Screen printing is one of the most preferred methods to create a printed design, whether on t-shirts, fabric, paper, or cardboard.
But more often, people really get confused with what is the best screen printing ink to use for creating long-lasting and creative items like banners, bags, flags, and t-shirts, among other things. The secret lies in choosing the right ink of the right brand.
If you have been doing screen printing as a business or just for the sake of a hobby, it is important that you only use high-quality inks.
Now, it is easy to get overwhelmed, considering the fact that there are so many brands marketing their products as the 'best screen printing ink.'
Don't worry; we have done the research part for you and narrowed down a list of top screen printing inks with detailed reviews.
Let's jump right into it.
Top 8 Best Screen Printing Inks
Our review presents 8 inks from which you may choose. You can compare them and check out their characteristics to determine what makes them suitable for screen printing jobs.
1. Speedball Opaque Fabric Screen Printing Ink
Iridescent colors can do things that even the digital production press can't. Screen printing projects can come in a variety of requirements, particularly in terms of design and aesthetics.
If you ever feel the need to add breathtaking, iridescent effects to your prints, then this opaque fabric screen printing ink from Speedball will never disappoint you.
This is a must-have in your arsenal if you work on different printing projects, whether as a hobby or as a business because its shimmering colors can add stunning effects to your normal prints.
Since it is a Speedball make, you don't have to worry about the quality of the ink. The ink is thick enough to provide quality coverage, softer hand, and smoother workability than any other water-soluble screen printing inks.
In its opaque iridescent range, Speedball offers 10 magnificent color variants, including gold, amethyst, black pearl, blue topaz, citrine, raspberry, pearly white, emerald, silver, and sherbet.
This ink is perfect for fabric screen printing and is compatible with a variety of fabrics, including rayon, linen, blends, polyester, and cotton, among other synthetic fabrics.
Since the inks offer greater opacity, they can be used on both dark and light-colored fabrics without sacrificing any workability.
Most importantly, inks offer permanent results on fabrics. So, you can wash it several different times, and the print will still retain its vibrancy and iridescence.
- Smoother workability
- Thick, rich, and vibrant opacity
- Available in shimmering colors
- Can be used on both light and dark fabrics
- Offers great coverage
2. Speedball Fabric Screen Printing Ink Starter Kit
If you have just found a hobby in screen printing, then this fabric screen printing starter kit from Speedball is a good place to start.
This pack of 6 printing inks allows you to enjoy a complete screen printing experience. You get six different colors in 4oz jars - yellow, green, white, blue, red, and black.
You can use the inks for different screen printing projects like t-shirt making, printing different fabrics, paper cards, cardboards, etc.
The best part is that the inks are compatible with a variety of fabrics. You can print on rayons, linens, blends, polyester, cotton, and even synthetic fabrics.
Most importantly, the inks have a permanent effect on the fabrics, meaning, once they are heated and cured, they won't fade away.
They will remain intact for years to come without losing their vibrancy. For better results, use on light-colored fabrics.
Speedball maintains the integrity of the product by ensuring that no harmful solvents are used in the production of these inks.
Also, the inks are non-flammable and don't release any offensive odors as well. So, this fabric screen printing ink starter kit can be used around kids and those with allergies.
- Comes in a pack of 6 different colors
- Premium colors with depth offer excellent results
- Perfect for fabric printing of all types
- Totally safe with no harmful solvents and is smell-free
- Water Soluble feature makes it easy to clean
3. Jacquard Professional Screen Printing Ink
The fourth in our list is the high-quality screen printing ink from Jacquard. As the name suggests, this is a professional quality printing ink that can be applied on a variety of screen printing jobs, which are not limited to just paper and fabrics.
Yes, you heard that right. The Jacquard screen printing ink can be used on a variety of objects, including vinyl, plastic, metal, leather, and even wood. This is something you won't get with other options.
Now, what's interesting is that the ink can be used for block and relief printing as well. Block printing involves rubber stamping, woodblock prints, and linocuts. So, you get to make your screen prints more versatile and attractive.
On top of its excellent versatility, Jacquard has ensured that the ink maintains excellent quality, giving a beautiful semi-gloss finish to whatever prints you make.
