Real Thread

How Innovations in Water-Based Printing Make Clothes Softer

Lily Butler for Real Thread

Gone are the days of scratchy company hoodies and boring event T-shirts that go straight into the giveaway pile. Real Thread is helping companies up their merch game, developing techniques around water-based and discharge printing to give customized apparel that elusive favorite old shirt-coziness. But how do they do it?


Unlike the plastisol ink used in traditional screen printing, instead of setting as an added layer on top of fabric, both water-based and discharge ink actually soak into the material. Printing large designs with plastisol ink can make a shirt feel like a bulletproof vest, but water-based ink keeps the print area soft regardless of size, and can even print over seams. Real Thread's printing techniques also ensure that images or logos never crack or peel like typical plastisol-printed designs that are stamped on top of the fabric.

The only real difference between water-based and discharge ink is that the latter includes an agent that removes or mutes the manufacturer's dye from the fabric, and then replaces it with the desired ink color to create a customized design. Discharge ink is a great option for printing on darker garments, because by removing the "underbase" color, the replacement dye can create an image that really pops, and isn't dulled by the original color. Removing the underbase also allows discharge ink to print designs with a higher level of detail and clarity than its plastisol predecessor. With proper planning and foresight, discharge ink can also complement fabric blends that contain polyester and rayon, creating anything from a heathered aesthetic to a glowing design.


The experts at Real Thread know the ins and outs of printing on shirts and hoodies with an array of fabric and color blends, and are ready to advise clients on the best way to achieve their desired design, color, texture, and even size. And with over 300 product options and customizable design work, having an expert to guide you through the process is invaluable. Each shirt is printed at the Real Thread facility, so companies can control the production of their merchandise from the initial consultation to the finished product.


Real Thread uses its water-based printing technology on every aspect of its products, printing customers' tags directly onto the apparel.


Right now, Real Thread is offering free customized tag printing to celebrate their move to a brand new state-of-the-art printing facility and showroom. Head here to create T-shirts, tanks, and hoodies people will actually love wearing with Real Thread.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between Real Thread and Studio@Gawker.

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