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Definitions of various Screen printing techniques & Inks

What is screen printing?

Screen printing is the most common & economical method for T-shirt printing. In this method we make a different screen for each color of your design and lay each color down on the shirt one at a time. The design will have long lasting durability and color and can be placed anywhere on the shirt or garment.

The drawback is that we can only do 6 colors per design. Typically this is more than enough for most designs. Note that often we can "create" new colors by using what are called "half tones". These are small dots of color laid down in various sizes and spacing over other colors to make a whole new color. (i.e. blue dots are placed over a yellow space - creating a green area).

If you have questions on how many colors you have in your design, please visit our "ink count" page.

What inks do we use?

All inks used by Monkey in a Dryer are all environmentally friendly. We use the highest quality available using Wilflex inks. Our inks are Phalate free and conform to the new CPSIA laws.

What is Plastisol?

The most common ink used in garment decoration. Good color opacity onto dark garments and clear graphic detail with, as the name suggests, a more plasticized texture. This print can be made softer with special additives or heavier by adding extra layers of ink. Most plastisol inks require heat (approx. 300 degrees Fahrenheit for many inks) to cure the print.

What is Water-Based?

These penetrate the fabric more than the plastisol inks and create a much softer feel. Ideal for printing darker inks onto lighter colored garments. Also useful for larger area prints where texture is important.

What is PVC/ Phalate Free?

A relatively new breed of ink and printing with the benefits of plastisol but without the two main toxic components - soft feeling print. This is the inks that we now use on every garment in place of the traditional plastisol ink.

Can you Pantone® match an ink color for us?

We have a large selction of Pantone® matched ink on hand. We can also match any specific Pantone® color you may need. Check out this Pantone® page for more details and a list of the available Pantone® colors we have on hand.

What special effects can we do?
water based

Water Based printing inks are very popular right now for having a soft feel and if used properly are more environmentally friendly. They are concentrated pigment based dyes that penetrate the fabric with a thin layer of ink producing a soft feel with brilliant colors. The printed image also softens after washing and if cured properly, they will last just as long as t shirts printed with regular plastisol inks.

When can it be used? Ideal for printing darker inks onto lighter colored garments. Dark colored tees will need to be discharged first before water-based ink can be laid down - simply because you'll need a "blank canvas" area to show the true color of the inks being used.

Limitations: Water-based inks are not always consistent with an exact Pantone® color as plastisol inks. You can expect reasonable color variations from shirt to shirt. Reasons for this are different manufactures of shirts take the dye differently, different weaves of shirts vary from shirt to shirt, deposits of the dye can be uneven in coverage, dark shirts need to be discharged first and not all colors of shirts discharge the same.

Pricing: $1.00 extra per area application.


Foil Printing is a two part process of "printing" an adhesive onto the fabric and then a sheet of foil is applied to those areas. This gives a bright, mirror-like finish. Foil can be used in combination with regular inks to created a high fashion look.

The downside to foil printing is that it can and usually does tarnish a bit after washing. We would suggest turning the t-shirt inside out when washing to preserve the finish.

Foil should not be used on large areas of space because it can flake off or show a pucker here and there. Ultra thin lines and text is also not recommended. The best way to use foil is to use it sparingly and as a highlight on your design.

Pricing: $2.00 per location (with restrictions).

Available foil colors:


Discharge Printing is a process used to print lighter colors onto dark background fabrics. It works by removing the dye in the garment and replacing it with ink. This means they leave a much softer texture. They are less graphic in nature than plastisol inks, and exact colors are difficult to control, but especially good for distressed and vintage prints.

100% cotton shirts need to be used in the discharging process. Since polyester or 50/50 shirts are dyed using a different process than cotton shirts, they will not react to the discharge chemical and the dyes will not break down.

Chemical Warning: The discharge process uses zinc-formaldahyde to remove the dye. So make sure that the shirts are washed first before being worn. We also offer zinc-formaldahyde-free discharge that can be worn without having to wash the garment first. This process can be less effective than the regular discharge printing process.

Limitations: Not all dyed t shirt colors discharge the same. Some colors are really stubborn and won't discharge evenly or completely. Colors that are notorious for not coming out well are royal blue, kelly green and red. These will leave behind a lighter hue of the shirt color. The following shirts discharge very well in our experience. Gildan 100% cotton shirts in black, brown, navy, charcoal & forest green.

Pricing: $1.00 extra per location (with restrictions)

Other Special Effects:

Glitter/Shimmer: Silver flakes are suspended in a plastisol ink to create this sparkle effect. Usually available in gold or silver but can be mixed to make most colors.

Metallic: Similar to glitter, but smaller particles suspended in the ink.

Expanding ink (puff): An additive to plastisol inks which raises the print off the garment, creating a 3D feel.

Photochromic screen printing ink: This ink changes colors when exposed to sunlight. Photochromic Plastisol Inks are almost colorless when viewed indoors but when viewed outside or under a source of intense UV light they quickly acquire a rich, bright color. Use only on white fabrics.

Four color process: Artwork is created using dots (CMYK) which combine to create the full spectrum of colors needed for photographic prints - this means a large number of colors can be printed using only 4 screens, making the set-up costs viable. The inks are required to blend and are more translucent, meaning a compromise with vibrancy of color.

Gloss: A clear base laid over plastisol inks to create a shiny finish.

Suede Ink: Suede is another great ink that is easy to print and gives the image a textured leather, simulated suede look and feel. With suede additive you can make any color of plastisol have a suede feel.

Glow-in-the-dark: A very transparent ink that glows brightly in the dark.

Flocking: A fuzzy, plush like application.

More techniques are available.

What is Embroidery? Embroidery designs are stitched with an automated embroidery machine. These designs are "digitized" with embroidery software. They can have different types of "fills" which add texture and design to the embroidery. Almost all basic types of embroidery can be created with machine embroidery. These include: applique, free-standing lace, cutwork, cross-stitch, photo stitch, and basic embroidery. Most often this type of embroidery is associated with business shirts, gifts, team apparel and commercial use. Click for more information on Custom Embroidery.

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