Screen printing is one of the most preferred methods of t-shirt printing— for both individuals and businesses.
That said, you’ll need to invest in the right screen printing ink for successful screen printing of your tees or any other items.
So, how do you pick the best ink for you?
Experts agree that the right type of ink heavily depends on the substrate you wish to print on, your budget, and end goals.
The following post is dedicated to showing you how to pick the best screen printing that gives you your expected screen printing results.
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Types Of Screen Printing Ink
Before you buy your screen printing ink, it’s important to note that there are different types of inks you’ll get on the market today.
Below, we’ll explain the most common types of inks available today:
1. Plastisol Ink
Plastisol is characterized by exceptional opacity and the ability to remain on the screen for longer periods of time without drying up. This makes it the most widely used type of ink around the world.
Other factors that contribute to its durability include its flexibility, versatility, and durability.
The high popularity of this type of ink has led to the birth of specialty plastisols which are often available as additives or bases. Some even come premixed in containers and are ready for use.
2. Water Based Ink
Water-based ink ranks second on the popularity chart. The ink is loved due to its ability to saturate your garment fibers and actually dye the garment instead of resting on top (like in the case of plastisol).
For this reason, prints made using water-based ink usually feel softer and more solid than those of plastisol.
Unfortunately, this ink tends to show low opacity issues due to its thin nature and inability to retain its base when cured.
This type of ink is ideal for use by all skill levels, and when used correctly, it can give you good looking prints.
3. Discharge Ink
We also have discharge ink, whose popularity has rose in the recent years. Available in both plastisol and water variations, this ink works by removing the dye used to color your garment and replacing it with the pigmented ink color.
Folks who swear by this ink explain that it makes it possible and easy to work on dark garments with no need for under basing.
When using this ink, it is important to keep in mind that it ONLY works with 100% cotton made garments. Some discharge inks tend to produce a heavy odor, so you should use it in a well-ventilated room. Also, the ink requires thorough dried for the best results.
Now that you know the most popular types of screen printing, let’s check at the 10 BEST inks on the market today…
Our Top 11 Best Screen Printing Inks Reviews
1. Speedball 8-Ounce Fabric Screen Printing Ink, Black (4560)
Speedball is a top-rated USA-based manufacturer of quality fabric printing ink, so be prepared to come across more products from them in this list. For now, we concentrate on the Speedball 8-Ounce Fabric Screen Printing Ink, Black (4560).
This is a water soluble ink that’s made for use on textile and paper substrates. In addition to that, you can also use it for printing on t-shirts.
Black in color, this ink comes packaged in an 80z container, which is well worth it considering its wallet-friendly pocket.
Don’t forget the ink is easy to clean with soap and water without fading or getting discolored.
2. Speedball Fabric Screenprinting Ink Starter Set
Speedball Fabric Screenprinting Ink is marketed as a starter set. It includes an assortment of quality inks from Speedball (6 4-ounce jars, in total) in these colors— red, blue, black, white, and yellow.
All the 6 quality inks will produce a display of lustrous, brilliant colors when printed on any garment. For your information, this ink can work with a broad range of fabrics, such as polyester, cotton, blends, rayon, linen, and any other synthetic fiber out there.
Besides, you can trust the ink pack to produce brilliant results when used on cardboard and paper.
You can opt to apply this ink pack through screen printing method or by using a brush, without affecting the quality of the results. The ink cleans easily with water; it will wash fast when properly heat set.
And oh! All these inks conform to ASTM D-4236, which means they’re non-toxic. Besides, they’re all Non-flammable, contain no solvents and don’t produce unpleasant odors.
3. Jacquard Professional Screenprinting Ink - 119 Super Opaque White
Jacquard is also a US-based, top-rated manufacturer of professional quality screen printing ink. The Jacquard Professional Screenprinting Ink is a super-opaque white ink that comes packaged in 16 fl oz. jar.
This ink is archival and lightfast with less amount of water compared to the other water based inks out there. This assures you of superior detail as well as coverage. The ink will not buckle your papers, and its finish looks vibrant, durable and practically scuff-proof.
Something else you’ll like about this ink is that its dry cleanable and washfast on fabric when heat set the correct heat setting.
The ink is suitable for use with nearly all surfaces and fabrics, including paper, vinyl, synthetic fabrics, plastic, metal, wood, leather, and so much more.
Unlike most of the fabrics inks out there, the open time on the screen for this Jacquard ink has been extended, offering you a longer work time with no cases of in-screen drying.
