Best Screen Printing Ink for Beginners

by Doug Berg | Last Updated: April 12, 2019

If you’re in a hurry and just want to quickly find out what our choice is for best screen printing ink for beginners check out the Speedball Opaque Fabric Screen Printing Starter Set.

Screen printing is an amazing hobby that can be turned into a profitable side hustle. Creating and selling your own screen printed t-shirts is a great way not only to express yourself but to dip your toes into the entrepreneurial swimming pool.

For artists and t-shirt entrepreneurs new to screen printing, learning about all of the equipment and materials you’ll need can be overwhelming. For many people, one of the first questions they ask is “what is the best screen printing ink for beginners?”. This isn’t a question with one single answer because there are many factors to consider. Let’s take a look at the best paints for screen printing on the market. 

What is Screen Printing?

Before we dive into the substance of this list, we wanted to take a moment for a quick refersher course on screen printing itself.

Screen printing is a form of art or decoration in which ink is applied to a surface and forced through a fine mesh scree. The ending resultis a beautiful design on t-shirt o any other garment or fabic material. To get started screen printing, it’s vital to have a few siple items on hand. These include:

Optional Equipment:

What is Screen Printing Ink?

People have been using pigmented ink to richly color items of clothing for many centuries. In fact, the earliest known reference to dyeing fabric clothing dates back to 2600 B.C. At that time, dyes were of course made from natural materials that were rich in pigment and staining ability. 

Screen printing ink is, most simply put, the colored ink used during the screen printing process. However, this product is so much more than your run of the mill craft store paint or ink. Screen printing is an intricate process that requires special paint formulated especially for the art of screen printing. 

If you want a quick lesson in screen printing ink, check out this fun little video:

What Makes a Great Screen Printing Ink? 

There isn’t any particular feature that makes an ink product great. What’s important is figuring out what type of screen printing ink would be best for your unique project. 

When planning your project, you should keep a few key factors in mind:

There are a few different varieties of screen printing ink. Here is some information on each variety of ink. 

What Are the Different Types of Screen Printing Ink?

Plastisol Ink

Even if you’re a beginner screen printer, you’ve probably heard of plastisol in. Plastisol is a liquid ink that turns solid when heat is applied. It’s essentially particles of resin that are suspended in a non-volatile liquid. Plastisol is great for screen printing because of the fully opaque nature of the print. It’s also able to stay on the screen for a decent amount of time without drying up, making the screen printing process easier. Plastisol is a popular choice and comes in many varieties. 

Water-Based Ink

While plastisol creates a solid layer of printed ink that sits on top of the garment, water-based ink works quite differently. Water-based inks work more like dye–they saturate the fabric fibers and change the color. This is great if you want a softer look and feel. Think of a comfy vintage t-shirt with a design that looks dyed or woven into the fabric itself. Water-based ink doesn’t color with the opacity of plastisol, but it offers a totally different look which can work well for many projects. 

Discharge Ink

Discharge ink is a relative newcomer to the screen printing game and works in a particularly unique way. With this ink, the dye that originally colored your garment is lifted, and then its replaced by a new color. Fans of this product love it because it allows easier printing on dark colored garments (without pre-basing with a light base color). Important: discharge ink can only be used with 100% cotton materials! Also, you should know that discharge ink gives off quite a bit of fume, so it should only be used in a well-ventilated workspace. Discharge ink comes in both water-based and plastisol forms.

Our Top Picks for Screen Printing Ink for Beginners

Speedball Art Products Fabric Screen Printing Ink 8 Fl. oz.

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This Speedball product offers a great water-based solution at an affordable price. Here are a few facts:

When it comes to the basics, this Speedball water-based screen printing ink will help you deliver amazing results. Speedball screen printing inks also earn quite a few positive reviews. Check them out for yourself.

Ecotex Fluorescent Discharge Screen Printing Ink Set

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This is a great little kit to get you started working with discharge ink. Here are a few important facts:

Check the prices as this set is generally the most expensive of the inks we’ve reviewed. However, we have no doubt that this set is a great way to get your next big project started. 

Speedball Opaque Fabric Printing Starter Set

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Continuing with Speedball products, this is a set of 6 jars of opaque screen printing ink. This in can be used on dark or light fabrics of all kinds, and also on paper and cardboard. Here are a few stats about this set:

This set is a super affordable pack if you’re looking for color variety. If you have a multi-colored project coming up, this is a great product. 

Versatex Screen Printing Ink

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Versatex created this screen printing ink with the professional screen printer in mind. Here are a few facts about this popular product:

Versatex offers this professional-grade screen printing ink at an affordable price point. 

Jacquard Brand Screen Printing Ink–Assorted Colors

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Jacquard is another well-known, high-quality brand bringing us this water-based ink in a variety of beautiful colors. This popular ink is:

This product is pretty affordable. It’s a solid choice for a water-based screen printing ink. 

So which screen printing ink did we choose?

This list covered just five of the many amazing screen printing ink products available to consumers. But, which one is our pick for the best screen printing ink for beginners in 2019?

Our top choice is the Speedball Opaque Fabric Screen Printing Starter Set.

We like this Speedball brand kit because it offers a nice selection of colors for beginners to experiment with during their new projects. This ink is non-toxic and does not have an offensive chemical odor, making it a safe choice for small home or garage screen printing studios. It’s also great to use on any fabric (like cotton, rayon or polyester)That fact also adds a sense of versatility for new screen printers to experiment. And at less than 20 dollars for 6 colors, the Speedball set is our clear choice.

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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.