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Your assumption is correct, it requires a "base" to print. The base contains binders to adhere the pigment as well as thickeners making the pigment easy to print.

Each manufacturer's base will have a different maximum pigment load. You can't just arbitrarily add pigment, at some point the pigment load will exceed the ability of the base to properly adhere it to the garment. A general rule of thumb is 5% of Pigment to Base by weight.
 
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