Discover the best screen printing ink to buy in 2023
Choosing the right screen printing ink can make or break your design. Find the best screen printing ink to buy with our handy guide…
Screen printing is a fantastic art form which is massively versatile. It can be used to create everything from stunning art prints to creative fabric designs. You can use screen printing to make beautiful products to sell, to create your own t-shirt designs or make unique soft furnishings for your home.
Screen printing inks can be used on a variety of surfaces including paper and fabric, but you'll need to check that you're using the correct ink for your project before you begin. Different screen printing inks have different properties and if you use the wrong one then you may get disappointing results!
Some screen printing inks can be used on both fabric and paper, which is ideal if you like to work with both. Other types of screen printing ink are better on fabric.
If you're new to screen printing, we'd recommend that you check out our beginner's guide to silk screen printing before you begin. You might also find it useful to read our guide to the best screen printing kit. If you'd like to try other kinds of printing, take a look at our lino cutting for beginners guide and our block printing for beginners guide.
What ink is used for screen printing?
Water-based screen printing inks can be used on paper and fabric. They're a popular option for beginners to use and available in a wide range of vibrant colours. A lot of people like to use water-based inks on fabric because the ink sinks into the material – this keeps it feeling soft. Water-based inks are easy to clean up after you've finished using them too. These inks are safe for children to use if you want to introduce them to screen printing.
Plastisol is a thick, opaque screen printing ink that's usually used to print onto fabric. Unlike water-based inks, plastisol ink sits on the surface of the fabric allowing you to create bold and durable prints. When you're using plastisol inks, you'll need to use heat to set your design to make it permanent. Look for phthalate-free brands if you can, as these are more eco-friendly.
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Discharge ink tends to be used by more experienced printers, as it requires more technical knowledge. Discharge ink works by pulling the dye out of the fabric and replacing it with its own colour. The results can be unpredictable, so this is not recommended for beginners.
You can buy both water-based and plastisol discharge inks.
Read on to discover the best ink for screen printing and get creating…
Best ink for screen printing
Hunt the Moon water-based screen printing ink starter kit
If you’re new to print making, this starter set of printing inks from Hunt The Moon provides good value for money. It contains six vibrant colours for you to try out, including primary shades so you can mix any colour you like! The inks include Rocket Red, Lemon Yellow and Midnight Blue. These screen printing inks can be used on fabric, paper or card with stunning results. The pots contain 240ml of ink, so they should last you for quite a while. The inks do have a strong odour, so you may want to open a window while you’re using them. You’ll need to heat-cure this ink if you’re using it on fabric.
Hunt The Moon gold and silver water-based metallic screen printing ink
If you’re fond of Hunt The Moon’s range of screen printing inks, you might want to bring some sparkle to your art supplies by adding gold and silver inks. These screen printing inks have a beautiful sheen and would be perfect for any festive art projects – or to add an extra dimension to a print. The gold is particularly striking. These inks have the quality that you would expect from Hunt The Moons products and would make a good addition to printmaking work. They would also make a fabulous gift for the printmaker in your life.
Permaset Aqua screen printing ink
Permaset is a popular screen printing ink brand, which is known for its excellent quality and range of bold colours. These inks are solvent free and are environmentally friendly. It’s suitable for use on most kinds of fabric, including cotton, silk and polyester. Although the individual jars are fairly expensive, you get a lot of ink for your money. It’s a water-based ink, so it won’t be as durable or opaque as a plastisol ink, but it’s still very hard-wearing and easy to clean up after use. This is a good option for beginners and more experienced artists alike.
There are lots of Permaset Aqua colours available on Amazon and from other art shops.
Aqua Art paper and board screen printing ink
If you want to print exclusively on paper or board, then we’d recommend choosing Aqua Art’s screen printing ink range. These inks are specifically designed for art and poster printing. Aqua Art ink is archivable, which means that the colours won’t fade over time or turn yellow – ideal if you’re planning to sell your finished prints. As an added bonus, these screen printing inks are low-odour and solvent free. They are also free from heavy metals. The range features a good selection of colours including some eye-catching neon shades.
Aqua Art paper and board screen printing ink set
Loving the Aqua Art screen printing inks? You can buy a set of six coloured inks and save some money at the same time. This set of inks is available in 100g tubs or more generous 240g tubs. It’s a good idea to buy the larger set if you think that you’re planning to do a lot of printing, as it’s better value. This set of inks has all of the qualities that you’d expect from the Aqua Art range – they’re light-resistant and perfect for all of your art prints. The set has a good selection of colours, which can be mixed and blended together.
Marabu screen printing ink
Marabu printing ink is a high-quality product made in Germany. It can be use to print designs on a variety of different surfaces including tote bags, pillows and t-shirts. It’s a water-based ink that won’t fade much over time. You’ll need to set the ink using heat, either using an iron or by putting it in the oven for a few minutes (following the manufacturer’s instructions). They don’t offer a large selection of colours, but you’ll still be able to create a good range of shades by mixing the inks together.
Jacquard screen printing ink
Jacquard screen printing ink is available in lots of rich colours like this lovely sky blue. This screen printing ink can be used on almost any surface including fabric, paper, vinyl and wood. This ink is multi-purpose and can also be used for block printing or relief printing. It’s light-fast, so it’ll stay bright over time. It dries slowly, so you don’t need to rush your printing sessions too much. Jacquard ink can be easily cleaned up after use with soap and water. If you’re using it on fabric, you’ll need to heat-set the ink so it doesn’t wash out.
Daler Rowney System 3 screen printing colour
Did you know that you can do screen printing using acrylic paints? Daler Rowney's System 3 textile acrylics are designed to be used straight from the pot. If they're too thick for your work, then they can be thinned using screen printing mediums. This brand has a brilliant selection of colours for you to work with, so you'll be able to create plenty of beautiful screen prints. The ink comes in 250ml pots, so they're likely to last a long time.
Arch Colours screen printing inks
The printing inks produced by Arch Colours are all environmentally friendly and solvent free. There's a range of 41 amazing colours to choose from, so you're bound to find a shade that you love. The colours are all pre-mixed, so you don't have to add any printing medium – perfect for those days when you want to start printing right away. These water-based inks can be used on fabric or paper. Arch Colours are suitable for amateur artists or professionals to use.
Speedball screen printing ink
Speedball screen printing ink is designed to be used on fabric. It's opaque, so your designs will show very well – even on darker fabrics. In addition to all the usual colours, Speedball also has a selection of stunning pearlescent screen printing inks – perfect for when you need to give your designs a little boost. You can easily fix the inks onto fabric using an iron – once they're set, you'll be able to wash them in water up to 40°C.
Featured image by iStock/Thaisign.
Sarah Orme is a UK-based linocut printmaker, digital editor, feature writer and award-winning podcaster. She's been editing the sewing and art sections of Gathered.how – and before that our sister website calmmoment.com – for over 3 years. She’s the host of Gathered’s We’ve Made It podcast and A Calmer Life podcast. She’s a keen crafter and artist and loves creating DIY tutorials for Gathered. Sarah has previously written features for The Guardian, In The Moment Magazine, Project Calm Magazine, countryfile.com, radiotimes.com and yourhomestyle.uk. She enjoys designing her own unique lino prints and dreams of opening her own online shop. She shares her work @sarahormeprints
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