Screen Printing Ink Vs Fabric Paint

Screen Printing Ink Vs Fabric Paint [No More Confusion]

Screen printing plastisol ink and water-based fabric paint are the most used ink types for the garment printing industry. Plastisol screen printing ink is better for printing on sewed or finished fabric like T-shirts, jackets, bags, sweaters, etc. Water-based fabric paint is better for applying on bulk material. It can be in piece format or roll format.

If you are concerned about choosing between screen printing ink vs fabric paint, you have to know their distinguishing features. Both of them have merits and demerits technically. You have to understand the facts about both the ink type and choose one based on your demand. Learn the differences from this page and alleviate all the confusion.

Screen Printing Ink Vs Fabric Paint: Comparison Table

It is easy to get the overall differences between the two printing inks at one look through the comparison table. So, have an eye at the table.

Screen Printing Ink

Fabric Paint


Hard to touch

Soft to touch

Clogging Chances

Clogging is rare

Clogging is common

Curing Temperature

Higher Temperature

Only Room Temperature


Transparent to very opaque

 Less opaque comparatively

Emulsion Process



Descriptive Differences Between Screen Printing And Fabric Paint

Though fabric printing is possible in both the screen-printing ink and the fabric paint, they are much different. For bulk production of high quality, you have to choose one wisely. So, you must have better knowledge of their differences. Know those distinguishing facts in detail.

  • Type of Ink and Curing Temperature

Screen printing plastisol ink is a thermoplastic solid ink system originated from PVC-based plasticizers. There is no solvent in it. To cure this ink, you have to heat it at a high temperature so that PVC resin molecules can cross-link with a plasticizer to solidify it on the print media. So, to set this ink, you have to put 300-degree Fahrenheit to 330-degrees Fahrenheit.

Screen Printing Ink Vs Fabric Paint

On the other hand, water-based fabric paint is the suspension of dyes or pigment ink where water is present as the solvent. This fabric paint does not need high temperatures like screen printing ink. You have to cure this ink at room temperature or by an air-dryer machine. It depends on the volume or the speed of the production. At a high volume production level, you may have to use the air dryer.

  • Ease of Process

Screen printing ink is more user-friendly than water-based paint. You do not have to wait much to dry the screen for each color. On most of the fabric types, you can use this ink in wet conditions. Actually, there is little or no solvent in the screen-printing ink. Without solvent, ink cannot dry up quickly as it needs to be evaporated with the help of a solvent to be dry.

uses of screen printing ink
Rush Order Tees

There is no need to dry this ink at all. You can apply another layer on the first layer of ink even if it is wet. That is why it is easy to manage. It also prevents clogging. It helps in increasing the rate of ink formulations on dark and light clothes. For this reason, this ink is also reusable. Therefore, it reduces the cost a lot.

In contrast, fabric paint must be dried. It takes lots of time to dry the paint by the evaporation process. Some industries use larger air dryers to increase production, reducing the time requirement. Whereas the screening ink had to go to the required temperature to be cured, it takes very little time to set as soon as it reaches the curing heat. Fixing fabric paint is tougher. You have to dry it up until all the solvent is evaporated.  Fabric paint can easily clog as it takes more time to dry.

  • Disposal

Screen printing ink is simple to dispose. You have to follow the rules and regulations of local regulatory agencies. You can dispose of cure or uncured ink; the disposal is similar. You can dispose of it within the ink bucket or as solidified.

difference between screenprinting ink vs fabric paint
Dalesway Print Technology

The most critical fact for disposal is related to cleaning processes. After completing the printing, you have to ash or clean screens, stencils, squeegees, spatulas, flood bars, and working surfaces. To wash them, you have to use a solvent. As there can occur some environmental effects, you must be careful to dispose of both the solvent and ink disposals. Fortunately, in modern life, the screen printing industry has developed some innovative solvent options to wash the cleansing items and make them environment-friendly.

There were traditional petroleum-based solvents to wash the printing ink. Nowadays, there are different types of eco-friendly solvents, cleaning systems, and filtration available in the market. These things reduce the substantial part of the ink and discharge them into the sewerage system.

On the other hand, fabric paint is already water-based. Many people think that water-based ink can be discharged directly. It is a wrong thought. You have to use more water to wash them. You have to clean all the squeegees, stencils, or screens using water and then discharge them to the sewerage system. It is easier to dispose of than screen printing ink.

  • Preparation

Screen printing ink the most famous for its readiness. It is found in almost all screen printing shops. It is because it is ready to use directly from the container. You do not have to adjust the consistency and the strength of the screen-printing ink as you have to do it for fabric paint.

Screen Printing Ink Vs Fabric Paint
Screen Printing

The strength of this ink comes already adjusted, and it ranges from transparent to super opaque consistency. Most of the screen printers allow printing a wide variety of ink densities depending on the fabric material. In opaque ink, the pigmented version of ink is more than the transparent ink. That is why the opaquer the fabric is, the more costly it is. So if you want to work cost-effectively, you have to know the balance and apply ink with proper opacity.

In the case of fabric paint, it is a water-based ink system. So, it comes in less consistency. You have to mix it with suitable binding agents and other necessary materials. So, it takes a hassle to prepare before beginning the printing job. You also try to gather information about consistency balance. Different fabric requires different viscosity to set the paint on the material.

So, on the term of preparation, screen printing already takes a hassle job to prepare the screen and stencils. But, on the other hand, screen printing ink needs less hassle than fabric paint.

  • Emulsion

Most of the emulsion manufacturers produce water-proof emulsions. This emulsion screening is better for the screen-printing ink than the fabric paint.

Screen Printing Ink Vs Fabric Paint

Fabric paint is water-based, and so it needs water-resistant emulsions. If you use standard emulsions for fabric paint, it will melt the emulsion and destroy the stencil within a few minutes. So, it is risky. If you decide to use fabric paint, you must arrange the water-proof emulsion. In contrast to the screening ink, fabric paint has a short screen life in the emulsion.

In the case of screen-printing ink, you do not have much to worry about. Screening ink can hold great on the emulsion, and it has a long-lasting ability too.

  • Softness to Touch

In terms of softness or feel when touch, fabric paint is a step ahead. Screen printing ink builds up inking films on the fabric after printing which makes a feel for hand. In fact, it is pretty hard to feel. Regarding consumer desire, the rugged feel for printed design is not welcome at all. If you keep it clean while screen printing with this ink, you can reduce this hardness, but there will be such hard films on print media.

screen printing
ART News

Fabric paint is much light to eel by hand. After printing, it seems to be absorbed by the fabric material. As a result, the ink film of the printed design does not have any feel by touch as if it has passed through the fabric. For this soft-touch effect, customers like the fabric paint for screen printing. It is because it increases the style and also comfort.

Top Pick

It is a great confusion to choose between screen printing ink vs fabric paint. You have to make a balance between all the features and your necessity.

Screen Printing Ink Vs Fabric Paint
Empress Mills

If you want the softness on the fabric or feel by hand for the design printing, you should choose the fabric paint. If you have a larger screen printing business, you would like to select the ink type, reducing the preparation and processing hassle and time-saving option. In that case, the screen printing ink is more preferable. So, there is more use of the screening ink on the screen printing shops.


What will be the wise choice in screen printing ink vs fabric paint? It is an important task, but you already have gathered lots of knowledge about their differences and essential features if you go through this page. Know your need and then choose.

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