Screen Printing with Speedball Ink on 100% Polyester or Dri Fit Shirts

Jan 14, 2021 | Cricut Projects, Heat Setting, Ink, Screen Printing, Screen Printing Press, Vinyl Projects


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screen printing polyester water based ink

If you are new to screen printing, you may be ready to try the process on 100% polyester or dri fit type shirts. I have some tips to share with you before you give it a try. 

screen printing vinyl cricut how to dri fit

Supplies Needed for Screen Printing with Vinyl

If you are just getting started with screen printing using vinyl cut on your Cricut or Silhouette, this beginner’s screen printing with vinyl kit includes the basic supplies you need to get started.

Listen as I explain the challenges of screen printing on polyester with Speedball fabric ink.

Screen Printing on 100% Polyester

Screen printing with water-based inks on polyester material can be tricky.  You may have printed a shirt only to find that the ink doesn’t stay vibrant after it dries.  This is a common issue with polyester shirts.

I have found that it is possible to screen print with water-based ink on polyester but you just need to be selective on the ink colors you use.  In this post, I am screen printing a few different shirts to show you what you can expect.

screen printing polyester cricut vinyl diy home

Black Water-Based Ink on Polyester

Let’s start with the easiest one first.  Screen printing with dark color Speedball fabric inks on lighter color polyester shirts is my preference.  The black ink soaks into the polyester material nicely, leaving a smooth, bright color.  Just like screen printing on cotton t-shirts, the black ink works perfectly on this grey shirt.

I am using a 1-color press for this project.  It takes the guesswork out of screen printing.  If you lift the screen and see a spot that needs more ink, you can lower the screen to add more.  This isn’t possible when you’re screen printing with a loose frame on a table. 

screen printing drifit 100% polyester cricut

After the ink air dries, be sure to heat press your shirt.  This cures the ink so it will hold up in the wash.  I use the same settings for polyester shirts as I do for cotton. 

Heat press at 320 degrees for 40 seconds.

It should all be this easy, right?  Unfortunately, it’s not. 

Continue reading to see what happens with other ink colors.

screen printing drifit material orange die migration

Orange Ink on Navy or Dark Color Polyester Shirts

You might get excited when you screen print with orange, yellow or white inks on a dark polyester shirt – only to become disappointed in the final result.  This orange print looks great to while the ink is still wet. 

HOLD ON!!  What happened to my great print when the ink started to dry???

As the orange ink starts to dry, you’ll notice it becomes dull looking.

screen printing dark shirt easy press what happened

What is Dye Migration?

Dye migration happens when the dye from polyester fibers starts to seep into the ink on your shirt.  When your ink starts bright and becomes dull, it is because of dye migration. 

Usually dye migration is brought on by heat.  Your print might look great but as soon as you heat set it (to cure the ink), you end up losing some of your color. 

If you own a screen printing shop or get lots of requests for polyester shirts, you might look into low cure inks or inks that are specially formulated for using with polyester.

If you are like me, and only plan to print on polyester occasionally, you may not want to invest in more inks. 

screen printing white ink speedball opaque polyester

Speedball Opaque Fabric Inks on Polyester Shirts

I have found that you can still use water-based Speedball fabric ink on polyester.  The solution…. try using Speedball opaque fabric ink colors

The opaque pearl white looks great on the press and even dries with a bright white.  I did notice some dye migration after heat setting this shirt.  It looks more like a light grey now.  For this design, I think it looks great.

screen printing with vinyl heat set easy press

This opaque pearl ink works well on lighter color shirts too.  I did not notice any dye migration or fading on this grey shirt. 

After heat setting this grey shirt with opaque pearl ink, the white still looks bright. 

speedball white opaque pearl ink how to use

Tips for Screen Printing on 100% Polyester or Dri Fit Material

  • Use a dark ink on lighter color shirts whenever possible.  You’ll avoid the headache of dye migration altogether!
  • Use a screen printing press as opposed to screen printing on a table with a loose frame.  The press will allow you to add an extra layer of ink (using a heat gun to dry in between).  This will create a brighter ink. 
  • Try Speedball opaque inks when screen printing on dark polyester.
  • If you are selling your shirts and really want to achieve a better print on polyester, look for a low cure screen printing ink.

athletic shirt screen printing with vinyl tips

Did you find this information helpful?

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which screen printing ink paint to use speedball waterbased

3 Comments

  1. Great video, think I am now willing to try some polyester.

    Reply
  2. Thank you! I had emailed you with a question about this recently. I’m trying to print on a dri-fit shirt, and could get the color to stay. I was about to use sports HTV, but prefer using ink.

    Reply
  3. i really appreciate your tips! thank you.

    Reply

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