Each color is intelligently designed and formulated to give your prints the right brightness and ample coverage. In short, you get superior detail on every trace.
Since the ink formula is more opaque and viscous, it takes more curing time as compared to Speedball inks.
Also, since the inks can be used on a variety of materials, this also influences the curing process.
As per the manufacturer, it takes around 72 hours for the print to completely dry. Nevertheless, your prints, especially the paper prints will be wrinkle-less and super-smooth.
- Can be used for printing on plastic, wood, leather, and metal
- Compatible with both screen printing and block printing
- Semi-gloss finish with every trace
- Beautiful in tones
- High-quality professional ink
4. SPEEDBALL FABRIC SCREEN PRINTING INK
Speedball is a reputed brand in the world of ink manufacturing. Its water-based fabric screen printing ink tops our list, offering excellent working properties. While it is designed to work best on fabrics, you can use it for paper and cardboard printing as well.
Available in 25 rich colors, including glow-in-the-dark, fluorescent, and process, this screen printing ink offers artists consistent workability, great coverage, and vibrant colors to make printing projects more lively.
According to the manufacturer, the ink is ideal for printing on a range of fabrics like rayon, linen, blends, polyester, cotton, and other synthetics. So, it doesn't matter what fabric screen printing project you are working on; this is a suitable ink to use.
Once properly set and cured, the ink offers permanent results on fabrics. Ironing, machine-washing, or hand-washing won't make the colors fade away or lose their vibrancy.
The best part is that the Speedball inks don't contain any harmful solvents, offensive smells and are non-inflammable.
So, it is perfectly safe to be used in workshops and classrooms where children are involved. The ink marks on hands or skin can be easily removed with soap and water.
- No toxicating smells or solvents
- Perfect for fabric printing
- Versatile inks offer vibrancy in color and opacity in coverage
- All colors are permanent
- The 8-ounce jar is enough to create 10-15 prints
5. Ecotex Plastisol Screen Printing Ink Kit
You may have heard of Ecotex before if you have been printing for some time now. Its line of screen printing inks is cherished by both professionals and beginners alike.
Unlike other brands, Ecotex uses a bold, creamy, and vibrant ink formula, which gives the prints a unique look.
If you have just started screen printing or do it as a hobby, you would definitely want to get your hands on this plastisol-based screen printing ink set.
Unlike water-soluble inks from Speedball and Jacquard, the plastisol inks from Ecotex have exceptional opacity. What this means is that these inks can remain on the screen for prolonged periods without drying up.
High opacity makes this ink incredibly durable, versatile, and flexible. With that said, you can use it on a variety of printing projects and materials like fabrics, paper, vinyl, leather, plastic, and more.
Also, due to its high opacity, little quantity of ink can provide you with greater coverage, saving you money in the long run.
The kit includes six different ink colors, namely, gloss black, royal blue, green, lemon yellow, scarlet red, and flash white. Since it is a plastisol-based ink, it has a lower cure temperature.
Moreover, you may also have to invest in an ink degradant or Ecotex plastisol screen wash for clean up. The ink will not easily be removed with soap and water.
- The kit includes 6, 8-ounce jars of different inks
- Plastisol-based formula delivers a thick, creamy texture
- Lower cure temperature
- High opacity ink
- Made in the USA
6. Hunt The Moon Screen Printing Ink Starter Kit
If you print fabric products like t-shirts, pants, tablecloths, and more, then you should try this ink set from Hunt The Moon, which is specifically designed for fabric printing.
Whether you are a pro or a beginner, the inks will be easy on you. The inks are water-soluble, so they have less opacity as compared to plastisol-based inks. But they are highly effective for creating fine prints with heavy details.
The manufacturer has incorporated an easy to spread formula that uses a smooth composition that allows you to create the most intricate designs without much effort.
Since the formula is specially designed for fabric, the ink absorbs well to the cloth, delivering a smooth spreading from the first trace.
There are a total 6 different colors of ink in 8-ounce jars. The colors include white, black, bright green, midnight blue, lemon yellow, and rocket red.
The best part is that since these inks are water-soluble, you can combine them to make distinct colors according to your printing requirements. A single jar can easily last for up to 15 prints.
