screen printed t shirt nz

Yeowww! Print Up to 10 Colours With Our Woven Ink Printing

Understanding woven ink printing

Woven ink (discharge) printing is a unique method in the screen printing world. While it uses familiar techniques and machinery, the main difference is the ink. Rather than sitting on top of the garment, the inks strip the original dye from the fabric as it's printed. You may think, "So, you're bleaching the fabric". Not quite. It is similar but spares the material from the potential harm that bleaching could inflict. The outcome is a super soft print where the fabric's texture shows through.

Water-based woven inks have grown in popularity over the years. It's more commonly known in the industry as "discharge printing", but we prefer "woven inks" because it does what it says on the tin - the prints are almost woven into the shirt fibres. And let's be honest - discharge printing sounds gross.

screen printed t shirt nz

Here are a few reasons why you should consider woven inks:

1. Soft hand feel

The most significant advantage of water-based woven ink printing is the softness of the printed area. Unlike plastisol inks, which can leave a noticeable and sometimes rough layer on the fabric's surface, woven inks effectively remove the garment's dye and replace it with the ink colour. So the print feels like part of the fabric rather than something layered on top - hence 'woven inks'.

2. Vibrant prints on dark garments 

Printing light colours on dark garments can be challenging. Plastisol inks often require an under base or multiple layers to achieve a vibrant appearance. However, our woven ink removes the original garment dye to reveal the natural cotton colour beneath. This process provides a neutral base, allowing bright and vibrant prints on darker shirts with fewer layers.

3. Greater detail and resolution 

Woven inks have a thinner consistency than many other types of screen printing inks, allowing for sharper detail, fine lines and higher-resolution prints.

4. Durability and longevity 

Because the design becomes embedded into the fabric, with proper care, garments printed with this method can last for a long time without the design cracking or peeling off.

5. Breathability

Breathability is essential for activewear or garments meant for warm climates. A thick layer of plastisol ink can hinder the fabric's ability to let air and moisture pass through. It's like wearing a plastic bag. And we've all worn an uncomfortable, sweaty top before... no bueno. Because woven ink prints are integrated into the fabric, they retain the garment's natural breathability.

6. All the colours 🌈

Woven inks are excellent for high-colour print runs because we don't need to flash dry the inks between colours. This means we can print wet on wet and activate the woven ink in the dryer.

We can print up to 10 colours using woven inks on our current automatic carousel.

screen printed t shirt nz
screen printed t shirt nz

Some drawbacks

Woven ink printing offers versatility, but getting exact colour matches can be challenging when mixing pigments. The effectiveness of this process is influenced by how well a particular fabric or colour will receive the ink, which can affect the final hue of the printed ink colour. So it can vary from one t-shirt style to the next. While you may not always get the anticipated colour when blending pigments, it's excellent for printing many colours onto darker fabrics and getting that soft hand feel.

screen printed t shirt nz
screen printed t shirt nz
screen printed t shirt nz
screen printed t shirt nz
screen printed t shirt nz

Common questions about woven inks

Is woven ink printing expensive?

We price it the same as traditional ink-screen printing.

Why's that?

As mentioned earlier, printing multiple colours can be faster with woven ink because you can print without "flashing" between colours (flashing is the process that briefly dries the shirt before putting down another layer). And in most cases, you can avoid an underbase layer. All this means we can print faster, so we don't have to charge more.

How can you tell if a fabric has been printed with woven ink?

If you look closely at a woven ink print, you can see the shirt's fibres show through the print. This is because you're printing the design into the garment's fabric rather than onto the textile. Also, if you can't feel the design on the shirt, that's a good sign to tell if a fabric has been printed with woven ink.

What is woven ink?

Woven ink is a special screen printing ink that removes and replaces the fabric's colour so that your design goes into the garment's fabric instead of onto the shirt. 

Can you use woven ink on polyester?

Yes and no. It doesn't work on 100% polyester tops like activewear tees. But it does work with a blended fabric, e.g. 50% polyester, 50% cotton, and results in a vintage-looking print or a softer, less-vibrant-looking print (when compared to a print on a 100% cotton garment).


Woven ink works best with natural fibres like cotton or hemp, so the higher the percentage of cotton, the better the result. It's uncommon for hoodies to be 100% cotton, so we like to use 80/20 or 90/10 blends for woven-ink-printed hoodies.

What is the process for printing Woven Ink?

  1. It's not much different than screen printing with our high-solids water based inks: We print your design on a film (transparency)
  2. Create a stencil on a screen from that film
  3. We push ink through the stencil onto your fabric to leave the design on the garment

Some extra care and special emulsion are used to keep the stencil from breaking down during the printing run, but other than that, it's the same equipment as plastisol or water-based screen printing.

screen printed t shirt nz

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