What is Water-Based Ink Best For?

Water-based ink gives off a softer look compared to the vibrancy of plastisol inks. But, printing with water-based ink is seen as more advanced than using plastisol inks. It evaporates quickly since it’s made primarily from water, and isn’t as forgiving with mistakes since it absorbs directly into the fabric upon contact. 

 

As we mentioned above, water-based inks are a great choice if you’re looking for sustainability. Plus, it can be a good option if you’re printing on light-colored or thin fabrics since it doesn’t leave as heavy of a deposit as plastisol. 

 

If you’re using water-based ink, you’ll need our AlbaChem Screen Opener to quickly clean your screens and restore them for future use. This foaming cleanser works fast to clean away dried-on water-based ink from your screens but doesn’t leave a film or oily residue behind. 

 

Wrapping up Our Comparison of Water-Based Ink vs. Plastisol Ink

Neither of these inks is necessarily better than the other. Choosing between the two will largely come down to your own preferences as a screen printer, in addition to what your clients are looking for with their design. Both plastisol and water-based inks can be used to create eye-catching and long-lasting prints, so make sure you consider the above points to choose the right one for your next project.

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The Exciting Growth of the Custom T-Shirt Printing Industry

There’s never been a better time to own a custom t-shirt business than 2024. If you’re new to screen printing or you’ve been building your business for years now, you’ll be happy to learn that the outlook for the industry is quite rosy. Continue reading below as we highlight some exciting reports about the projected growth of the industry and what you can expect in the coming years. 

 

Expected Industry Growth

In a recent report done by Precedence Research, the global custom t-shirt printing market is expected to reach a market value of $14.81 billion by 2032, representing a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 11.27% from 2023 to 2033.  

Though this report covers the custom t-shirt market in general, the report writers make note that screen printing held the highest revenue share of the market at the time of writing. 

 

What Trends Are Causing the Growth?

Depending on who you ask, the growing demand for custom t-shirts is being spurred on by a few factors. For starters, the writers of the Precedence Research report point to a growing sports industry as a possible catalyst for this positive outlook. 

Others find that custom apparel is more popular with the younger generation, whose buying power is steadily increasing as they age. One of the possible explanations for this is that this demographic is looking for custom clothing to stand out from their peers, offering them a unique way to show off their style and personality. It also helps them showcase support and awareness for social issues, which is much more common today than in previous decades. 

 

Tips for Taking Advantage of This Market Growth

There is no doubt that the screen printing industry will continue to grow over the coming decade. However, to take advantage of this positive momentum, screen printers should make some strategic moves to stand out to consumers and capture market share. 

 

Get Online

As a sales channel, the online marketplace for custom t-shirts will likely dominate over the coming decade. Though brick-and-mortar shops are still successful in many markets, running an online shop allows you to reach a larger audience rather than being limited to your geographical location. 

 

Partner with Artists

According to the Precedence Research report, the fastest-growing design segment for custom t-shirts is artwork. If you are not an artist yourself, consider partnering with a local artist to produce t-shirts using their designs. Not only will this help the artist reach a broader audience, but it can also help you offer fresh designs that your customers are looking for. 

 

Invest in Your Tools

As the industry grows, you need to keep your skills sharp in order to maintain your position in the market and stay relevant to modern consumers. To stay at the top of your game, make sure to invest in quality tools, machines, and systems that can help you work efficiently and produce quality prints. As a result, you can boost customer satisfaction and loyalty, providing sustainable growth for your business. 

How to Sell Custom Screen Printed Apparel

Starting your custom screen printing apparel shop gives you an exciting opportunity to flex your creativity and technical skills while exploring a lucrative career path. But, when it comes to knowing how and where to sell your apparel, you can be left with many questions as you navigate the early stages of your business. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the most common channels where you can sell your custom screen-printed apparel. 

 

Launch an E-commerce Store

Today, a large portion of business takes place online. So, having an e-commerce store is essential for reaching a wider audience and maximizing your sales potential. This allows you to sell to customers around the country or even the world, not just those located in your area. 

