Best Printer for Screen Printing Transparencies

by Doug Berg | Last Updated: September 9, 2020

It’s important to choose the right printer for your screen printing transparencies. If you can’t afford to have one printer dedicated to producing your films you’ll also have to consider some other features as well. Pages per minute isn’t all that important if you burn a few screens a week. But if that same printer is also going to be used for invoicing, ordering and printing art proofs you’ll have to consider performance along with color, pages per minute, form factor etc. In this article we’ll review 5 excellent choices for inkjet printers that will help you grow your screen printing business. In this post we’ll help you select the best printers for screen printing. 

Why inkjet, why not a laser printer for screen printing transparencies?

Laser printers are great at printing on paper quickly and efficiently, but are they the best when it comes to screen printing? They use a heat element to melt a plastic ink toner onto the paper. For general business purposes you can’t beat a laser printer. But when you need to print on transparencies, need a completely opaque print and exact precision they just don’t compete with an inkjet. 

Can you use transparencies with laser printers? You can. But don’t expect perfection, say Briar Press discussion board contributors. “Laser printers will not print dense enough for work with photopolymer,” and we agree, so your search for the best transparency printer should be limited to inkjets.

What makes a printer one of the best printers for screen printing? 

Screen Printers need consistency and the ability to create their transparencies quickly and cheaply. The goal when choosing the best printer is achieving a completely opaque film positive the first time, so you wind up with crisp images that retain a high level of detail when you go to the press. Being completely opaque keeps light from bleeding around or through your images when you burn your screen. But it also means your plastisol ink will have crisp clear edges on the final print. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a manual or an automatic press or the quality of the ink you’re using if you can’t get a clean print.

Selecting the best printer, size matters:

Size means form factor, and size and space requirements of your printer. Large format printers, even the best printers, take up  a lot of space. Will the printer need it’s own desk or will it fit on top of a shelf you already have?

You also need to keep the size of prints you do in mind. If you buy a printer that can only print on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper then that’s the maximum size transparency you can print. It’s also the largest you’ll ever be able to make an image on a screen. Most professional screen printers need at least 13 x 19 inch capability. These are often referred to as wide or large format printers.

Considering the Transparency Paper you Use for your printers:

Transparency paper comes in both sheets and rolls. Unfortunately, the printers that accept rolls of transparency film are on the higher end. But in the long run that might actually save you money if you print a lot of smaller images and won’t need to use a whole 16×19 sheet of paper. If your shop is high volume, the savings in paper might actually make up for buying a more expensive printer.

Pros and cons of using an inkjet printer for transparencies: 

There are plenty of branded ink jet printers ready to handle the job, and it’s important to understand both the advantages and disadvantages that come with your best printer for screen printing transparencies purchase.

Pros of using an inkjet print 

-Print quality is better for your purposes when you choose an inkjet over a laser. 

-Colors tend to be more vivid when output on inkjets rather than a laser printer. 

-Inkjets are good at filling large areas with color without banding. 

-Opaque prints are very good for screen printing.


-While inkjet printers tend to cost less than a laser printer, ink replacement makes them pricier to run over time. 

-Even the best and most expensive inkjet printer isn’t known for durability. 

-If toner cartridges spoiled you, be prepared to be in a perpetual hunt for smaller ink cartridges.

5 great transparency printers on today’s market

Canon PIXMA IX6820

Top Choice On a Budget

Canon Pixma ix6820

If you’re on a budget but still want to be able to print in a wide format the Pixma IX6820 is a great choice. And not just because the price tag is low. The PIXMA also happens to be one of the most highly-rated printers on the market.

Capable of 9600×2400 DPI and able to print up to 13×19 means this thing is a great bargain printer. It doesn’t provide any other functions like scanning or copying but it is a great low priced option that still allows you to print in a larger format.

Pros of the Canon 

-Comes with an extended 1-year warranty and affordable price tag. 

-Wireless operation gives you options on where to place your printer. 

-The black cartridge ink tank is extra-large for fewer refills.

Cons of the Canon 

-The larger cabinet may not work well in your small production space. 

-Owners have complained about output speed and software glitches.

HP DesignJet T120 Large-Format Inkjet Printer

Best Overall

HP Designjest T120

If money were no object or if my shop was doing a lot of business I’d buy the T120. It has a couple major advantages over the Canon Pixma IX6820. For one it prints 24 inch wide transparencies. That’s the standard size for screen printing frames, so it’s not limited to 13×19.

It’s also capable of using rolls of transparency film rather than sheets. Using rolls will save you lots of money long term. You won’t need to use a whole sheet if you only need a 8 inch long print. You also save a lot on rolls over cut sheets.

You know the manufacturer, but are you aware of the fact that HP makes a large-format inkjet printer that features the wide mouth you need to turn out graphics as wide as 24-inches?

This is another studio quality printer capable of amazing prints. Using the company’s signature thermal inkjet technology, owners of this transparency printer can expect smooth manual sheet and roll feeds and intuitive operation plus a touchscreen LCD readout.

