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What is a Soft-Hand Print?

Posted by Mary Yaeger on 7/12/2017

Posted by Mary Yaeger

Also seen on Printwear





The feel of a plastisol print is called the “hand”. It is controlled by the type of ink and how thick an ink layer is. To achieve soft-hand prints you have to start with a soft-hand base. To achieve an extra soft-hand print on white garments – use a 230 or higher mesh count screen. Soft-hand printing can easily be achieved with soft base additives and water based inks. Distressed and vintage prints are in high demand which call for a natural feeling and more authentic touch. There are a couple of ways to achieve soft hand – water based and discharge printing.


    Water based inks

Just as the name suggests this type of ink creates a soft feel because its make up is not plastic. This type of ink tends to dry in areas if not watched carefully. You might lose some detail or fine halftone. The curing time of water based ink is slower. This ink is more transparent than plastisol and does not appear well on dark garments. Typically this wouldn’t be an issue. You can slap an under base on your garment and continue printing. Unfortunately, water based doesn’t print well on under bases. If you are going to use water based inks, it is better to print on white and light garments.



Discharge Inks

Discharge inks are your solution to printing soft hand on dark garments. It is considerably softer than printing with plastisol but it does require an under base. Discharge ink uses an “activator” that bleaches the dye out of the shirt and deposits the ink pigment in its place.  Discharge is technically still a water based ink. So you will want to avoid designs with heavy detail and fine halftones. Printing on “rich colors” such as red, purple and royal blues tend to discharge unpredictably. The inks are often contaminated by the dye in the shirt so your print could end up an off color. 

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