This is a full guide to the best screen printing kit, with our top recommendations to get you started.
In this guide you’ll find:
- Our top recommendations for the best screen printing kits – with full reviews, and a sprinkling of youtube demonstration videos to show you how the kits work.
- A bit about what you actually get in a good screen printing kit, as well as the different types of kit available – and more than you probably wanted to know about my college art project.
- Answers to other screen printing related stuff you may be wondering about.
Up for that? Let’s dive in.
Our recommendations are summed up in this table below. So if you want to skip all the other talk and just want to know which screen printing kit to choose, they’re all right here in one place for you.
|Best Photo Emulsion Kit for Fabric Printing||Speedball Advanced All-In-One Screen Printing Kit|
Ideal kit for t-shirts. You can print line drawings, lettering, and photographic half-tone positives on fabric using the photo emulsion process.
Screen: 10 x 14 inches.
Inks: 4 Water-based inks.
View on Amazon or Blick.com*
|Best for Artists, Printmakers and Fabric Printing||Daler-Rowney System 3 Screen Printing Set|
Print hand-drawn, hand traced artwork for posters, ads, artwork, greeting cards, and fabrics using screen drawing fluid.
Screen: 16 x 21 inches.
Inks: 5 water-based acrylic paints and screen drawing fluid.
View on Amazon or Blick.com
|Best for Printing T-Shirts and Small Business Set-Up||DIY Print Shop Screen Printing Kit|
A professional kit for t-shirt printing – ideal for a small business set up. (Poster kit also available.)
Screen: 16 × 20 inches.
Includes a starter press with 14 x14 inches. platen.
Inks: White Plastisol ink (for dark fabrics). Black water-based ink.
View on Amazon* or Blick.com
|Best Introductory Kit | Best Budget Kit||Speedball Introductory Screen Printing Kit|
A fabulous starter kit for a bargain price using paper stencils and the drawing fluid/screen filler methods of screen printing.
Screen: 10 x 14 inches.
Inks: Red, and black fabric, plus acrylic black drawing fluid.
View on Amazon or Blick.com*
Click to jump straight to each topic.
- Why You Need a Screen Printing Kit in Your Life
- What to Look for in a Screen Printing Kit
- The Best Screen Printing Kits Reviewed
- Other Worthy Mentions
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You Need a Screen Printing Kit in Your Life
Would you like to print promotional material for a band/gig or a new business?
Or sell, t-shirts, posters, and more?
Maybe you are looking for a new hobby to unleash all that pent up creativity.
A screen printing kit is the easiest way to learn this craft. And we’ve recommended kits for several other crafts over the few past months.
Why? …Simply because they are the quickest way to really get to grips with what you are supposed to be doing.
You’ll learn way quicker with a good starter kit – not least because they take out all the guesswork, and hours spent trying to work out exactly what materials you are supposed to buy to get yourself set up.
Everything will arrive all together in one box – including easy to follow uncomplicated instructions. So you can open up your kit and start screen printing right away.
Kits also make great gifts for like-minded creative friends!
My Introduction to Screen Printing
Now I won’t be offended if you skip this next bit:
So my introduction to screen printing was in a vast art room, stained multicolored with inks and stacked high with wooden screens. Overhead, endless rows of prints and fabrics were hung to dry on a zigzagging line strung high across the studio. Very different from the set up in a modern t-shirt printing shop.
My college degree is in multi-disciplinary art and design, and my very assignment in textile printing and design was – vegetables!
Not the most inspiring topic. But the effect of my abstract celery (don’t ask me why – I don’t even like celery) magically transforming right in front of me, into something so professional-looking, and so easily replicated, just blew me away – and it was so much fun. I loved it!
But back then it never occurred to me that screen printing was something I could easily do at home. Maybe kits and materials weren’t so easily available then. I don’t know, it was a long time ago.
These days, however, there are some fabulous kits available – no need for college. They come with everything you need to get started – right there in your own kitchen at home.
And if like me, you are crafty, creative, or arty, what better way to bring your creativity to life than to be able to print your own work?
What to Look for in a Screen Printing Kit
Below is a brief explanation of the different types of screen printing that you can try and I’ve also provided a glossary of terms which includes the tools and the types of media that a screen printing kit will typically contain. The contents of each kit will vary according to the type of kit you choose.
