Can You Use Screen Printing Ink for Block Printing?

Block printing is a fantastic way to broaden your horizons as an artist and test out new media. However, once you have your block all carved and ready for your first print, you’ll have to find ink that will adhere well to whatever you are printing. 

While everyone has their preferences for ink, there are several go-tos that most printmakers choose in certain circumstances. Your selection is limited to water-based and oil-based inks, but there are many types, such as screen-printing ink, relief ink, etc. However, you might wonder if you can use inks that aren’t listed as “for block printing” for your block print. 

You can use screen printing ink for block printing. Many block printmakersOpens in a new tab. prefer screen printing ink because it gives them excellent results on flexible materials. However, it comes down to preference, and some people complain about the consistency of screen printing ink for block prints.

So, let’s get into the details and discuss the benefits and disadvantages of using screen printing ink for block printing and look at some tips for printing with screen printing ink in our article Can You Use Screen Printing Ink for Block Printing?

Using Screen Printing Ink for Block Printing: Pros & Cons

There are upsides and downsides to using screen printing ink for block printing, all of which I’ve discussed below:


  • Water-based screen printing inks are the most washable after setting them with heat. 
  • Water-based screen printing inks leave your fabric feeling super soft. 
  • These inks dry down quickly, so you don’t have to worry about smudging your hard work. 
  • You’ll find plenty of diversity when choosing from the screen printing inks available. Various brands make them in a multitude of colors. The same does not apply to relief inks. 
  • Depending on the brand, there’s no reason screen printing inks won’t give you a bold and bright color. 
  • For the same brand, such as SpeedballOpens in a new tab., block printing inks can be more costly than screen printing inks for the same quantity. This fact makes screen printing inks a much more economical choice. 


  • Professionals push screen printing inks through screens, so they tend to run thinner than block printing or relief inks. On the other hand, the latter comes in water- and oil-based formulas to give people the optimal consistency for block printing.
  • You can also find screen printing inks in oil-based forms. However, their strong odor makes them an unsuitable choice for most people. Also, they’re better for use on paper than blocks because their thickness makes them hard to dry down. 
  • A roll brayer or soft sponge roller is necessary when using water-based screen printingOpens in a new tab. inks for block printing. That is because a hard roller will be slippery. Alternatively, you can also use a textile roller because of its grip and reduced absorbency, saving you maximum ink. Here’s some expert advice on what roller to use! 
  • Screen printing ink also lays a bit flatter on paper, but it’s not likely to give you bad results if you’ve got the technique and equipment sorted. 
  • The print from screen printing inks comes out to be a bit textured. 

Tips for Using Screen Printing Ink for Block Printing

As with most art and craft projects, experimentation is the way to success. Sometimes, it’s not the product that’s the problem but the technique used. That is why I’ve compiled a list of things you should keep in mind when using screen printing ink for block printing: 

Test Various Fabrics and Supports

The textile industry produces an abundance of fabrics for you to choose from for block printing. Different materials are suitable for specific uses. You might prefer silk or georgette for a scarf or cotton for a bedsheet or t-shirt. 

Likewise, screen printing ink and block printing work well on thicker, fabric-like papers, and they can do well on tightly woven canvases. 

Regardless of the material you choose, you must perform swatches using your chosen screen printing ink to get a handle on its consistency before working on the final piece. 

Some fabrics, such as cotton, require washing before working on them – otherwise, they’ll shrink. Make sure you don’t use fabric softeners or any other chemicals, though, as they can negatively impact ink absorption on the fabric.   

Explore Different Block Printing Techniques

You’ll find various block printing techniques involving linoleum, woodcut, rubber stamps, and many other items. Also, you might be looking to make a repeated pattern or something else. 

You could also play around with different steps, such as: 

  • Washing the fabric or not
  • Mixing inks from various brands in several ratios
  • Using modifiers to change the consistency of the ink
  • Heat-set the ink using an iron or dryer

The difference in your technique could make all the difference, so make sure to experiment without any fear! 

Dana Harris SeegerOpens in a new tab.

Choose the Right Ink

Using the right screen printing ink can make all the difference in your work. When purchasing screen printing inks, you should consider their ease of application, longevity, and sustainability. HereOpens in a new tab. are some screen printing inks tried and tested by an expert. 

Know That Small Mistakes Are Okay

Some people tend to be perfectionists and get worked up over minor smudges and messy edges. It’s essential to recognize that every artwork is unique to its artist because of these minute things. 

Due to its consistency, screen printing ink may run more than relief inks, so you should expect some uneven lines unless you prepare the surface with a removable adhesive. 

You can also use a cotton bud to clean these spots and cover them with buttons or patches. It’s also completely acceptable to leave it and embrace it as your unique work of art. 

Don’t Forget To Heat Set!

I can’t put enough stress on the importance of heat settingOpens in a new tab. your block print after completing it. Heat setting guarantees that your print lasts for a long time by binding and adhering the ink to the support fibers. 

Also, keep in mind that there are various heat-setting techniques, including an iron, a tumble dryer, or a drying tunnel. Make sure you test your chosen method on the swatches you made in the initial steps before using it on your final work. 

Once you have heat-set your artwork, you’re free to do anything with your final product. You can sell it as it is, sew it, or even wash it. 

Final Words

To sum it up, popular opinion is that screen printing inks are pretty suitable for block printing. These are abundantly available in plenty of colors, meaning you’re bound to find an ink ideal for your taste and work.

However, it’s crucial to research different screen printing ink brands and test their quality before purchasing your ink. Experiment some, and you’re guaranteed to get satisfactory results! 


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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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