Screen printing is among the most preferred methods for printing on t-shirts, paper, fabric, or cardboard. In doing this, you need the best screen printing ink to create durable and creative designs on items like bags, banners, t-shirts, and flags, among others.
Your intended application, environmental concerns, space limitations, economic limitation, and end goal will determine the type of screen printing ink you use. Of late water-based inks are becoming popular with their eco-friendly reputation. At the same time, plastisol inks are also being made to be environmentally safe.
Our favorite screen printing ink is Ecotex primary plastisol ink kit. The ink is suitable for beginners who are just starting and professionals who have been printing for some time. The ink is fast curing and doesn’t need heat. Besides, you only need a small amount since the ink has a high opacity.
Our Favorite Best Screen Printing Ink
What is Screen Printing Ink?
Screen printing ink refers to the ink used in screen printing; printing technique whereby a wire mesh is used to transfer ink on a substrate, apart from the areas blocked by a stencil making it impermeable.
There are various types of printing ink ranging from oil-based plastisol ink, water-based suede, discharge, and expanding ink. However, if you are interested in the eco-friendlier screen printing ink, you can use PVC and phthalate-free inks.
Many people in screen printing prefer this ink. It is versatile, durable, thick, and gives clear graphics. Also, you will have an easy time mixing the ink. Moreover, it’s widely available, long-lasting, and available in various colors. Again, the ink works well with various screen printing methods, equipment, and print designs.
Water-based ink soaks into the fabric fibers rather than sitting at the top as plastisol ink does. This gives your print a softer feel compared to plastisol ink print. If you are a beginner or just starting up without much experience, this is the best fabric ink to start with. This ink might take longer to dry or even need a heat source to dry on the lower side.
This ink is available in both water-based and plastisol types. When printing with this ink, it removes the fabric’s color on where it is to be applied, then replaces it with its pigment. The ink is best suitable for people working with cotton fabrics.
Best Screen Printing Ink Comparison Table
|Product||Brand||Ink Type||volume( milliliters)||Weight ( ounces)|
|Speedball Screen Printing Ink||Speedball||Watercolor||236.58||10.1|
|UMYTRANSFER Transfer Paste/Ink||UMYTRANSFER||Water-based||100||34.56|
|Ecotex Water Based Ink||Ecotex||Water-based||946.4||52.16|
|Versatex Ink Black||Jacquard||Water-soluble||118.3||5.6|
|Ecotex Plastisol Ink Kit||Ecotex||plastisol||236.6||87.84|
|Smalltongue Printing Ink||Smalltongue||Water-based||120||51.68|
|Speedball Printing Ink||Speedball||acrylic||118.29||43.04|
|Ecotex Discharge Ink||ecotex||Water-based/ discharge||946.4||37.6|
|Magicfly Screen Printing Ink||Magicfly||Water-based||118.3||36.64|
|Jacquard Printing Kit||Moshify||Solid||118.3||71.68|
Top 10 Best Screen Printing Ink- Buying Guide
1. Speedball Screen Printing Ink
If you are looking for the best screen printing ink for a beginner speedball fabric screen printing ink will work best. This printing ink is also good for educators and experts. You will get rich and bold colors, superior coverage, and consistent printouts without compromising your budget.
You can easily clean off with soap and water in case of any spillage. The ink is also non-flammable with no offensive smells. So you can comfortably work with it all day.
- Material: if you are looking for screen printing ink for paper, fabric, or cardboard this ink will perfectly do the job. You can easily print on different fabrics like cotton, polyester, blend, rayon’s, linen, and other synthetics. However, you should not use this ink for nylon printing.
- Properties: believe it, this ink will give you excellent working properties. Again, nothing beats consistency in whatever you do, this ink will ensure your work is consistent with vibrant color prints. No more dull prints.
- Safe for use: unlike other screen printing ink, you’ll will have an easy time printing with this ink. The ink is free of offensive smells, non-flammable, and contains no solvents. Additionally, if you prefer using a brush rather than machine printing, the ink will also work well. On safety standards, this ink conforms to ASTMD-4236 standards.
