Did you know that Screen Printing is amongst the most popular and versatile customisation techniques available? Pride for its extensive array of coloured inks, affordability and quick turnaround times, it’s our go-to at ICON for all orders in large quantities and one-off pieces alike. So how has this effective transfer technique that creates bold garments evolved overtime? Let’s break it down. 

What is it? 

Screen printing is a printing technique that involves the use of ink and a mesh stencil to transfer an image or design onto a material: canvases, posters and most commonly; and our personal favourites – garments! With a large selection of inks available no matter your requirements: sustainability, base garment choice and affordability – the inks used during the printing process are truly what differentiates this best-selling printing service. 

The most popular of these types of inks include: Plastisol inks; for ease of use and durability, Water-based inks; for an eco-friendly alternative, and Discharge inks; ideally suited for high quality prints on darker fabrics. If you’re looking for new custom-made merchandise, reach out to us by clicking here, and a member of our sales team will direct you towards what service + inks are right for you. 

The History: 

The evolution of printing inks is a story that spans thousands of years, from the first use of ink made from plant and animal materials to the development of modern synthetic inks that we use today. One of the earliest applications of screen printing inks was made using a mixture of water, gum arabic; a natural gum originally consisting of the hardened sap of two species of the Acacia tree, and soot, a slightly sticky, fine black or brown powder. This ink was applied to a stencil made of silk, which was stretched across a frame and pressed through; inspiring the screen printing techniques we use today. 

Types of inks: 

The early 20th century brought over the development of synthetic inks, created by mixing pigments with synthetic polymers, which allowed for a broader range of colour options and improved durability. Synthetic inks were also easier to work with than the traditional inks and had better adhesion properties, which made them ideal for printing on a wide range of materials, including fabrics, plastics and metals.

With the rise of technological advancements in the 60s, Plastisol ink was invented. Plastisol is a type of ink made from PVC particles suspended in a liquid plasticizer, or more simply put: a type of ink containing microplastics mixed with a liquid that helps it stick to things. Not only is this type of ink known for its adaptability and permanence but it is also ideal for printing on both light and dark-coloured fabrics. Our clients love the speediness of using this service specifically for their event merchandise – Check out our reviews here.

The sustainability movement drove an upsurge on finding more eco-conscious substitutes for existing printing inks and introduced Water-based inks. Popularised as a green alternative to traditional plastisol inks, water-based inks are known for their non-toxic, low-odour, and low waste production benefits. Made up of water and a colour pigment, although available in a limited range, Water-based inks are popular for their ability to produce bright and vibrant, long-lasting colours and often best suited for printing on cotton, linen, and other natural fabrics.

Similarly, in the late 1990’s, another type of eco-friendly water-based printing ink; Discharge ink, took the printing world by storm, revolutionising the screen printing process. Designed specifically to be used on dark-coloured fabrics, these inks are formulated by bleaching out dye from a chosen fabric, creating a lighter colour that can then be printed over with a brighter, more vibrant ink colour, producing crisp results that feel much softer than plastisol printing.

Whether you’re looking for a durable and versatile ink for printing on fabrics or a specialty ink for creating unique designs, there is an ink out there that will meet your needs. 

Keen to find out more? Our passionate team of experts is waiting to hear from you and help you guide your next order, Email us at or click here for an instant quote!