4. Jacquard Versatex Printing Ink Set
If you didn’t like the Speedball starter pack we reviewed for you above, you might want to try this Jacquard Versatex Printing Ink Set. The set comprises up to 6 different printing ink colors, namely Yellow, Magenta, Brown, Green, Blue, Violet, Black, and White.
These semi-transparent, water-based inks come with a smooth, creamy consistency that all screen printer dream of. As one of the softest fabric inks available, these inks are also incredibly permanent and wash fast, so you can rest assured they’ll deliver professional results that you and your clients will love.
Amazingly, these colors mix perfectly well and overlay beautifully, and you can easily thin and clean them using water.
There’s no limit as to the fabric/surfaces that you can use this ink with. They work well with both synthetic and natural fabrics, wood, paper, canvas, leather, and so much more.
They can also be applied using a variety of techniques such as screen printing, stamping, stenciling, block, and mono printing.
Don’t forget the 8 inks are 100% odorless and non-toxic.
5. Speedball Opaque Fabric Screen Printing Ink Starter Set
Here’s yet another starter set from Speedball. This particular comprises 6 colors packaged in a 4oz jar each. These colors include white, black, silver, blue, yellow, and raspberry.
The set is designed to meet the printing needs of anyone planning to screen print on dark fabrics. It produces excellent results when used on polyester, cotton, linen, blends, rayon, and any other synthetic fiber. What’s more, you can use it on cardboard and paper.
All the inks in this set are intermixable, so you can easily come up with your own custom colors.
Like all the other Speedball inks we’ve previously discussed, this set also comprises of 100% non-toxic inks that conform to the ASTM D-4239. Additionally, they do not contain solvents that might affect the print quality and produce no offensive odors.
6. Speedball Opaque Fabric Screen Printing Ink Colour: Gold
If you’re looking for an opaque gold color for your screen porting project, there’s no better choice than this Opaque Fabric Screen Printing Ink Colour. This water soluble ink from Speedball is suitable for papers and textiles.
The fact that it delivers a greater coverage as well as smoother workability makes the best choice for all beginners and professional screen printers out there.
Packaged in 8 oz. jar, this ink has a rich, vibrant color (as you’d expect in any quality fabric ink). And stays on the substrate it’s printed on permanently, provided you properly heat set it.
The ink is 100% non-flammable, non-toxic, and cleans up easily and quickly with soap and water.
7. Speedball Art Products Fluorescent Fabric Screen Printing Ink
This Speedball Art Products Fluorescent Fabric Screen Printing Ink comes in hot pink color, packed in an 8oz jar.
It is ideal for anyone looking to print their designs on a cardboard and fabric paper. As long as you properly heat set this ink, it remains permanent on the substrate you print it on
You can choose to apply this ink using different methods, like screen printing or painting on with the help of a brush.
The water soluble ink also conforms to ASTM D 4236, meaning its non-flammable, non-toxic and does not produce unpleasant odors.
However, note that this ink isn’t meant for use with nylon.
8. Speedball FSPI8-4551 Art Products Fabric Screen Printing Ink, 8 oz, Peacock Blue
Speedball FSPI8-4551 Art Products Fabric Screen Printing Ink is the best peacock blue color fabric ink you can find on the market today. Like our previous product, it is also water soluble, non-flammable, and non-toxic.
The peacock blue ink is ideal for printing on t-shirts, tablecloths, and a wide variety of other fabrics.
For permanence, the manufacturer recommends you to heat set this ink once.
The ink comes packed in one 8 ounces jar and is made in the USA, just like all the other Speedball inks we’ve covered so far.
9. Speedball Art Products FSPI8-4569 Fabric Screen Printing Ink, 8 oz, Orange
Looking for quality Orange color fabric ink? Speedball Art Products FSPI8-4569 Fabric Screen Printing Ink is your go-to option. This ink also comes in 8 oz jar and promises you good consistency when you apply it.
It is a water based ink that conforms to ASTM D4236— making it completely non-toxic and non-flammable, for your own safety.
You can use this ink to print on a wide range of fabrics, including tees, tablecloths, etc.
Like all the other Speedball inks, you’ll need to heat set this ink once (and you should do it properly) for you to achieve the permanence you want.
10. Speedball Art Products Fluorescent Fabric Screen Printing Ink, 8 oz, Lime Green
This Lime Green screen printing ink is also great for both fabric paper and cardboard. It also comes in an 8oz jar and fluorescent color.