You will be amazed to see how quickly the print cures. It only takes 3 minutes to cure the print using a heat gun. Or you can consider curing the print directly under the sun, which won't take much time either.
- Available in 6 different ink colors
- Water-based formula makes it perfect for fabrics
- Can be cured in little to no time
- Leaves a smooth and soft surface
- Naturally thick and dense gives superior coverage
7. Speedball 32-Ounce Fabric Screen Printing Ink
For professionals, who create fabric prints in bulk, this is the ultimate screen printing ink that comes in a 32-ounce bottle.
This product from Speedball is ideal for professional printing, offering artists consistent workability, great coverage, and vibrant colors every time you print with it.
Since it is a water-soluble ink, it is perfect for fabric printing, including paper and cardboard. Nevertheless, you can use it on different fabric materials like cotton, rayon, polyester, linen, and blends, among other fabrics.
The 32-ounce ink bottles are available in 25 rich colors, which also includes glow-in-the-dark and fluorescent. So, it will fulfill all your printing needs with ease.
You can expect it to deliver high performance at a low price. The inks are formulated to offer bold, rich colors with consistency at every trace.
Once completely treated and cured, the print becomes permanent, and it will not fade away for ages.
Also, the ink is non-inflammable and doesn't release any offensive odor or solvents into the environment. So, it is extremely safe to be used around children without any protective gear.
Last but not least, you can combine two or more colors to create unique textures for your print with ease. This is possible because the inks are water-soluble.
- Thick, vibrant textures
- Ideal for fabric screen printing
- Offers permanent results
- Highly safe products used
- Available in 25 color variants
8. Jacquard Screen Printing Ink
The last in our list is the professional screen printing ink from Jacquard. This is a high-quality, water-soluble ink that can be used on a variety of printing surfaces such as fabrics, papers, plastic, leather, wood, and vinyl.
So, if you are into screen printing and would like to explore different materials for printing, then this ink should be in your printing arsenal.
You will be surprised to know that this screen printing ink is suitable for not only screen printing but also block printing.
The ink's thick and creamy texture allows for superior coverage on any printed material. Its thickness and opacity are what makes it easily print on even non-porous surfaces like plastic and vinyl.
Most importantly, the manufacturer has increased the open time on the screen, giving artists more working time without in-screen drying.
The ink has much less water content as compared to other water-soluble inks. This maintains the creaminess and opacity while allowing for superior detail.
However, your print will take some time, 72 hours precisely, to be cured completely if you let it dry under the sun. Also, if you use a heat gun to cure the print, use it cautiously because the air blow can make the wet ink to smudge.
- Clean up is easy with soap and water
- Ideal for both screen printing and block printing
- Low water content makes it incredibly opaque
- Can be used on a variety of printing surfaces like leather and metal
- Great for non-porous surface
Factors to Consider Before Buying Screen Printing Ink
Ink contains three primary ingredients:
- The pigment that gives ink its color
- A base or carrier that carries other contents of the ink
- A binder that glues the ink to the substrate
Now, choosing a quality screen printing ink will depend on its physical and chemical properties. Here is what you need to know.
1. Consider the type of ink
There are two main types of screen printing ink available - water-soluble and plastisol-based. Water-based inks are highly popular among artists as these inks offer some definite benefits for particular printing tasks.
In water-based inks, the binder used is either polyurethane or acrylic. Its curing process takes place in two stages - first, the water evaporates, then the binder adheres to the substrate (print surface). Water-based inks are suitable for fabric printing as well as paper and cardboard.
Plastisol, on the other hand, is only cured when it is heated. It has a resin carrier that absorbs the plasticizer and forms a sealed film of plastic.
Plastisol inks are highly used in the garment industry and also for printing leather, metal, and plastic surfaces.
2. Pot Life, Shelf Life, and Dwell Time
Dwell time is how long the ink can be on the screen, printing before it completely dries out.
Pot life is how long the ink can remain usable after you have activated it or mixed it. Lastly, shelf life is how long the ink can last on the shelf in the original sealed container.
