To get the best results from a screen printing press, you need a reliable ink that has consistent flow, low tack, and longevity. The type you buy will depend not only on what material you’re printing on, but also on how much time you want to spend prepping and curing the ink. You might even want to buy different kinds of ink depending on the project. Our picks below will help you find the best silkscreen ink available in a growing market.
1. Speedball Opaque Screen Printing Ink
Bold, easy to apply, and reasonably priced, Speedball’s water-based inks are at the top of our list. These are truly opaque colors that will show up even on dark surfaces, and they can be used for printing on fabric, paper, and cardboard, This set comes with six four-ounce jars in red, yellow, blue, silver, black, and a pearly white. They can be mixed to create more colors, and they dry quickly with a subtle, pleasing sheen. They’re ready to use out of the jar and flow easily through screens. If you’re printing garments, the colors will last after many washes as long as you heat-set them properly—simply use an iron to heat each side of the fabric for several minutes.
2. Ecotex Plastisol Ink Set
Ecotex’s product is a plastisol ink, which is an ink composed of a thick plasticizer and PVC resin. Compared with water-based inks, these have better color vibrancy, are easier to cure, and have a heavier body; in fact, they’re a standard in the garment industry. We like Ecotex’s product for its creamy consistency and easy workability—unlike water-based inks, they won’t dry during the printing process. It sets well into fabric without building up, retains color accuracy, and cures at 320 ○F. Printed fabrics emerge from the washer and dryer without fading, and the designs should last as long as the base material does.
3. Speedball Acrylic Screen Printing Ink
If you need to print on paper, wood, or cardboard, consider Speedball’s acrylic ink formula. These inks offer amazing coverage in addition to smooth application and a fast drying time. Choose from 30 colors, including fluorescent and glow-in-the-dark ones! Each can also be mixed with ease to create more colors. The ink spreads smoothly, presents vibrant tones, and showcases even consistency for solid and clean coverage. It also stays wet for a good amount of time.
4. RapidCure Plastisol Ink
This is another plastisol ink, but it cures at a lower temperature of 270○F, which reduces the risk of harming heat-sensitive fabrics. As its name suggests, it also cures quickly, which helps you save time. Like Ecotex’s ink, this one is creamy, smooth, and easy to spread. Keep in mind that because it has a very low viscosity, you may go through more ink, particularly if you’re working with darker fabrics.
5. Jacquard Screen Printing Ink
Jacquard’s product is a professional-grade and archival-quality water-based ink that will look stunning whether you are printing on fabrics or paper. It’s sold in individual jars, so if you need several colors the cost can start to add up, but the top quality is immediately apparent. These buttery, pigment-rich inks have a longer open time than lesser products, allowing you to be more precise and careful with your process. They can take a while to get used to, as they are quite thick, so you might try experimenting with adding water or an extender to achieve your ideal viscosity. But they blend beautifully, dry with a slight sheen, and will help you produce consistent batches. Used on fabric, the results are safe to wash many times over once properly heat-set and air cured for at least 72 hours.