Discharge screen printing has traditionally been used and made for 100% cotton garments. While reading over industry forums I've seen numerous post with the question "Can you use discharge ink on a 50/50 blend shirt?" And I could never find a direct answer. So I made this video to find out the answer. The answer is yes, sort of and sometimes. I'll explain why. There are certain situations and colors where you can print discharge ink on 50/50 cotton poly blend t-shirts and get great results and there are times where the prints are not that great. And it's all in the eye of the beholder too. Let's go over the different scenarios where it works and doesn't work.
When printing on solid 50/50 colors the discharge ink will discharge the cotton but not the polyester, so the end result or print is that the colors are often described as being muted and the prints have a "vintage" or "distressed" look. And some jobs and prints that may work for you or your customer. But some jobs it may not. When we use discharge ink on certain "heathers" we have much more success in achieving a bright vibrate print.
Colors that are very difficult to discharge, whether they are a 100% cotton shirt or a 50/50 blend shirt are Kelly Green, Turquoise, Purple, and Royal blue. These colors are dyed with very resistant reactive dye that refuses to be discharged and replaced with the pigment loaded in our ink.
Trying to achieve exact pantone colors using a discharge ink with pigments is a very hard to do. If you do need to make an exact pantone color match avoid using discharge ink on cotton poly 50/50 blend shirts.
The first scenario or method used when printing discharge ink on 50/50 is to print strictly discharge ink with color pigments added into the ink to create the desired colors in your design. This method will give you the softest "hand" possible but the colors are not always bright and vibrant. We have found that some "heather colors" work very well. This is especially true with a dark heather grey.
The second option of printing discharge ink on 50/50 or tri blends is using discharge ink as your under base and then print either water base or plastisol inks on top. When we print with this technique we print the discharge under base, flash it, and then print plastisol colors on top of the underbase. You will not always be able to see the design while printing because the discharge base has not fully activated. You may only see the print after the garment has traveled through the conveyor dryer and the discharge ink has fully activated and discharged. We also recommend that you use straight discharge ink as the under base, no pigment. This will help the water base ink to achieve a better opaque color. By using plastisol ink as a top print, you can achieve a much better color match if needed. The hand or feel of the shirt will not be as soft as discharge only. But you can use a high mesh screens for the top plastisol colors and add a soft hand additive to the plastisol.
It is highly recommended that you use a forced air flash dryer and forced air conveyor dryer. Under cured ink can often result in the design flaking or washing off the garment.