You can use platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce to easily set up an online store and showcase your custom apparel products. Take clear, professional-looking photos of your products, and make your website optimized for mobile to enhance the customer shopping experience. 

 

Open a Physical Shop

If you prefer a more traditional approach, you might consider opening up a brick-and-mortar shop. This is an excellent way to attract local customers and gain the support of your community. Plus, visitors to your shop will be able to see and feel your wonderful creations in person before making a purchase. 

Look for a location with good foot traffic and an affordable lease if your current workshop wouldn’t be feasible as a storefront. You might even want to offer additional services or promotional events like on-site customization or workshops to attract customers to your store. 

 

Use Third-Party Marketplaces

Another option for selling your custom screen-printed apparel is to list your products on a third-party marketplace like Amazon, Redbubble, or Etsy. 

These platforms are designed to help creators sell their products and already have a large customer base visiting their sites each day. So, this makes it easier for you to reach potential buyers from the get-go. But, be aware that you may have to pay fees or commissions to the site for using their services. 

 

Partner with Local Retailers

Collaborating with local retailers or boutiques can help you expand your reach and access new customer demographics without having to lease a storefront on your own. Reach out to stores that align with your brand aesthetic and values, and propose a partnership where they sell your custom apparel in their shops. 

This arrangement can be a win-win situation, as it allows you to reach customers who may not have discovered your apparel otherwise while providing retailers with unique, locally-made products to offer their customers. 

 

Sell on Social Media

Lastly, you can leverage popular social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. All of these platforms offer powerful tools for promoting and selling your custom screen-printed apparel directly to your audience. 

You can show off your creativity through this channel by creating engaging content showcasing your products. Plus, you can use features like Instagram Shopping or Facebook Marketplace to make it easy for customers to make their purchases right from their social media accounts. If you want to take your marketing one step further, you can use influencer partnerships and user-generated content to expand your reach and build brand awareness. 

Screen Printing Trade Show Events to Attend in 2024

One of the best ways to stay on top of industry trends, familiarize yourself with emerging technologies in the field, and network with other screen printing professionals and vendors is to attend trade shows. Taking a look at the year ahead, there are many screen printing trade show events being held that you might want to check out. 

 

Decorated Apparel Expo (DAX)

 

What: Created for the embroidery, digital garment decorating and screen printing industries, the Decorated Apparel Expo provides attendees with access to the latest equipment and techniques, supplier networking, industry experts, and more. You can even score free registration if you register before a certain deadline, which varies depending on your desired location. 


Where: Kansas City, MO; Treasure Island, MN; Tinley Park, IL


When: February 23-24, 2024 (MO); March 15-16, 2024 (MN); April 19-20, 2024 (IL)


Registration Link: 


https://www.daxshow.com/index.php?shownumber=63 (Kansas City)


https://www.daxshow.com/index.php?shownumber=64 (Treasure Island)


https://www.daxshow.com/index.php?shownumber=67 (Tinley Park)


Graphics Pro Expo

 

What: Held in five different locations across the US this year, the Graphics Pro Expo is an affordable three day conference built around education, access, and community for the industry. Professionals from various categories will be in attendance, including apparel decorating. Aside from learning new category-specific techniques and skills, attendees can learn how to build their businesses and explore new profit centers. 


Where: Irving, TX; Long Beach, CA; Greater Philadelphia (Oaks), PA; Indianapolis, IN; Charlotte, NC


When: March 7-9, 2024 (TX); June 13-15, 2024 (CA); July 10-12, 2024 (PA); October 3-5, 2024 (IN); November 7-9, 2024 (NC)


Registration Links: 


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/irving-2024/register/ (Irving)


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/long-beach-2024/ (Long Beach)


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/philadelphia-2024/ (Greater Philadelphia (Oaks)


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/indianapolis-2024/ (Indianapolis)


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/charlotte-2024/ (Charlotte)


Impressions Expo

 

What: A regional trade show created for the decorated apparel industry, attendees will be introduced to new products, networking opportunities, and educational sessions to help them adapt for the changing landscape of the industry. From curated workshops and seminars to keynote speeches, the Impressions Expo agenda is designed to provide you with actionable insights and access to top exhibitors in the space. 


