Discharge Ink | Brick City Printing

What is Discharge Ink?

Discharge printing is a method of applying pattern to textile that involves the application of a discharge ink, or reactive dye, to a 100% natural textile. This water-based agent (the active ingredient is Zinc-Formaldehyde-Sulfoxylate) strips the garment of dye when heat is applied to produce a pattern which can be left the natural color of the raw textile or dyed a color of your choice. The results are a vibrant print that is set deep into a dark textile.

What is the difference between Discharge Printing and Screen Printing?

Though discharge printing and screen printing are done using the same techniques and tools, the results can be very different. Traditional screen printing produces layers of ink on top of each other, which can create thick prints. Because Discharge is a bleaching and dying process rather than a printing process, there is no thick layer of ink and the fabric is soft to the touch once it is printed, processed, and washed.

What are the advantages of Discharge Printing?

Discharge printing allows you to print bright colors on dark garments without the need for an underbase, or an undercoating of white ink. The dying process creates a very durable, soft, flexible, vibrant, and integrated print.

What are the limitations of Discharge Printing?

Discharge printing works best with 100% natural textiles that have not been overdyed. That means you can’t use discharge printing on polyester, 50/50 blends, or garment dyed textiles like the popular brand Comfort Colors. Discharge printing also doesn’t work well with blue or purple textiles, as those pigments don’t react well to the discharge process. Because of the chemical process involved, it’s also not recommend for use on children's clothing.


Discharge example

In the above video, you can see the discharge printing process from start to finish for a print where no dye was added, and the natural cotton color was revealed. The ink appears to go on clear and become an ivory color after going through the heated dryer. Again, no dye has been applied and what is revealed is the natural cotton color. Art by Travis Lawrence, printed by Brick City Printing.