Water-based screen printing ink is becoming increasingly popular in the printing industry. While plastisol ink is inexpensive, simple to use, and widely available, water-based inks provide a number of real benefits to a company and its customers. Water-based inks unlock powerful printing capabilities with very appealing results, in addition to being environmentally friendly. All you have to do now is cure the ink properly and you’re ready to go.

Water-based inks have a wide range of applications, including art education and studios, in addition to screen printing. The majority of brands are simple to use and have excellent workability.

Water-based ink is also simple to clean with soap and water.

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Isn’t that fantastic if you’re in your basement art studio working on paintings?

However, you’ll only have a good time if you buy the right ink. Remember that you can buy water-based inks in sets or as individual colors. It’s also important to use the best emulsion if you want high-quality, consistent manufacturing.

This article compares and contrasts five of the best water-based inks for home and commercial screen printing. A buying guide with further in-depth information about water-based inks is also offered. This advice will

friendly and contain fewer pollutants, though some may contain petroleum chemicals. Some people may argue that petroleum-based ingredients are harmful to the environment. Water-based inks, on the other hand, are considered environmentally also assist you in making a decision.



What is Water-Based Ink?

As the name implies, water is the major solvent in water-based inks for screen printing. Different brands, on the other hand, may contain a variety of co-solvents, some of which are petroleum-based. In that instance, the product will be labeled as “flammable.” Despite the fact that co-solvents serve a variety of purposes, their major goal is to reduce the heat time required to cure the ink film. Water-based inks can be used on fabrics, cardboard, and even wood.


Water-based inks come in many varieties, each with its own set of processes for completing a specific task. As a result, your preferred alternative is determined by aesthetic tastes as well as the needs of your customers or art students. The most common types are:

Traditional Water-Base

Pigments or dyes are suspended in an emulsion with water as the major solvent in traditional water-based inks. If you want consistent, high-quality results, go with the best-selling emulsion for screen printing. Traditional water-based ink for screen printing has a cure temperature of 300–320 °C. Cure the ink for roughly 2-3 minutes in a forced-air dryer, if possible.

The water in the ink is evaporated by the dryer. When properly heat set, water-base ink has an extraordinarily soft feel on cloth and ensures long-lasting, brilliant colors. Water-based inks, on the other hand, are not very opaque and can dry up in open containers. As a result, it’s possible that amateur printmakers won’t have a positive working experience with it. Nonetheless, different brands may have different characteristics that improve your overall experience.

Discharge Ink

Discharge ink employs pigments or dyes in an emulsion with water as the principal solvent, just like typical water-based inks for screen printing. For screen printing, you’ll want to utilize the best emulsion available. When applied to natural materials, however, most formulations in discharge ink for screen printing deactivate dyes. As a result, an activator/catalyst will be required prior to application.

The ink will have a 4-hour pot life once the activator is added. Discharge inks must be dried at a temperature of 300–320 °C for 2-3 minutes, preferably in a forced-air dryer. Water is evaporated from the ink during the curation process, which improves color brightness. Please keep in mind that until the discharge ink for screen printing has fully set, the colors won’t be very bright.

On 100% cotton cloth, discharge inks for screen printing are exceptionally soft. They also reduce the number of screens on the press. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that discharge inks may react with the dye on the clothing. As a result, they may not be suitable for non-cotton surfaces. Once ignited, discharge inks for screen printing have a pot life of four hours.

Watch: Screen Printing with Discharge and Water Based Ink

Acrylic with a High Solids Content

Finally, some screen printers use high-solid acrylic ink, also known as high-solid water-based inks, for screen printing. A PVC substitute (acrylic polymer) or polyurethane with a high binder content is used in these inks.

High-solids acrylic screen printing inks are more opaque than standard water-based inks, and they print better on darker textiles. Acrylic inks with high solids follow the same curation principles and qualities as water-based inks, and heat retention is still important. How can you know when high-solid inks are ready to use after curing? When properly cured, these inks usually have a rubbery feel to them.

High opacity and a soft hand in fabrics are two of the key benefits of high solid acrylic inks. On a range of materials, they print at the same high quality. If you’re having trouble drying ink on screens, try adding chemicals to increase pot life or changing the cure temperature and heat retention time.