Where: Atlantic City, NJ and Fort Worth, TX


When: March 21-23, 2024 (NJ) and October 24-26, 2024 (TX)


Registration Links: 


https://impressionsexpo.com/atlanticcity/show/pricing/ (Atlantic City)


https://impressionsexpo.com/fortworth/show/pricing/ (Fort Worth)


Printing United Expo

 

What: A comprehensive conference for the entire print industry, with exhibits, demos, and education for each community within the industry. Tens of thousands of attendees will be present at the Printing United Expo, spanning categories like graphic installers, labels and packaging, apparel decoration, and more. Attendees can make connections with industry peers, check out new products, try out emerging technologies, and listen to notable keynote speakers


Where: Las Vegas, NV


When: September 10-12, 2024


Registration Link: 


https://www.printingunited.com/attend/register/ 



2024 Screen Printing Trends: What You Need to Know

2024 is in full swing, and if you want to take this year by storm and know what’s in and what’s out for the screen printing industry this year, we have you covered. As you continue reading below, we’ll talk about some of the hottest trends taking off in the screen printing space in 2024 and provide you with helpful tips to implement them into your own business. 

Greater Focus on Sustainability

One trend that we anticipate will only become more and more popular as the years progress is a greater focus on using sustainable practices in screen printing. This might include using recycled substrates, eco-friendly inks, and reducing your water consumption to start going green. 

You don’t have to completely overhaul your entire operations in 2024 in the name of sustainability. Instead, make small changes here and there to help you implement more long-lasting practices that you can stick with. 

Leveraging Social Media

In 2024, the integration of digital technologies will impact all industries, including screen printing. As your screen printing business evolves for the digital age, social media will likely become a more useful tool to help market your printed products. 

If you haven’t started using social media already to promote your business, let 2024 be the year you start! There are many advantages to leveraging social media to grow your printing business, and it doesn’t have to take up too much of your time each week. 

You can start by uploading behind-the-scenes footage of you creating your prints, or posting photos of new items for sale in your shop! You can ramp up your interactions online as you become more comfortable with using social media. 

Revival in Retro-Style Graphic Tees

It seems like each year, a different decade from the 20th century becomes a fashion inspiration for the year–and 2024 will likely be no different. This year, we’ll likely see many screen printers take advantage of the retro revival once again, this time focusing on graphic tees that were largely popular in the 90s. 

If you want to try this nostalgic trend out in your own shop, consider incorporating vibrant ink colors, retro typography, bold patterns, and 90s pop-culture-influenced prints that customers of all ages can get excited about.  

Growing Interest in Artisanal Items

Artisanal or handmade goods are becoming more popular with consumers lately, with the global handmade market expecting a CAGR of 4.7% from now until 2030. While the projected growth for these items looks promising over the rest of the decade, there’s no need to hesitate, and many screen printers plan on exploring this avenue in 2024.

While screen-printed items could already be considered handmade, a growing number of consumers are looking for more unique and locally-made items rather than mass-produced goods that anyone in any location could find. Screen printers looking to take advantage of this trend in 2024 may want to focus on creating unique, smaller batched prints on locally sourced garments or substrates to give their items an authentic and artisanal feel.

Holiday T-Shirt Screen Printing Ideas for December 2023

The holiday season is in full swing, and if you're a screen printer, there's still time to infuse some festive flair into your offerings–or save these ideas for next year! Whether you're looking to spread the holiday cheer or offer unique gift options, the following t-shirt ideas are here to inspire your creative process. 

Keep in mind that these designs could just as easily be printed on a tote bag or sweatshirt, so don’t feel limited to only t-shirts!

Merry Christmas T-Shirt

Spread the joy with this simple yet classic "Merry Christmas" t-shirt design. The vibrant red lettering stands out against the backdrop of a festive green holly motif, creating a timeless and cheerful design that embodies the spirit of the season. Feel free to adjust the font to your own preference, and alter the ink color depending on the color t-shirt you plan to use. 