The ink is also water soluble, non-toxic, and non-flammable.
You can either apply it via screen printing or via other techniques such as painting on the substrates with a brush. The ink will achieve your desired permanency if you properly heat set it.
Again, remember that this ink shouldn’t be used with nylon.
11. Speedball Art Products Fabric Screen Printing Ink Fluorescent, 8 oz, Blue
Last, but not least, we have the Speedball Art Products Fabric Screen Printing Ink Fluorescent. Blue in color, this ink also falls in the same product series as the previously discussed Speedball inks above. This is to mean it shares similar features with the above inks—save for a different color.
It comes packaged in 8oz jar and is made for printing on fabric paper as well as cardboard. However, it cannot be printed on nylon substrates.
The ink is also water based and will achieve permanency when you properly heat set it.
Like all the other inks that we’ve featured on this list, this product also conforms to ASTM D 4236. This is to say it is non-toxic, non-flammable, and produces no offensive odors.
Screen Printing Ink Buying Guide For Newbies
“How do I pick the best ink for my screen printing projects?”
If you’re among the many other screen printers who are wondering what they should do to ensure you get the most suitable ink that gives you the expected results, this is your part.
Below, we’ll take you through some top factors that you should follow to aid in your research.
The KEY factors include:
The first thing you should look for when buying fabric ink is its overall quality.
It’s wise to go for a product that comes with rich, vibrant color as it’s more likely to produce good-looking results when applied on a substrate.
Also, ensure the ink offers the permanence you want in your fabrics. Make sure it doesn’t easily get discolored or fade, even after countless washes.
If you’re not sure about the quality of ink, check what the previous users have to say about it.
You should also ensure that the fabric ink you plan to buy works with the surface or materials you want to print on.
As you’ve seen from out top inks reviews above, various inks differ on the surfaces they can be print on. Some can print on any surface; others are intended for specific fabrics. Still, others can print on fabric papers and textiles only.
If possible, look for ink that works with all or majority of the substrates, so you’re not limited to what you can print with it.
ASTM D 4237 Certification
You should mind your safety (and that of those around) you when choosing ink.
Buying ink that conforms to ASTM D 4237 means it has been tested and proven to be free of toxins, so it’ll not have any effects on the user.
In addition to that, ensure the ink you buy is non-flammable and doesn’t produce unpleasant odors.
The best way to ensure you’re getting a quality screen printing ink that will meet all your needs and expectations involves buying from reputable brands.
Some of the top names in the screen printing ink industry include Speedball, Jacquard, and Permaset.
All the inks from these brands deliver eye-grabbing prints on a broad range of substrates. Furthermore, they don’t fade or get discolored easily.
This is self-explanatory… you should look for colors that match the project at hand.
Just looking at your design will tell you what colors you need to buy.
Also, if you want to make your own custom colors, it’s a great idea to buy colors that come in sets or packs, as they tend to mix and overlay beautifully.
Are Water Based Screen Printing Ink Good?
Remember what we said at the beginning of this post? Water based inks rank as the second most popular type of screen printing inks.
This alone should clear any doubts you have regarding the effectiveness of this type of ink.
Unlike the plastisol inks which rests on top your fabric, water based inks saturated your garment fibers during the application.
The final print you get with water based ink usually looks softer and more durable compared to that of plastisol.
However, the ink has a few downsides…
One, it has a low opacity. This is mainly because the ink is thinner and fails to retain its base when cured. Some manufacturers have, however, claim that their inks will achieve high opacity (they accomplish this by forgoing softness).
Second, this ink cures through simple evaporation. This might be an issue if you live in extremely humid conditions as you’ll need a proper heat source for proper curing. Likewise, this can also be an issue if you live in very arid areas
Third, while you can make custom colors with these inks, keep in mind that they’re semitransparent and might not look the same when you finally print them.
All in all, water based inks are an excellent option for screen printing. As long as you choose a quality ink and apply it correctly, you’ll get your desired results.
Check the fantastic results of water based ink in this video:
Considering the different types of screen printing inks and the numerous ink manufacturers, picking the best ink for your screen printing needs might not be an easy task.
Fortunately, this post has everything you need to assist you in your search for the most suitable screen printing ink for your needs.
Our list of the 11 top-rated inks on the market this year will provide you with multiple options that you can use today to obtain good-looking print results.