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Union Plasticharge - Discharge Printing Without The Hassle

Posted by Allen Wesson on 2/5/2018

If you have been screen printing or even just investigating screen printing for any time at all you have doubtless crossed the term 'discharge printing'.  What does it mean?  What are the benefits and techniques?  Is there a simpler, easier way to achieve the same results?

Most references to discharge printing are referring to water based products; but not all water based screen printing products are for discharge.  One of the most basic descriptions of discharge printing that I heard one of our sales reps used is that it is like 'bleach printing'.  Indeed, as a very basic description this may be accurate, in that you aren't actually 'printing' on a shirt as much as you are 'taking away' the color that is there.  

Discharge works by removing the dye from a shirt, as most shirt materials are dyed to their final color.  A simple discharge of a black shirt may look similar to this - 

Because there is no actual 'ink' on the shirt (only the discharge agent), the original feel and softness of the shirt is maintained.  If you were to close your eyes and feel the shirt, you would likely not be able to tell if it were printed at all.  

Coloring agents can be added to the discharge mixture to achieve a desired effect.  These colors are often softer, more subdued that you may be used to seeing on plastisol printed shirts.  Printing more vibrant colors with water based inks (such as products by Matsui Ink) carries its own set of variables and instructions that are not in the scope of this article, but results can be stunning for those with practice and experience.

The plasticharge line of products are manufactured by the Union Ink company.  It is designed to give you the look, feel, and benefits of true discharge printing, but without having to invest in the initial products required for the process.  They work by using their own mixing agents, and color can be added by using the standard plastisol ink colors you likely have on your shelf now.  The products can be purchased individually, but Texsource has packaged the products needed into 3 convenient turnkey kits, the differences between them being products that you may already have in your shop (water based screen opener, scale, water based emulsion).  

A plasticharge additive (Union 9070 Additive) is mixed with your existing plastisol ink at a 50/50 ratio (half plastisol ink, half additive).   Weigh the final mix together, and determine 6% of that weight - that is how much of the ZFS powder you will then add to that mix (Union Discharge ZFS Agent).  This will yield excellent results on most colors with the exception of reds and oranges.  When mixing with a red or an orange, you will want a mix ratio of 70/30 (70% plastisol ink, 30% 9070 additive).  Weigh the final mix, and add only 4% of the ZFS powder to the mixture.  This will prevent the red and orange colors from 'burning' into colors much darker than your original color.  

Union Plasticharge works well for shops with smaller dryers.  Full water based discharge printing can be tough to dry, as your dwell time and temperature may need to be increased in order to fully evaporate the water in the shirt - otherwise you will have spots that didn't discharge fully in your print.  Many screen printing veterans will even recommend a gas dryer for shops that do a lot of water based printing.  Plasticharge products work well on most any standard shop dryer as the products perform well at standard curing temperatures and dwell times.  

As of this writing a standard plasticharge kit (plasticharge white, 9070 additive, and ZFS powder) is about $85.  Adding a quart of water based emulsion (deluxe kit) takes you to a little over $100.  The premium kit that adds the emulsion, a can of water based screen opener, and a scale (accurate weights are important) takes you to just over $150.  All are excellent price points to get these desirable screen printing effects!  

If you are ready to give it a shot, then Texsource is here to help you.  Have a look at the video below that details some more of what has been said here, as well as more examples of just what can be accomplished with this style of screen printing.  Give us a call with any questions, or shoot us an email with some pictures of what you have printed, we would love to post to our social media accounts with your work.  

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