Screen Printing White Ink on Dark Fabric

Mar 26, 2020 | Beginner Tutorials, Cricut Projects, Ink, Screen Printing, Screen Printing Press, Vinyl Projects


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This post is sponsored by Hanes Brands Inc. The project, process and opinions are all mine.

speedball white ink wich one how to

When learning to screen print at home, you might grab a jar of white ink and make your first print on a dark shirt.  This is exactly what I did – my very first screen printing tutorial was a black shirt with white ink. You lift up the screen for the very first time and you’re amazed – screen printing works!  But, if you’re a perfectionist, like me, you may notice some imperfections.

White ink is tricky to master. Even veteran screen printers will tell you, white ink is not easy!

What I wish I knew before attempting my first screen printing project

Before we dive into this tutorial – If you are brand new to screen printing and attempting your first project, don’t start with white inkLearn how to screen print with black ink (or another dark color).  You’ll get the feel for the process and have more success with black ink on a light color shirt.  Once you’ve mastered the process, white ink is definitely something you can tackle.  The key, I have found, is having the right supplies and equipment.

screen printing white ink speedball comparison tutorial

Yes, you can screen print with white ink on your table with just your 10×14 Speedball frame… BUT, you need to know what type of results you can expect.  In this tutorial, I want to show you what white ink looks like on dark shirts – using 2 different types of Speedball fabric inks and 2 different processes.

Choosing a White Screen Printing Ink

Speedball has 2 different types of white fabric ink: White Fabric Ink and Opaque Pearl Fabric Ink.  These 2 inks will give you different results, so I’m going to compare them side-by-side to help you decide which one you like better. There are projects that I immediately grab the regular white ink and there are projects when I want to use the opaque ink.  Hopefully this post will help you understand the different effects and results of each.

There are other brands of white ink available.  I have stuck with the Speedball inks in this tutorial because I find they are easy to find in your local craft stores (or on Amazon) and they are water-based – which is easier for newbie screen printers (requires less equipment).

screen printing techniques white ink

Top Two Issues When Screen Printing with Speedball White Fabric Ink (and how to solve them)

Issue #1: Getting enough ink on the shirt to cover the dark color fabric

You can start screen printing with just a simple screen printing frame, squeegee, and fabric ink.  Using my process of adhesive vinyl cut on my Cricut, you can skip the traditional screen printing steps that involve chemicals and exposing the screen.

With these basic supplies, you can lay your shirt on a flat surface.  Then, place the screen (vinyl attached) on top of the shirt.  Squeegee ink over the screen and lift to reveal your screen printed shirt!  The challenge with this is…you get one shot.  Once you lift the screen, it’s practically impossible to put it back on the shirt to add more ink.  As a result, beginners may find that white ink doesn’t cover the fabric very well.

white ink screen printing tutorial

The Solution: Invest in a 1-Color Screen Printing Press and Heat Gun (or Flash Dryer)

Whether you are using white ink or opaque pearl ink, the key to getting a solid, bright white is the 1-color screen printing press. If you’ve followed my other tutorials, you may have noticed this contraption – it’s basically a hinge that holds my screen.  It allows you to lower the screen and squeegee a coat of ink.  Then, you can lift the screen and check your shirt.  If you need more ink, just lower it back down for another coat.  The press will line up the design in the exact same spot each time you lower the screen – something you just can’t do when you screen print on a table.

With white ink and my 1-color screen printing press, I squeegee a coat of ink.  I lift the screen and use my heat gun (or my new Ryonet Flash Dryer) to quickly dry the ink.  Then, I lower the screen and add another coat of white ink.  I repeat this process 2 or 3 times until I get a solid white coverage.

screen printing white ink tutorial speedball opaque pearl

Left: Opaque ink printed on table. Right: Opaque ink layered using press.