- Shelf life of a maximum of 2 years (sealed)
- Pot life of 8 hours to 2 days
- Dwell time of 2-3 minutes
- Shelf life of over 15 years (sealed)
- Pot life of 1 week to 1 month
- Dwell time of 3 to 7 days
Safety is another concern when using screen printing inks. The fumes generated from inks can cause severe health issues.
So, make sure that the ink you choose doesn’t contain any solvents, or it doesn’t release any fumes or aggressive smell.
What are the Steps to Screen Printing?
In this section, we will show you the step by step process to screen printing.
STEP1: Creation of Design
In step 1, the printer creates a design that they want to print on the finished product. The design is printed out into a transparent acetate film, also known as transparency. It will work as a stencil.
STEP2: Preparing the Screen
In the next step, the printer will select a suitable mesh screen to fit the complexity of the design and the print surface. Then, the screen is coated with a layer of emulsion that hardens when put under bright light.
STEP3: The Emulsion is Exposed
The transparent acetate film is put on top of the emulsion-coated screen, and the entire apparatus is exposed to very bright light.
As a result, the emulsion begins to harden up, leaving the parts of the screen covered by design wet or in liquid form.
STEP4: Stencil is Created
In the next step, the printer carefully washes the liquid or wet emulsion from the screen, creating the perfect stencil.
The screen is dried, and any necessary corrections and touch-ups are made to the screen to make the stencil accurate and precise.
STEP5: The Product is Prepared
The screen is placed on a printing press, and the product being printed is laid down flat beneath the screen on to the printing board.
STEP6: Ink is Pressed
The printer adds ink to the top end of the screen. Then he/she uses a squeegee to spread the ink along the screen’s full length.
By doing this, the ink presses through the open areas of the screen. This prints the design on the item underneath.
STEP7: Item is Dried
Finally, the finished product is passed through a dryer to create a colorful, smooth finish. In some cases, the printer leaves the item to air cure, which may take longer. Once the item is dried, it is washed and packed.
How Long Does it Take to Screen Print a Shirt?
It will depend on the design. On average, a single-color print will usually take up to 20 minutes. This is excluding the processes that involve setting up and preparing the screen for printing.
Overall, the creation of design, preparation of screen, application of emulsion, creation of stencil, preparing the product, and finally pressing the ink, can take up to 2 hours. As you gain experience, the time will reduce ultimately.
How to do a Screen Print on T-Shirts at Home?
Screen printing t-shirts at home is not as hard as you think. All you need is the right equipment and follow the instructions carefully.
What you will need:
- Screen printing screen
- Screen printing ink
- Transparency of the image you want to print
- Masking tape
- Emulsion kit
- Bulb (150 watts)
- Flat surface with dark fabric
- A pressure washer
- A picture frame glass
- T-shirts to print
Screen printing t-shirts at home:
- Prepare the screen by applying masking tape on the back of the screen to stop the emulsion from flowing away
- Pour some emulsion onto the screen and spread equally using a squeegee
- Let the emulsion completely dry off
- Create your stencil by placing the transparency upside down on the printing screen. Put a picture frame glass on top of the transparency to make sure it is flat against the screen
- Next, directly expose the screen with light
- Once the emulsion is completely dried, remove the transparency and rinse off the wet emulsion. You can use a pressure washer or a handheld shower to slowly rinse off the wet emulsion
- Let the emulsion completely dry, and your stencil is ready
- Next, prepare the t-shirt. Put some stiff objects like a cardboard piece in between the back and front of the t-shirt to give the print area a smooth surface
- Place the screen on your shirt with flat side down to allow the shirt to make direct contact with the screen
- Pour some ink and spread it evenly over the screen using a squeegee
- Your t-shirt is ready. Let it dry under the sun, or you can use a heat gun
That’s it; this is everything you need to know about screen printing inks and how to use them. We have tried to cover all the aspects of the best products available on the market to how to choose them and what steps are involved in screen printing.
You are advised to do your research carefully before making a purchase decision. The ink you choose will depend on the printing project you are undertaking.
Overall, the products we have mentioned covers for the majority of printing projects. Still, you are free to search for better products.
If you have any queries regarding the products or the topics covered, feel free to ask, we are happy to help.