Wi-Fi connectivity is at your fingertips thus you can control transparency production from iOS and Android devices any time you like. What you won’t do with this printer is print anything other than artwork.

Pros of the HP DesignJet T120 for screen printing  

-Achieve optimized resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi for crisp, solid output. 

-Get fast processing speed and energy savings thanks to multiple environmental certifications. 

-Print head works with a variety of color inks and you can feed media up to 11.8 mil thick.

Cons of the HP DesignJet T120 for transparencies 

-Your budget may not cover this sophisticated printer. 

-Do you use third party ink cartridges? HP says this printer only works if you use their cartridges.

Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 Inkjet Printer

The Artisan line is one of the top options for small businesses and independent creators and Epson has been creating quality printers for many years.

We’ve selected the Expression Photo HD XP-15000 because while it’s fairly new, it’s amassing a huge fan club. Output is high-def, vibrant and the wide-format (13- x 19-inches) gives you room to churn out horizontal images for t-shirts that won’t wind up under wearer’s arms.

This isn’t a home or business inkjet printer. The Epson XP-15000 is custom made for printing artwork, high quality transparencies and studio quality photos.

Pros of the Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 

-Delivers 5760- x 1440-dpi images that are grain free. 

-Has a Claria ink system with 6 individual colors, each of which can be replaced solo when the printer runs out. 

-One company used this printer to make thousands of heat transfers seamlessly in place of an industrial printer.

Cons of the Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000

-Better keep your wallet open; this is expensive. 

-Be discriminating about transparency stock you buy; if it’s too thick, it could jam.

Brother Inkjet Printer MFC-J985DW

This Brother inkjet printer is another general purpose office machine. That doesn’t mean you get short shrift on technology or features. This machine was designed to be cheap to operate, transparencies only cost about 5 cents each to print.

Processing speed is a respectable 10 per minute and connectivity requires only a Wi-Fi connection. Scan and print other projects using this printer, too.


-Spend less money for more pages using Brother’s unique INKvestment program.

-Get a 2-year limited warranty plus unlimited free phone support.

-Wireless printing options include AirPrint; Google Cloud Print; Brother iPrint&Scan.


-If you expect to output wide graphics, this machine may not be your best bet.

-Not connected to a wireless network? This printer won’t work for you. 

HP ENVY 4520 Wireless Printer

The HP Envy 4520 is another all-in-one option if you need good print quality but can’t justify dedicating a machine to just printing transparencies.

The Envy even interfaces with Alexa. It’s simple and cheap to run and the print quality is great for screen printing transparencies.

It’s not a wide format printer but is very capable and should be able to handle anything your business needs.


-Simple set-up and easy connectivity to a smartphone or tablet.

-Gets extremely high performance remarks from consumers and reviewers.

-Save money on both the machine and ink cartridges.


-Sells out fast, so if you see and want this Envy, grab it.

-You may not want to get involved with the ink replenishment program. 

A lousy print makes for a lousy screen so use the best printer you can afford! Ask yourself these questions before you decide:

Printing your transparencies is a key part of any job for a screen printer. Printers are only part of the equation and you also have to consider the ink and the design. But if you’re not using a quality printer then the chance of getting a good screen print is hit or miss at best. Before you buy a printer consider what type of paper you’ll be using, check the price of ink and really think about the sizes and types of images you screen print. 

  1. Will you need to print in color?
  2. Will you also need to print on regular printer paper?
  3. Are you printing intricate designs or do you focus on simple, large graphic design without a high degree of detail?
  4. How much does replacement ink cost?
  5. What mesh count screen do you typically use?
  6. Do you need wireless capability?

Our top pick for the best ink jet transparencies printer?

If saving money is your main objective when you launch your search for a printer capable of handling your screening projects, both the Brother Inkjet and HP Envy (the least expensive of all) should be your first considerations when you shop. 

At the other end of the continuum, we are impressed by both the Epson Artisan and HP DesignJet because these two are as close to professional as one can get without going commercial. Prices are hefty and within the same ballpark, but the ability to output wide, solid art can’t be dismissed. If you’re willing to write the check, choose either of these and you’ll be a happy screener.

Our top pick is the Canon Pixma iX6820 as the best printer for screen printing positives. The print quality and ability to print on wide formats makes it a perfect option for screen printing negatives. It’s also really simple to use.


Canon Pixma iX6820 Business Printer

Buy the printer that works best for your business.

Our top pick is the Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000. The print quality and ability to print on wide formats makes it a perfect option for screen printing negatives. It’s also really simple to use. The Canon Pixma ix6820 is also a solid choice that many of our users have also picked if you’re on a budget and just need something that’ll allow you to print transparencies without needing to worry about other business related printouts this could be your next printer.

Doug has been an entrepreneur for years, starting several businesses. Doug is a web developer, father of 2 great kids and husband to the best wife ever. I've been working on building my custom tee shirt business for 3 years.