Using this method, I find that the regular white ink layers on thick while the opaque ink has a softer feel.  You may also find that the white ink will crack after a few times in the wash.  If you are looking for a bright white ink that doesn’t crack, I recommend using the Speedball Opaque Fabric Ink with your 1-Color Press.

how to screen print white ink

Issue #2: Dye migration

Dye migration happens during the heat setting process.  You may have a shirt that looks great, but when you cure the ink, you notice that the fabric color seeps into the white ink.  This can make your white ink look pink on a red shirt. Just when you though you were finishing up your project, you have shirt that doesn’t look perfect.

Dye migration can be avoided by choosing a high quality t-shirt blank.

screen printing tips beginners comfort wash blank tshirts

The Solution: Choosing the Best Shirt Blank for Screen Printing

The first key to getting the best results with white ink on dark shirts is choosing a quality blank.  When I’m screen printing white ink, in particular, choosing a blank that will respond well to the ink is important.  Comfort Wash by Hanes is a 100% Ringspun Cotton shirt made with a proprietary process that minimizes dye migration.

Using a high quality blank shirt, will be a huge help in getting good results with white ink!  Here’s where I like to purchase my Comfort Wash blanks.

The Process

Take a look at my process for screen printing white ink on 3 different color shirts (black, navy and red).  Turn your sound on to hear me explain the process as I go!

The Results

Here’s a closer look at each of the results.  This felt like a true science experiment – 3 different color shirts, 2 different types of ink, and 2 different methods of screen printing.  Hopefully seeing the results of each will help you get a better idea of what to expect when you are screen printing at home!

Round 1: White Ink on Black Shirts

screen printing white ink black shirts comfort wash

Speedball White Ink on Table, No Screen Printing Press

screen printing white ink dark shirt

Speedball White Opaque Ink on Table, No Screen Printing Press

screen printing beginner tips tutorial

Speedball White Ink Using Screen Printing Press

white ink tshirt screen printing

Speedball Opaque White Ink Using Screen Printing Press

how to screen print on dark fabric

Round 2: White Ink on Navy Shirts

screen printing white ink navy shirts comfort wash

Speedball White Ink on Table, No Screen Printing Press

screen printing white on navy

Speedball White Opaque Ink on Table, No Screen Printing Press

screen printing white ink closeup

Speedball White Ink Using Screen Printing Press

how to get solid white screen printing ink

Speedball Opaque White Ink Using Screen Printing Press

how to screen print white speedball ink

Round 3: White Ink on Red Shirts

screen printing white ink red shirts comfort wash

Speedball White Ink on Table, No Screen Printing Press

how to screen print white ink on red

Speedball White Opaque Ink on Table, No Screen Printing Press

what to expect screen printing white ink

Speedball White Ink Using Screen Printing Press

screen printing white ink close up

Speedball Opaque White Ink Using Screen Printing Press

speedball opaque white ink how to good results

I hope that seeing these examples will help you choose the process and inks that will help you get the result you desire.

Do you have any tricks (or questions) for working with white ink?  Share in the comments below!

6 Comments

  1. This is amazing. I love the step by step. You have explained the process of each product of the shirt with the ink and the results. I can only imagine all the work, but you have given us such great information. Im loving the new website as well. I learn better visually and hands on, so with this tutorial, i feel like you are right next to me telling me what and how to do it. 🙂 thanks a million!

    Reply
    • Thank you! This means so much! I’m glad to hear it was easy to follow along. I am having a blast sharing everything I’ve learned about screen printing. It’s even more rewarding after reading your comment and knowing that it’s helping other crafters!!

      Reply
  2. Yes!! Thank you for your thorough and easy to follow tutorials. I am learning so much and I have you to thank for that!! I am new to white, this was only my second time, and first time on black. Have you ever had the problem that I just learned is called fibrillation? I am wondering if maybe my screen was not taut enough. I was using Bella Canvas tee’s, black and white speedball opaque ink. I tried drying with the heatgun in between layers, I don’t know if maybe I didn’t wait for it to cool and that had an affect on the screen? Was wondering if you had any input. I am going to try tightening all my screens today and see how that works.

    Reply
  3. I watched your you tube video… do you have one that details out setting up the press?

    Reply

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