- Brand: speedball
- Type: watercolor
- Volume: 236.58 milliliters
- Weight: 10.1 ounces
- Permanent ink
- Good for beginners
- High safety standards
- Not suitable for nylon
2. UMYTRANSFER Transfer Paste/Ink
UMYTRANSFER ink is the best ink for screen printing, suitable for silkscreen printing for self-adhesive stencils, and self-adhesive hollow stencil for freehand painting. The ink allows you to work with different surfaces like windows, mirrors, painted walls, glass, canvas, painted furniture, wood, card decorating, craft foam, plastic, decorative wallpaper, ceramic, blackboard, terra cotta, chalkboard, and paper.
- Water-based ink: this ink is water-based; in case you find the paste too thick to work with you can dilute it with water. On the other side, if it’s too watery, you can leave it open for some time to evaporate excess water.
- Properties: you can be sure of your safety working with this ink. The ink is non-toxic and dries up quickly. Again, after the ink has dried it is waterproof so it won’t come off upon contact with water but before that, you can easily clean it with water and soap. If you are applying on a fabric you should heat the ink in place to set it permanently.
- Color set: this package has 6 colors including lemon yellow, black, titanium white, scarlet, sky blue, and grass green. This gives you a variety of choices for your printing. Each jar contains 100 ml of ink with 6 mini squeegees included.
- Brand: UMYTRANSFER
- Type: water-based
- Volume: 100 ml
- Weight: 34.56 ounces
- Waterproof when dry
- Suitable for many surfaces
- Easy to use
- Value for the price
- The paint is not food grade
3. Ecotex Water Based Ink
If you are a beginner, Ecotex snow-white water-based ink is the best screen printing ink for fabric on the market. No dilution is required to get the right ink consistency. Since the ink is ready for use straight from the container.
You will definitely love the vivid and snow-white prints produced by this ink. The ink penetrates through your shirt’s fiber to create a soft touch and breathable garment.
- Ready for use: if you are a beginner still learning the screen printing game, this water based ink will come in handy. Straight from the container, you can comfortably print to get vivid prints. Again, if you want to create multiple effects, you can use this ink with other inks.
- Environmental friendly: if you are environmentally conscious, this is the best ink for you. The ink is PVC-free, non-phthalate, and vegan.
- Use: if you want to get the best results, it is recommended to use this ink with 100% cotton. Since synthetic fibers can be hard to discharge properly. Also, after printing, you need to perform a test wash to ensure the fabric is correctly cured.
- Brand: ecotex
- Paint type: water-based
- Volume: 946.4 milliliters
- Weight: 52.16 Ounces
- Suitable for a beginner
- Fast drying
- Gives bright white color
- Easy and ready to use
- You need to work faster to avoid drying before you are done
4. Versatex Ink Black
Versatex screen printing ink is the best ink for screen printing shirts for commercial purposes. The ink is creamy and thick in consistency and highly pigmented for printing on textiles, stencils, block printing, and silk printing.
- Use: straight from the container. Versatex screen printing k is ready for use. To get the best results, you should use this ink for stenciling, silk screening, or block printing. You can be sure of no bleeding or wrinkling of your paper.
- Properties: if you find the ink very thick for your intended use, you can use water to thin to your desired consistency. Besides, you can also intermix the colors to get your desired custom prints. To get the bright lustrous prints use the ink on light-colored fabrics.
- Effects: when printing you can be sure the ink will maintain your fabric’s softness and texture. To get the best results, it’s recommended for use on light fabrics. Again, to achieve permanent prints, heat to set the ink properly.
- Brand: Jacquard
- Print type: water-soluble
- Volume: 118.3 milliliters
- Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Thick and provides proper coverage
- Ready to use
- Beginner friendly
- Ink is intermixable
- Not very efficient for heavy colored fabrics
5. Ecotex Plastisol Ink Kit
This ink is a good choice for both beginners and professionals. Ecotex gives you unique print looks with its creamy, bold, and vibrant ink formula. Compared to water-based inks, this plastisol ink has exceptional high opacity. Meaning it can stay on the screen for a long period without drying.
- Kit colors: this primary plastisol ink kit contains, fiesta orange, marigold, parakeet green, blue lagoon, tiki brown, and flower power pink colors. These inks have a rapid curing rate, which will consequently save your energy.
- Rapid cure: these inks have high opacity, so they will develop color faster on pressing. Besides, the ink takes time before drying on the screen printing. To clean up, the ink is not removable by water and soap but will need degradant to clean up.
