One of the easiest ways to transfer designs for silk screening is to create stencils out of mylar or acetate. The finished designs serve as a film positive, which is placed atop a screen coated with photo emulsion, then exposed to light. To achieve a good-quality stencil, you’ll need a solid marker that won’t bead on the surface of your filmlike material. It should also deposit pigment that’s nice and opaque so your markings won’t allow light to pass through once you expose your design. Find the right marker for your screen printing needs (and any other jobs that require an opaque black line) in our top picks below.
1. Sakura Permapaque Marker
These well-priced markers are the best for the job in our book. Each is filled with richly pigmented nontoxic paint that flows evenly and continuously—but not to the extent that you’ll encounter pooling or unexpected explosions of black. They also dry quickly so you can worry less about smudging and smearing. Best of all, even when applied on glossy acetate, the paint shows up bold and dark.
2. Elmer’s Painters Opaque Marker
If you’re seeking longevity when creating your stencils so you can use them repeatedly, consider Elmer’s black marker. Its tip is thicker and rounder than Sakura’s but still well suited for all kinds of lines, and once dry, the ink resists rubbing off even with some effort. The ink provides good coverage, but a perfect flow is slightly more challenging to achieve than with the Sakura marker, requiring you to place just the right pressure on the nib. It also has quite a strong smell, so we recommend using it in a studio with good ventilation.
3. Uchida Marvy DecoColor Marker
This brawny marker features a broad point and is ideal for creating highly visible gliding strokes. Its oil-based black ink is very dark and fast-drying, and it dispenses with minimal pressure. We also like how it feels in the hand, offering a thick and super-smooth grip. The ink flows easily, which makes it another great option for covering large swaths of transparency paper quickly, but it may be hard to control around fine details.
4. Molotow One4All Acrylic Paint Marker
This marker is too pricey to be our top pick, but it excels in performance, comfort, and longevity. It is designed with a pump valve that helps to create a continuous, even flow, and the paint is super opaque: Just one pass is all you need to lay down a clean, semiglossy black line. Its body also feels just right in the hand, offering substance without weight. Plus, each marker is refillable, so you can feel good about replenishing your tool while cutting down on waste.
5. Posca Acrylic Paint Marker
For your most detailed line work, we recommend this marker, which has a 0.7-millimeter tip. Though thin, the lines are satisfyingly opaque and dry to a subtly raised, matte finish. You have to shake this pen before use and apply pressure to its nib, but we find that it effectively resists clogging, leaking, and blobbing.