Why do screen printers spend so much time and effort learning how to utilize and apply water-based inks when plastisol ink is easily available at a low cost? What are some of the benefits that distinguish these inks? They are as follows:

Feeling better

Depending on your talents and experience, you can generate a soft print with any screen printing ink. Even so, when it comes to generating an impression that is nearly as delicate as the fabric itself, water-based inks are the best. That is why the average person chooses water-based inks over all others.


Water-based inks are generally more environmentally beneficial by most experts because they require less carbon print to make. Furthermore, as compared to other traditional screen printing inks, water-based inks produce less waste that ends up in the drain.

Long-Term Benefits

After a few washes, you may notice that the ink fades, crinkles, or even chips on an old t-shirt produced before the debut of water-based inks. Customers will not have to go through this if you use water-based inks. Water-based inks, as their name implies, embed persistent colors on clothing after the solvent has evaporated (water). If the ink is properly cured, these pigments become a permanent part of the fabric.


Do you have an old t-shirt with a plastisol ink print that is quite large? If you answered yes, you are aware that wearing that t-shirt in the summer might be quite uncomfortable due to the fact that plastisol inks are not breathable. Water-based inks, on the other hand, do not have this problem. The pigment is embedded within the fiber of the garment using a high-quality water-based ink, which allows air to move through. Your outfit will be comfy in all seasons, no matter how huge the print is.

Availability of More information

Finally, a creative printmaker would choose water-based inks over typical plastisol because they allow for more fantastic details. Water-based inks are often thin, making them appropriate for applications with extremely high mesh counts. Water-based inks make it easier and faster to achieve photorealistic effects or tiny details. Water-based inks, on the other hand, will not sacrifice color for quality.



Even with expert advice, choosing the right water-based inks for your screen printing business can be a difficult task, especially if it’s your first time. You’d want ink that matches your business model and your clients’ requirements. Most importantly, you’ll want to look for manufacturers that promise user-friendly functionality. When selecting the best water-based ink for screen printing, keep the following in mind:

Requirements for Curing and Drying

Curing and drying are the two key printing processes that have an impact on the quality of your finished print. The machine you’ll use is determined by the criteria for curing and drying certain water-based inks. It will almost always be a forced-air dryer. But what really is the point of curing?

The base and the pigment form a thermochemical connection during the curing process. Water-based inks, on the other hand, require longer time to cure and dry for screen printing than plastisol and dry inks. As a result, you’ll want a brand that promises very reasonable curing and drying requirements in order to save energy. As a result, look for ink that dries in about 2-3 minutes at temperatures no higher than 200 °C.

Considerations for Shelf Life or Pot Life

The shelf life of a water-based ink relates to how long it can be stored in its original sealed container on the shelf. Pot life, on the other hand, refers to the amount of time a water-based ink can be used once it has been mixed or activated. You’ll want to pick a brand that can sit on your shelf for up to two years before breaking the seal. If you’re ordering supplies in bulk, water-based inks with a lengthy shelf life are a good choice. In terms of pot life, you can choose ink that lasts eight hours or a day. It’s important to remember that breaking the seal before you’re ready can cause some of the ingredients to evaporate.

When determining a water-based ink’s shelf life and pot life, it’s also important to consider the ink’s dwell duration. The dwell time refers to how long the ink can stay in the screen mesh before drying or clogging it during action printing. Unfortunately, water-based inks only have a few minutes of dwell time before drying. If you’re not careful, it can obstruct production by blocking the screen mesh. So, what’s the answer? When printing, you should use evaporation-delaying chemicals like wetting sprays.

Hand Feel and Artwork

Water-based inks for screen printing have a superb hand feel and artwork, which influences printmakers to prefer them over other solutions. Do all water-based inks for screen printing, on the other hand, guarantee a great hand feel and artwork? No, that is not the case. It all depends on the quality of the brand and how well you learn the technique of screen printing, especially during the curing process.

Furthermore, the results may not be consistent across all textiles. For example, you wouldn’t want to screen print large print blocks on synthetic textiles like athletic apparel using water-based inks. The reason for this is that water doesn’t stick well to synthetic materials.

Printing Costs

Water-based inks for screen printing have the highest cost per print when compared to other choices. This is due to the fact that around half of each pot or jar of water-based ink includes solid pigments, with the remainder being solvents (mainly water) or surfactants.

Furthermore, the additional requirements for curing the ink can be quite costly, especially if done on a small scale. So, how do you get around the high cost per print and end up with a technique that is pretty affordable? It will only assist if you save money in the beginning.

