Call Today: 918-288-6682

Close this search box.


If you’re familiar with screen printing you may have heard the term “underbase” before. But whether you’ve heard the term or just seen it listed as an additional charge on a quote, you may still be wondering what it means and when it’s used in screen printing. We’ll explain what an underbase is, when an underbase is and isn’t needed, and how it affects the overall look of your design. 


An underbase is a layer of white ink that is printed on your garment prior to your design being printed on your garment. Think of it as a primer coat like you would use when painting a room, it aids in reaching complete opacity. If you wanted to paint a dark blue room red, just applying one layer of red wouldn’t achieve your desired true red color. The same is true with screen printing on garments. This is where an underbase comes in. Without an underbase, the ink can mix in with the color of the garment and cause an undesired outcome.

Underbase, or No Underbase?

An underbase isn’t always necessary, but there are times an underbase is required. An underbase should always be used when printing light colored ink, or plastisol, on dark colored garments. Using an underbase allows your design’s true colors to shine through because the white cancels out the color of the garment. If you would like to achieve a neon ink or bright colors of ink on a dark shirt, you would also choose an underbase because those colors can also not be opaque like most plastisol inks are.

An underbase doesn’t need to be used if you’re screen printing on a white garment as it’s already a blank canvas and the colors aren’t competing against each other to fully show up. If you’re trying to achieve a different look, you can leave the underbase off to create more of a “vintage” look on a dark colored garment where the ink doesn’t have full opacity and even add distress layers to your design to aid in the distressed/vintage look.

Why Does an Underbase Cost More?

If you’ve ever received a quote on screen printed garments and noticed there was an additional charge for an underbase, (or in our case you can see that we would just simply charge you for an additional color), you may be wondering why. An underbase counts as an additional color for a few reasons. When an underbase is needed in screen printing, we have to print a separate film, burn a separate screen, and print the white color for the underbase.  Then we repeat that process for the actual color of the final design. 

Here is an example of a screen printed design with and without an underbase so you can physically see the difference we’ve been describing throughout this article!

All About That Underbase

We hope you feel like an underbase expert now! Okay, well, maybe not an expert but we do hope you have a better understanding of underbase and when it’s needed in screen printing. Let’s recap! 

  • Underbase is like a primer
  • It’s required when screen printing lighter ink colors, or translucent/non opaque inks on darker garments
  • It’s necessary when screen printing with plastisol inks
  • It counts as an additional color

If you have any questions we didn’t cover here, we’re always just a phone call or email away, or you can come into the store! Click here to get your screen printed apparel quote!

Leave a Reply