Discharge Printing

At Steel Town Graphics we offer in house Discharge printing and tinting of discharge prints, please read below on the process and the advantages and disadvantages. 

What is discharge printing ?

Discharge ink is a water based product that is formulated to remove the dyes used on natural fabrics.

What does it do ?

When you print using discharge agent it removes the colour of the shirt , this leaves the shirt in its original configuration no ink is laid down so it feels like the original shirt.

Discharge print (below) 

What is it ?

The actual make up the discharge is a clear base that we activate with Zinc Formaldehyde Sulfoxylate. and this is what causes the dye in the fabric to be removed.  The natural colour of the shirt will show through. Note some shirts will be white underneath and some shirts will be off white underneath. 

What limitations are their ?

Their are a few conditions that can affect the results, this process was designed for 100% cotton t-shirts, but sometimes it will work on 95/5 cotton shirts, 60/40 cotton shirts and 50/50 cotton shirts. The shirts need to be tested prior to large runs for compatibility

Not all colours are created equal some dyes do not work well with this process. It generally works best with reactive dyes, although some dyes are more resistant like kelly green, purple and royal blue. 

What discharge tinting ?

When we need to print colour rather than a clear discharge we will add water based tints to the base.  Basically it removes the old dye and adds a new colour. This process eliminates the need for a white base, when printing on dark garments. 


It will last as long as the shirt. 

What type of fabrics can be used ?

Originally discharge printing was designed for 100% cotton t-shirts. We get the best fidelity, colour accuracy and wash fastness on cotton t-shirts.  Water based inks generally do not like synthetic fibres like polyester, spandex.

There are some exceptions to this rule. Some garments like American Apparel, Next Level heathered blends will surprisingly take discharge inks even thought the shirts are 50/50 blends.  

Will we do test ?

We will do test on garments with in house inks to see if the garment will take the print.  Contact us for cost, fees are deductible on the first order. 

What advantages does discharge have?

Their are several advantages over plasitol. 

* The print area is 100% breathable. 

* Their is no hand to the shirt, 

* Longevity the image will last as long as the shirt does, the image will not crack like plasitol inks. 

* flexibility to print in a wide range of areas including over seams, over zippers, and pockets.

* Leaves no ink and 

What Disadvantages does discharge ?

Their are a few disadvantages to this process. 

* Generally best suited for 100% cotton t-shirts but may work with 50/50 t-shirts but testing is needed. 

* Color matching varies depending on the t-shirt brand and or colour, testing is needed.

* Discharge use a zinc-formaldehyde  formulation that plays a key role in the function of the discharge ink.  So you need to wash them prior to wearing,.

Colour matching and discharge tints 

Generally this process is the same for mixing up inks, like plasitol, except for the inks are not opaque so the type of fabric and the colour of the shirt can affect the final colour. 

Do you offer Pantone colour matching?

Yes we can have ink made up to match a Pantone colour, however as noted above the colour may change when printed onto different colour garments. Fee for Pantone matching of each colour is $75


In the screen printing universe Plasitol inks are very common, discharge prints and water based inks are a speciality.   Not all shops over both. 

Why Plasitol ?

Generally Plasitol inks are easier to work with as they do not have a shelve life, they are easy to work with you can leave them in the screen for months, and the ink is still soft and printable. The colours of Plasitol inks stay consistent from most colours of shirts as the ink generally is opaque. Most shops have the equipment to cure the ink. 

Discharge inks

Once you mix the discharge ink you are in a time war, the ink has a shelf life and the printer needs to make sure the inks do not dry in the screens. Special emulsion and attention needs to given to the ink in the screen. Colour matching is often a challenge as the ink is a tint and not opaque so the fabric has an effect on the colour. 

 Setup Charges

Unlike  plasitol ink the setup charges are more for several reasons. We need to have special emulsion that has a shelf like and is made strictly for water based inks. We also need to have several screens made up of the same job due to the ink drying in the screen.  Thus we charge more for screen charges. 

For pricing of Discharge Water based inks CLICK HERE