Keep an eye out for names with relatively low price tags. You could also associate your company with suppliers who offer free shipment or delivery as part of their after-sale services. You’ll save money on the overall cost of purchasing something this way.



Finally, you would weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each brand before deciding on the best option. Water-based inks are generally PVC-free and produce a very delicate hand feel in print.

However, if you choose the wrong brand, it may cause your screen to become blocked, resulting in production halts. Some brands may also produce too many VOCs. So, how can you tell if a water-based ink is trustworthy?

People don’t usually talk about the negatives of a product when they write a product description or put an ad for it.In that situation, reading other customer reviews on the manufacturer’s or approved vending sites will be beneficial. Customers will comment on what they like and don’t like about a particular brand. Consider the majority of good reviews to be direct recommendations.

Wrapping It Up

If you want to provide your consumers with the softest and longest-lasting personalized materials, use water-based inks. Aside from the workability of water-based inks, however, the screen-printing technique adds value to the final detail, which amazes buyers.

As a result, it will be advantageous if you grasp the art from the start. For water-based inks, you’ll want to utilize the best screen printing screen emulsion, especially as a coating after the ink has been degreased. The best photo emulsion for screen printing will aid in the production of picture prints.

All of the goods in this buying guide are quite consistent in terms of quality and performance. Each brand, on the other hand, is distinct. Before you figure out what works best for you, you’ll need to think about your aesthetic tastes as well as the needs of your clients.



1. Speedball Black water-based ink

Speedball is a well-known brand that produces screen printing ink for use on paper and textiles. This manufacturer’s water-based inks are all fairly high-quality and high-performance. This ink is non-flammable and non-toxic, and it may be readily cleaned with soap and water. Furthermore, the 8-ounce packaging jar is rather cost-effective in terms of recouping your investment.

Benefits and Features

You’re looking at a multipurpose ink that can be used on a variety of surfaces, including fabric, paper, and cardboard. It may be used on linen, cotton, rayon, polyester, and synthetic mixes, among other materials. When using this ink on dark cloth, you’ll get the best results, especially if you’re looking for brightness and opacity. It also works well on light-colored fabrics.

What’s the best part? Once properly heated, this water-based ink is permanent on fabric. Furthermore, whether you are a novice or an experienced user, it provides outstanding workability properties. This black water-based ink is also available for classroom and studio use. It will be safe and simple to use for students. Remember, all you need for cleaning is soap and water.

High performance at a low cost.

In general, if you want to create bold, vivid details without breaking the bank, this black ink from Speedball is a good choice. This high-performance water-based ink provides exceptional coverage to increase client satisfaction, whether your company specializes in screen printing or art education. On a scale of one to ten, this product offers the best value for money.


  • The formula is non-flammable.
  • Cleanup is simple with soap and water.
  • Applications that can be used in numerous ways.


  • The performance of other products in the line varies.

2. Speedball Starter Set – Best Water-Based Inks for Beginners

If you’re starting a screen printing or art education business, you’ll need a water-based ink set that’s easy to work with and won’t break the bank. Speedball’s ink set comes in 25 vibrant colors that are heat treated to be permanent. Night Glo, opaque, fluorescent, and process hues are among the creative mixtures available.

This kit includes six 4-ounce jars of fabric screen printing inks in raspberry, silver, pearly white, black-pearl, blue topaz, and citrine. However, especially in studio and art education applications, you can paint the inks directly on the material surface. Furthermore, when painting with a brush, no solvents are required.

Benefits and Features

Unlike other items, this package includes a wide range of inks that can be used in a variety of ways. Furthermore, the inks have outstanding opacity without sacrificing workability. As a result, whether you use the inks on bright or dark-colored fabric, the effects will be spectacular.

Beginners, especially children in an art studio or laboratory, can safely use this water-based ink. This product guarantees rapid soap and water cleanup, in addition to the AP seal on each color in the set. In general, if you’re looking for shimmery colors, this is the product to use. Cotton, rayon, linen, polyester, and other synthetic blends are all affected, leaving beautiful and shimmering effects.


  • This package includes six different colors.
  • Suitable for both light and dark fabrics.
  • Cleanup is simple with soap and water.


  • Some consumers have expressed dissatisfaction with broken seals or containers.
  • After a few applications, the silver ink may dry.

