Screen Printing With Watercolor

Screen Printing With Watercolor
March 6, 2018

Let's talk Watercolor!  This is not a water-based ink. It feels like a water-based ink. It looks like a water-based ink.  Not water-based.  It's plastisol just like every other ink we manufacture.  Watercolor does not behave like a plastisol.  It purposefully "wicks" into the fabric which provides a soft hand feel and a water-based appearance.  This is perfect for those wanting a fashion/vintage appearance or those who are willing to print with a discharge base to "bleach" out the fabric.  We will touch on this more later.  Regardless, Watercolor is your go-to ink for printing tri-blends, ring spun cotton, and any other premium cotton or cotton/blend fabric.  The print can only be as soft as the fabric allows.  This should steer you away from inexpensive, rough 50/50 tees. 

So how about all of the benefits of Watercolor over water-based ink?  If you have printed with water-based ink, you know the drawbacks.  From our experience, water-based ink will dry in the screen, break down emulsion, and requires excessive dryer heat including forced air.  We don't want to deal with this.  Not our cup of tea.  Let’s not forget that water-based ink is not some eco-friendly ink as most people think.  You can clean it up with water.  That’s the one healthy feature.  This does not give us a warm and fuzzy feeling as we can clean Watercolor with Franmar Bean-e-doo which is a soybean cleaner.  It's safe.  It's effective.  The extra energy required to cure water-based ink when compared to our Watercolor certainly increases your carbon footprint.  Watercolor is easy to work with, even through fine mesh counts.  It is plastisol so it will not break down emulsion.  It is more opaque compared to regular water-based inks.  Basically, if you are screen printing with water-based inks, you need to switch to Watercolor!

Watercolor in production is quick, easy, and effective.  If you enjoy the simplicity of wet-on-wet screen printing, you need this ink.  There is no need to flash cure Watercolor as it won't stick to the back of the next screen.  It's special viscosity prevents this and you will see extremely minimal pick-up, never causing a production problem. 

How do you print this stuff?  Try a 196 to 230 screen mesh for super-soft feels.  Use a hard squeegee.  80 durometer is the way to go.  Triple durometer is also nice, especially if you are printing on an automatic press.  Just flood the screen and pull the squeegee once.  Done.  No flashing.  No underbase unless it is a discharge ink.  Just let it soak into that soft fabric and look amazing.

Side Note:  Did you know that Watercolor is opaque enough to become your general purpose ink?  If you are working with one of our competitor's general purpose inks such as union Ultrasoft or Wilflex Genesis, Watercolor will often have much better opacity.  This will vary by color.  Add the wet-on-wet screen printing properties I discussed earlier and Watercolor is far superior. 

More Side Note:  We have trial kits!  You know you want one.  Each kit has six colors of Watercolor, an Originals color book, set #5 Thermolabels, and a few ring spun cotton tees to print.


Samples (March 7, 2018 9:11:00 AM)
I'd like a sample kit, I've tried a few colors and love them

Merrell - Alabama/USA
BWP LLC (April 22, 2018 11:28:00 AM)
I would love to try this new product! How can I get a sample???

Billy - North Carolina
Reply (May 1, 2018 11:29:00 AM)
Give us a call at 800-942-4447 and one of our account managers will create your account and send you a sample.

Robb Mears - OSI
Samples (January 12, 2019 9:14:00 AM)
I’ve never used water based ink, but I’m always looking for a better way to create that soft hand feel.

Omar - Texas
Eco Questions (January 21, 2019 11:56:00 AM)
“Let’s not forget that water-based ink is not some eco-friendly ink as most people think.”

I would really like to hear more about this statement. All I’m hearing these days is how bad pvc is and that all the larger brands are going water base. Customers are asking these questions as well and I’m not really sure how to explain the environmental questions.


Steven - United States
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