Festive Sweater Print T-Shirt

Embrace the cozy vibes this season with a festive sweater print t-shirt. In red and white ink, this shirt features a delightful pattern of repeating deer and trees, capturing the warmth and charm of your favorite holiday sweater in a wearable form–without any of the itching! If you do want some extra warmth for the cold weather, you can consider printing this design over a crewneck sweatshirt, which would look just as fabulous.

Christmas Tree T-Shirt

Featuring a bold line drawing of a Christmas tree in vibrant green ink, this t-shirt will get you right in the spirit of the season. A great design that anyone in the family could wear, the dotted star “ornaments” in red and white throughout give a nice subtle touch that elevates this design. For further customization, you can use different ink colors for the “ornaments” to add even more depth to the t-shirt. 

Holiday Cookie T-Shirt

Indulge in the holiday spirit with a holiday cookie t-shirt. A red tee adorned with a variety of decorated cookies creates a playful and mouthwatering design, perfect for those with a sweet tooth and a love for all things festive. If you plan on handling the holiday baking this year, this could be the perfect uniform to don during all your baking activities!

Dreamy Snowflake T-Shirt

Step into a winter wonderland with a dreamy snowflake t-shirt. Light snowflake outlines in white ink gracefully dance across a black tee, creating a sophisticated and enchanting design that captures the magic of a snowy holiday season. This is also the perfect design that you can wear all winter long–not just during the holidays! Again, feel free to print this design on any other garment or item you wish for the perfect wintertime accessory. 

Ho Ho Ho T-Shirt

This "Ho Ho Ho" t-shirt features playful bubble letters cascading down the center in a playful yet refined design. In a merry blend of red, green, and white ink, this shirt captures the whimsical spirit of the season, something that both adults and children will love. The lively design adds a touch of fun to your holiday wardrobe, making it a perfect choice for celebrating this holiday season in style.

 

Screen Printing Resolutions: How to Elevate Your Craft in the New Year

The new year is quickly approaching, and with it, many screen printers are finishing off the year strong with the rush of the holiday season. But, even while you’re busy with orders this time of year, you can still look forward to the year ahead and acknowledge your growth opportunities. 

This is the perfect time to set your resolutions and goals for 2024 so you can elevate your craft and stay at the forefront of what’s new in the industry. Take a look at some of the following ideas for screen printing New Year’s resolutions that you might want to consider adding to your own list. 

Master Specialty Inks and Finishes

2024 could be the year that you delve into the world of specialty inks and finishes. If you’ve ever wanted to try out metallic inks, glow-in-the-dark inks, and high-density inks for more unique dimensions in your designs, now is the time to push yourself to experiment! You can even try out finishes you have yet to utilize in customer designs like foil stamping, puff ink, or soft-touch coatings to set your prints apart from your competitors. 

Think of some of the customer requests you’ve had but turned down because you weren’t comfortable with the technique. This can give you a great starting point for what specialty ink or finish you want to master in the new year. 

Invest in Newer Equipment

In the new year, you may make it a point to upgrade your equipment to improve efficiency and expand your printing capabilities. Whether you want to get your hands on a more advanced exposure unit or new online software for creating progressive designs, the new year is as good a time as any to make an upgrade. 

Even if there’s a slight learning curve to adopting new equipment or technology, embrace the challenge and understand that investing in new tools can enhance your productivity and output quality. 

Going Green

Across all industries, vendors and merchants are trying to find ways to adopt sustainable practices that are more environmentally friendly. The screen printing industry is not immune to such trends, and there are countless ways that forward-thinking screen printers can make their operations more sustainable.  

One of the biggest changes you can make is to use recycled materials and substrates for your printing projects to align your business with more conscious consumers. Another way you can go green in 2024 is to lean more towards using water-based inks, which have less of an impact on the environment compared to plastisol ink. 

Growing Your Online Presence

Being a screen printer in 2024 means you need to do more than just master your craft. Today’s digital landscape means having a strong digital presence is crucial for business growth. If you haven’t already, make one of your 2024 New Year’s Resolutions building or refining your website and leveraging social media to showcase your portfolio and engage with your audience. 

You may end up surprised to see how much your online presence can help you gain more visibility and open up more opportunities and collaborations with other business owners.