Jesse MacKenzie
January 26th, 2015

A Solid Beginning

An underbase is a layer of ink that goes underneath a print to cover a dark or colored shirt. Inks are somewhat transparent, so printing on a bright red shirt will tint all of the ink red, and printing on a shirt that is darker than the ink will make it appear darker. To solve this, we print a layer of white ink, then cure it so it doesn’t mix with the other inks, then the other colors are printed on top of the white base without being affected by the fabric color.

Do I need a base?

This guide will help you decide if you want an underbase for your print.

Use an underbase if you want:

  • Bright colors on a dark shirt
  • Ink colors to be precise on a shirt that is brightly colored or darker than the ink color
  • To completely cover the texture of a heather or blended shirt

You don’t need an underbase if you want:

  • A faded or vintage look
  • A soft texture more so than bright colors
  • The texture of a heather or blended shirt to show through the ink
  • To cut costs

Different types of underbases

There are two basic types of bases available, Discharge and Plastisol. For more information on ink types, check out our Ink page.


We most frequently use a Plastisol because it’s versatile and gives great results in most situations. Plastisol works on virtually any fabric or blend, letting the colors shine.

The biggest downside to using a Plastisol underbase is it can cause some colors to lighten as the solid white shows through the ink. This is because the ink makes a smooth white coat on top of the fabric, so the top colors don’t permeate into the fabric as much as a print without an underbase.


Discharge underbases cause a chemical reaction with the fabric, leaving behind a soft, thin print with vivid bright colors. With a discharge underbase, there is no layer of ink underneath the print, it simply takes the dye out of the shirt. That means there is no risk of inks lifting or shifting in color because they will be sitting on the shirt instead of on a layer of white ink. The biggest limitation of a discharge underbase is its versatility, discharge ONLY works as intended on 100% cotton fabric.

Jesse is our Creative Director. He splits his time between the Art Department and Creative duties, looking to innovate and push the company in both areas (unless he overslept.)

Filed under: Educate