- High opacity: this ink quality makes it long-lasting flexible and versatile. You can comfortably use the ink on a variety of your printing projects with materials like paper, vinyl, plastics, leather, and many more. Again, you only need a little amount of this ink due to its high opacity; you can spread it over a wide area.
- Brand: Ecotex
- Paint type: plastisol
- Volume: 236.6ml
- Weight: 87.84 ounces
- Fast curing
- Best for energy saving
- Good quality and affordable
- Mix well to make other colors
- Ink is not water-based
6. Smalltongue Printing Ink
Get the best ink for t-shirt screen printing, DIY home décor, and shirts. The ink comes in 8 different colors vibrant colors; yellow, black, white, purple, blue, green, red, and brown. However, the colors are intermixable, so you can mix any colors that you want.
- Multi-functional: if you are a DIY lover, this ink will come in handy for your artistic work. You can generally print on most fabrics like cotton, polyester, rayon, linen, blends, and other synthetic materials. The ink gives no limitation to your masterpiece creation.
- Quality: no doubt this is high quality. Again the ink is sunlight durable and waterproof. You only need to wait up to about 24 hours after printing to allow the ink to completely dry. Once the ink is dry, it will not fade even if you wash your fabric in a washing machine.
- Safe: if you are looking for cruelty and vegan-free ink, look no further. This ink is gentle on your skin and non-toxic. In case of any spillage, you can easily wash it off. Besides, if you consider the ink too thick, you can dilute it with some water.
- Brand: Smalltongue
- Paint type: water-based
- Volume: 120ml each
- Weight: 51.68 ounces
- Bright colors give you a wide color choice
- Colors are intermixable
- Excellent quality for the price
- Water-based ink
- The ink is very thick
7. Speedball Printing Ink
Speedball acrylic ink is permanent and the best screen printing ink for paper, cardboard, and wood. If you prefer using your brush instead of screen printing, this ink will also work since it has no solvent and an offensive smell. Moreover, in case you experience any spillage, you clean up easily with water.
- Unmatched working properties: if you are an artist, this ink will definitely match and up your printing game. This ink is available in a range of vibrant colors. So you will be able to work consistently every time.
- Easy to Use: print with this ink with ultimate flexibility without worry. However, this ink is best for printing cardboard, paper, and wood. If you need to print fabric, you need to look for an alternative that will work best.
- Safe: your safety comes first with Speedball acrylic screen printing inks. If you are a teacher, you can comfortably use this ink in your classroom or studio. Again, the ink is easy to clean with only soap and water.
- Brand: speedball
- Paint type: acrylic
- Volume: 118.29millilitres
- Weight: 43.04 ounces
- Available in rich and bold colors
- Easy to clean
- Safe to use
- Excellent on dark surfaces
- Not suitable for fabric printing
8. Ecotex Discharge Ink
Ecotex rubine discharge inks are vivid and bright. You can get these inks in 14 different colors. This means that you can comfortably mix different ink colors to get many colors of your choice. However, it is recommended to use a water-resistant emulsion when doing this.
- Water-based printing: if you are planning to print on your light garments, you can use this ink as it is straight from the container.
- Discharge printing: although this ink is water-based, you can also use it as a discharge ink. You only need to add a discharge powder. To use a discharge ink, ensure you add enough discharge powder into the ink you will use to print. After adding ensure you mix well. Again, the discharge powder will only last for an hour.
- Print out quality: exotic rubine water-based discharge ink will give your prints a bright and crisp color, with an extremely soft hand. The prints also have low viscosity and high opacity. Besides if you are environmentally conscious, this ink is made with an eco-friendly formula; its PVC-free and non-phthalate.
- Brand: ecotex
- Paint type: water-based/ discharge ink
- Volume: 946.4 milliliters
- Weight: 37.6 ounces
- Both water-based and discharge ink
- Bright colors
- The colors are intermixable
- Inks are eco-friendly and non-toxic
- Colors do not discharge equally
9. Magicfly Screen Printing Ink
Magicfly water-based ink is the best ink for screen printing shirts, bags, hats, canvas, or pants. With this ink, you can comfortably create any craft you want. Moreover, this is eco-friendly and non-toxic. You can quickly clean it with water and soap in case of any accidental contact.