3. Ecotex Snow White Ink – The Most Eco Friendly Water-Based Ink Formula

This product from the Screen Print Direct TM brand might be worth considering if you’re searching for a stand-alone white water-based ink. If you’re a first-timer, you’ll probably have a pleasant time because it comes ready-to-use from the container and doesn’t require discharging. In addition to being bright and colorful, Snow White has a delicate feel on cloth. You can also use it to produce different effects on high mesh counts, either alone or in combination with other inks.

Benefits and Features

Consumers seek to associate with green firms in order to combat climate change. This PVC-free, water-based ink has an eco-friendly recipe. Furthermore, it is made in the United States, making it a good choice if you want quality consistency. According to the manufacturer, Snow White should be used with a water-resistant emulsion such as WR-Blue emulsion for best results.

Snow White has a low viscosity, so you can expect opaque colors and a gentle feel on the cloth. It penetrates the fabric (a soft, breathable garment) to generate amazing details if applied appropriately. Because of the bright and sharp printing, your customers are sure to be completely satisfied.

Information about color matching

Please note that, with the exception of red, blue, and purple, not all colors will discharge well. In that situation, your color matching software might not be accurate. You can also run a wash and stretch test before going into production to check that the curing and printing are correct. If this flavor doesn’t work, you’ll want to increase the cure efficiency.

According to the manufacturer, Snow White is best used on natural textiles because it produces the greatest results.


  • The color is vibrant, crisp, and opaque.
  • The formula is environmentally friendly.
  • Designed and manufactured in the United States of America.


  • Some hues aren’t very good at discharging.
  • Synthetic fibers are not recommended.

4. Speedball White-The Best Water Based Ink for Easy Cleanup

Are you new to printmaking? Finding the right ink with outstanding workability features can be difficult, especially if you’re on a tight budget. That is, until now. Speedball’s white water-based ink comes in a convenient 32-ounce bottle.

The recipe is non-flammable and free of strong solvents or odors that may cause allergic reactions. Most importantly, this product may be cleaned with soap and water after use without the need for bleaching chemicals.

Outstanding performance

On textiles, cardboard, and paper, this white water-based ink prints vividly. As a result, it can be used for a variety of purposes other than screen printing. It can be used in an art studio or a classroom for art instruction.

Because of its higher coverage and smoother workability, this ink allows for the creation of bright and vibrant colors for business applications. Cotton, polyester, rayon, linen, and other synthetic blends are among the materials that can be used with it.

What other assurance is there that this product will produce high-quality results? When properly cured, this ink gives a super-soft hand on all compatible materials and is permanent. It also comes with an AP seal, which ensures its safety.


  • It is simple to use and provides excellent coverage.
  • Improved performance at a lower cost
  • Designed and manufactured in the United States of America.


  • There is no user manual.
  • Different hues may behave differently.

5. Ecotex Standard Ink Kit Water Based Ink Best Color Combination System

Finally, the CMS-Color Mixing System from the Screen Print DirectTM brand is a high-quality option. You’re looking at a must-have business tool that lets you produce any Pantone color you desire with just 14 hues.

What’s the best part? The package includes all 14 colors as well as user’s instructions. As a result, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned printmaker, you’ll most likely have a positive experience.

Benefits and Features

Yellow, green, jet black, process blue, rubine, and snow white are the six fundamental colors included in this water-based kit. The ink is ready to use and is very gentle on clothing. This product may be used as a discharge ink on a variety of media, including fabric, wood, and even poster paper. Also, the low-viscosity ink set is very opaque, which makes the colors on the press look bright and vibrant.

Information on Mixing

This ink kit is perfect for water-based printing, especially on light-colored clothes, as previously stated. As a result, you can use it straight from the container or mix it with a discharge powder for discharge printing. However, before using discharge printing, you must carefully mix to dissolve all chunks or grains. After applying the discharge powder, it lasts for roughly an hour.

Which Emulsion Do You Have Access To?

A high-quality, water-resistant emulsion, such as DC-Pink or WR-Blue, is recommended by the manufacturer. Remember that both of these methods necessitate the use of diazo. It’ll also help if you degrease the screen before applying the emulsion. In this scenario, the Ecotex All Purpose Chemistry Kit may be more stain-resistant.


  • A ready-to-use ink kit.
  • A light touch on the clothes
  • Low viscosity ink kit (ideal for printing).


  • The activator has a foul odor.
  • It’s a bit pricey.

Watch: How to Screen Print Water Based Ink on T-Shirts

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