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The Science of Printing: Inks and Fabrics

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Marleny Hucks
Marleny Hucks
Marlene (or Marleny as she is known in Spanish) is a mentor, teacher, cross-cultural trainer, storyteller, writer, and for those who have been under her leadership or simply sat across the table from her, she is a mirror of destiny. Her love of word and image were formed early on by one of her heroes, Dr. Seuss. If you asked those who know her well, they would describe her a compassionate, funny, wise, curious, honest, real, strong, sensitive and totally human which comes out as she teaches and writes. She sees all of life, even the most mundane, through faith and believes that who we become as we live this side of the veil is what matters not the journey itself or our circumstances. Marleny Hucks has spent her life crossing bridges. She comes from a diverse background of ministry roles and contexts as well as has transitioned in and out of the business world. Having lived outside the country as well as traveled extensively she has a fascination with culture causes her to live her life within a global mosaic no matter where her feet are planted. Marlene currently lives in South Carolina with her husband David, who owns a news company but who she says is a “crime fighter”, bringing light into darkness in their systems of their city. Marleny currently works as a content management specialist covering Myrtle Beach News for MyrtleBeachSC News.

Tote bags have become an item for individuals due to their versatility, eco-friendliness, and suitability for carrying various items like groceries and books. However, not all tote bags are the same as they come in materials, designs, and prints. One crucial aspect of their production is the ink used to print designs on the fabric. Today, we will delve into the science behind tote bag printing, focusing on inks and fabrics.

In recent years, custom merch for businesses has gained traction among businesses as a marketing and branding strategy. Tote bags have become a popular choice for custom merch, as they provide a canvas for businesses to display their logos, slogans, and branding elements. Offering custom bags as promotional items or merchandise can increase brand visibility and customer engagement. The science of tote bag printing extends its reach to cater to businesses’ specific needs, ensuring that the custom designs accurately represent the brand and leave a lasting impression on customers.

Understanding the Importance of Inks in Tote Bag Printing

Inks play a role in tote bag printing as they determine how the design will appear on the fabric. The type of ink significantly used impacts factors such as colors, texture, and print durability. There are types of inks commonly utilized in tote bag printing, including water-based inks, plastisol, and discharge inks.

Water-based Inks

Water-based inks have gained popularity in tote bag printing due to their nature. These inks are created by blending pigments with water and a binder component. The binder helps secure the pigment onto the fabric, while water is a solvent to keep the ink liquid.

After the ink is applied to the fabric, the water evaporates, leaving behind the pigment and binder that form the design.

There are advantages to using water-based inks compared to other types of inks. Firstly, they produce colors that remain vivid for a time. Secondly, these inks feel soft when printed on tote bags, adding to their comfort. Lastly, water-based inks are less harmful to both humans and the environment.

Plastisol Inks

Plastisol inks, on the other hand, are composed of PVC resin and plasticizer. Unlike water-based inks, plastisol inks are opaque and don’t require a white base coat, making them suitable for fabric printing. Moreover, plastisol inks have a consistency and a rubbery texture.

Plastisol inks are popular in tote bag printing due to their durability and lasting nature. They can withstand washes without losing color or texture. Additionally, working with plastisol inks is convenient as they don’t dry out quickly, allowing printers to work at their own pace.

Discharge Inks

Discharge inks combine elements of both water-based inks and discharge agents. The discharge agent removes the dye from the fabric while leaving behind a light-colored base.

Once the discharge agent dries, the printer applies water-based ink to the fabric, which gets absorbed and creates the print.

Discharge inks are a choice for fabric printing because they don’t require a white base coat. Moreover, they are environmentally friendly as they don’t contain any chemicals. However, achieving color matching with discharge inks requires attention and can be more challenging.

The Role of Fabrics in Tote Bag Printing

Besides the inks used, the type of fabric also plays a role in determining the outcome of printing. Fabrics vary in material, texture, and weight, which impact how well ink adheres to them. Below are some fabrics used for bag printing, along with their characteristics;


Cotton is the most popular fabric choice for tote bag printing due to its softness, breathability, and ease of handling. It absorbs ink effectively. Produces colors that resist fading even after numerous washes. Cotton tote bags are also durable. Maintain their shape and texture over time.


Canvas is another used fabric for tote bag printing. Unlike cotton, it is heavyweight and thus suitable for carrying items like books or groceries.

Canvas can be made from cotton, linen, and hemp fibers, giving the tote bag a texture and feel.


Polyester is a man-made fabric commonly used for printing tote bags. It is lightweight, rugged, and resistant to wrinkles and shrinking. Polyester tote bags have a surface that makes them ideal for printing designs and patterns.

Printing on a involves more than placing a design on the fabric. It combines inks, fabrics, and printing techniques to create a durable product. The type of ink utilized affects the print’s color, texture, and durability. On the other hand, the fabric determines how well the ink adheres to its surface and how capable the tote bag is of carrying items. Whether you’re seeking an option or one that offers longevity or luxury, understanding the science behind tote bag printing will assist you in selecting the best product for your specific needs.

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