- Design: have you ordered your ink, and received it in a messy situation? Maybe half poured? And messed your other items. Worry no more this ink comes in sealed caps, so no more spillage. Also, the caps ensure you can safely store your ink for longer. The containers have a wide mouth design to give you easy access to ink whenever you need it.
- Suitability: with magicfly printing ink, you have a variety of printing surfaces options like cardboard, paper, and most fabrics like polyester, cotton, rayon, linen, and other synthetic materials. However, this ink is not good for nylon.
- Permanent after drying: once you are done with printing, the ink pattern you make will not harden the fabric. Even after proper curing, your fabric will be soft and permanent. You can wash and dry without eroding.
- Brand: Magicfly
- Paint type: water-based
- Volume: 118.3 milliliters
- Weight: 36.64 ounces
- Permanent when dry
- Easy to clean with water and soap
- Wide application
- Available in 6 basic colors
- Not suitable for nylon printing
10. Jacquard Printing Kit
Take your printing game to the next level with the Jacquard screen printing kit. You should not be limited to water-based inks but aim at exploring this solid ink that sticks to non-porous surfaces. All this regardless of your screen printing expertise.
Again, this ink does not require heat setting since its self-curing. You only need to allow it 72 hours, and it’s all set.
- All you need in one package: if you are a DIY lover, you will appreciate this printing kit. It comes with a pre-stretched silkscreen with an aluminum frame, photo emulsion, 3 acetate sheets, Dianzo sensitizer, opaque blue screen ink, print testing cloth, opaque white screen ink, opaque red screen ink, opaque yellow screen ink, and a stir stick.
- High-quality ink: unlike water based ink, this self-curing ink will give you multiple surface printing options. For instance, you can print on paper without worrying about its curing.
- Special printing: printing with this kit, gives you special printing options that are only possible with professional printers. For instance, you can print on dark fabrics and backgrounds with opaque colors. Like, you can print yellow on black fabric.
- Brand: Moshify
- Paint type: solid ink
- Volume: 118.3 milliliters
- Weight: 71.68 ounces
- Ink does not require curing
- Special opaque printing feature
- Quality inks in the package
- Good enough starter kit
- A bit tricky to make the screen for the first time
Buying Guide- Best Screen Printing Ink
Many people prefer screen printing for t-shirt printing, either for business or individual purposes. With that, you need to go for the best ink for t-shirt printing and other items on the market. However, if you are wondering what you should look for to get the most suitable ink, this is your part.
Ink quality is the first thing you need to consider when buying fabric ink. Always aim for a product that comes with vibrant colors. The reason is you will most likely get stunning results on your substrate.
In addition, make sure to confirm the ink gives you the permanence you aim at for your fabrics. Check to confirm the ink doesn’t come off even after several washes. You can also check on the ink quality with other users if you are not sure.
It is always wise to go for an ink color that matches your task at hand. Just checking at your design, you will be able to tell the color that you need. Again, if you want to custom make your colors, you can go for inks that come in sets or packs. These tend to overlay and mix beautifully.
Buying your ink from a reputable brand is the best way to ensure you will always get good quality screen printing ink to meet your expectations and needs. Some of the top brands you need to try out are Speedball, Jacquard, and Permaset.
They will always give you eye-catching prints on a wide range of substrates. Further, the inks don’t discolor or fade easily.
Make sure the fabric ink you are planning to buy will work well with the surface and material you intend to print. Our analysis above shows that ink differs on the surface they can print on. You can print on any surface with some inks, while some are good for specific surfaces.
If possible, choose print ink that will work with the majority of all substrates. This helps to avoid limitations to what you can print on.
ASTM D 4237 Certification
Your safety and those around you come first when getting your ink. When you buy ink that conforms to ASTM D 4237 shows that it has been tested and proven to be toxins-free and will have no effects on you and those around you.
How to Set Screen Printing Ink?
After printing your design, it’s good to set it properly to avoid the ink from washing off. Not properly set design will slightly fade though it will not completely disappear. Again, the print will continue fading with subsequent washing. Below are possible tricks you can use to set your ink properly;
1. Heat Press
This is one of the methods you can use to set your screen printing ink. The method is efficient since you can comfortably fit your entire design under heat.
After printing your design, heat the heat press to 320 degrees F and press for about 40 seconds. Just like that, your design is ready to go in the wash. When tested, the ink did not fade off even after washing twice.
2. Basic Household Iron
If you are not ready to invest in a heat press, you can still use your basic household iron to heat your set ink.
Set your iron to match your material. You can cover your material with parchment paper and proceed to iron over the entire design for about 3 to 5 minutes. Ensure you move your iron constantly.
3. Kitchen Oven
You can heat set your projects in the oven only if you have a few shirts to print. To do this, you need to heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place your towel in the oven, then turn off the heat. Then allow it to stay in the oven for up to 10 minutes.
How to Remove Screen Printing Ink?
To remove screen printing, you can soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and rub it on the ink patch; this is the most common method. You can also melt the print with an iron and a paper bag. You can also consider scrubbing the print away with a sugar scrub. However, some fabrics need special attention to avoid causing damage.
To use acetone, soak the paper towel in acetone and dab the ink spot until clean. Repeat the process until it is clean. Make sure to wear gloves when working with nail polish and acetone.
Iron in Paper Bag
Set your iron to the cotton setting. Then place a paper bag between the ironing board and the article of clothing. Proceed to iron over the design until it starts to melt. Allow it to cool and pull off any remaining pieces using wooden toothpicks. Cover another part of the garment in nail polish remover or acetone if necessary.
Sugar Scrub and Cold Water Rinse
To remove screen printing ink, fill your washing machine with cold water, and add detergent if necessary. Set the machine to its longest cycle. If you want more ink to come off while washing, use vinegar instead of fabric softener.
Dab or spray some sugar scrub on every area with printing, and scrub with your old toothbrush to gather the suds that cover the design. Scrub in circular motions, then rinse when you are done.
Does Screen Printing Ink Need to Be Cured?
Yes, ink curing is the last step in the screen printing process. However, it’s most important to allow the ink to set properly on the garment. However, if the ink doesn’t cure well, it will crack and fall apart, making it not last long. To ensure proper curing, printers use heat presses, heat guns, flash dryers, or conveyor dryers to cure.
How Do You Treat Ink for Screen Printing?
If you need to get good-looking screen prints, you need ink prepared and ready to do the job. First, you need to get the right ink consistency for printing. Some inks need a slight stir, while others need additional work before you can print.
Secondly, you can also mix the colors to get your preferred colors. Again, it would be best to prepare your inks to achieve your desired special effects by changing the ink properties.
What Temperatures Do You Press Screen Prints?
Generally, heat press temperatures run in conjunction with time settings. Also, the temperature varies from light-colored to dark-colored garments. If you are heat pressing light-colored garments, you can set the temperature to around 350 degrees F and press for around 20 seconds.
On the other hand, you can set the temperature to around 320 degrees F and press for about 20 seconds for dark-colored garments. However, these are just a few determinants though other values like the fabric type.
Can You Use Heat Press Method for Screen Printing?
Yes. A heat press is a great addition to your screen printing business. From time to time, it will make your work easier in different printing situations. For instance, it comes in handy when doing onsite event printing. So you don’t have to carry all your other equipment.
Again if you have a long-term customer, you can print the design on a transfer paper in bulk and transfer it to the shirts later on.
Can You Iron Screen Printed Shirts?
Yes. Of course, nobody would love a wrinkled t-shirt; it makes you look clumsy and also feels uncomfortable. However, it is safe to iron screen printed t-shirts. But you will need to turn it inside out before you iron. Otherwise, you may damage the imprint.
What Kind of Ink Can You Use in Screen Printing?
The most common inks used for screen printing are oil-based plastisol ink, discharge ink, water-based suede, and expanding ink. Besides, if you are interested in more eco-friendly ink, you can use PVC and phthalate-free ink types.
If you do screen printing either for business or as a hobby, you want to have the best screen printing ink available in the market. The truth is, don’t tire so much looking for the best ink for t-shirt printing, as long as you buy from a reputable brand.
It is very easy for a clever salesperson to make any ink work regardless of its authenticity. However, you trust them; make sure you verify what they are telling you. Besides, we understand all your hassles and compiled the top 10 screen printing inks that you can trust to give you quality prints.
In addition, we have highlighted different ink types available in the market to decide what will work for you. Again, we have also highlighted factors to consider when buying your screen printing ink. Hopefully, you find this article helpful for your screen printing needs.