My only criticism is that they don’t come with a sheet of glass or acrylic to keep transparencies in place. And for most kits, (with the exception of the DIY kit) you will also need masking tape to keep the ink from running inside the edge of the screen and the frame.
You will also need a good heat source – like an iron, a heat press machine if you have one, or a heat gun. This is an important step you’ll need to take in order to cure your print, once it’s dry.
Different Types of Kits
Below is a simplified rundown of the different methods of screen printing you can use – just so you get the idea of what’s involved.
- Stencil Method | The most basic method, but still very effective. The stencil paper creates a masked-out area which effectively prepares your screen for printing.
- Drawing Fluid and Screen Filler | Draw or paint freehand (or trace directly) on the screen, then use screen filler to create a mask. Once the drawing fluid is washed off, the screen is ready for printing.
- Photo Emulsion | This method requires the screen to be pre-prepared with a light-sensitive emulsion. The design is then UV exposed onto the screen. Once the design is washed off, the screen is ready for printing.
What do the Kits Come with?
A Wooden Screen Frame and Base | Sizes vary between the kits. The Speedball kits are smaller, so check what size comes with each kit to make sure it’s suitable.
Sensitizer | This is a type of activator used in the photo emulsion method. Sensitizer is a dry paste to which you will need to add water and mix well. Just so you know, the bottle may feel empty before you add water, but be assured, it does contain the sensitizer.
You will usually need to mix and use activator in a darkened area unless otherwise stated. (Speedball’s Diazo Photo Emulsion does not require a light safe environment.)
Photo Emulsion | When correctly mixed with a prepared sensitizer, above, photo emulsion will turn from bright blue to green. It can then be applied to the screen. Pro tip – Refrigerating sensitized emulsion will give it a shelf life of 4 months, just make sure it doesn’t freeze.
A Squeegee | Suitable for fabric or paper/card screen printing. Fabric squeegees have a rounded edge and a graphic squeegee will have a square edge.
A Scoop Coater | The DIY kit includes a scoop coater. A scoop coater has a reservoir to hold emulsion. This enables you to apply a nice even coat to the screen more easily.
Screen Printing Inks | Some kits have more of a selection of colors than others. These may be water-soluble inks, fabric inks, or acrylic paints (with a medium that makes them suitable to use). Some kits contain white plastisol (a plastic paint) for a high opacity when printing white on to dark fabrics.
Photo Emulsion Stripper/Remover | Not all kits contain this, but it is used to remove the emulsion and restore your screen back to its original condition for future use.
Exposure lamp and Photoflood Bulb | Your kit may or may not come with a light source depending on whether the print method uses the photo emulsion method or not. If included, kits may contain a UV Bulb and a light safe bulb for a darkroom environment.
Accessories | Kits may also include craft sticks, card and drawing fluid, screen degreaser, and transparencies, etc.
Full Instructions | All kits come with good instructions and there are tonnes of youtube tutorials to follow.
How Do You Make a Screen Print?
There are lots of helpful youtube tutorials out there. And I’ve included a youtube demonstration video for each kit where possible.
If you’d like to watch a quick video to see what the process involves, I recommend this one from Blick Art Materials as a quick introduction to screen printing on a t-shirt. In this case, using a Speedball kit.
So, putting all of this together, let’s look at our recommendations for the best screen printing kits out there right now.
The Best Screen Printing Kits Reviewed
Best Photo Emulsion Kit for Fabric Printing: Speedball Advanced All-In-One Screen Printing Kit
Best Photo Emulsion Kit for Fabric Printing
Ideal for t-shirt printing, this kit has everything you need to screen print on fabric. The kit includes an exposure lamp with a 200 watt photoflood bulb and a clamp.
Note, it doesn’t come with a yellow light safe bulb, and that’s precisely why we love this kit – Speedball’s Diazo Photo Emulsion is formulated so it doesn’t need to be used in a light safe environment.
That means you can work under normal lighting conditions and this saves you having to blackout your windows or resort to just working after dark.
It comes with four, 4oz. jars of water-based fabric ink in black, red, white, blue, and you get a 10 by 14-inch frame. Not the largest printing area out there, but perfectly fine for most people’s needs. If you take a look at the guy’s t-shirt on the box, you will get an idea of the print area we are talking about.
Kit also includes:
- Black, red, white, blue water-based inks.
- Emulsion remover.
- 2x Transparencies, craft stick, and black card.
- Lamp, photoflood bulb, and clamp.
Best for Artists Printmakers and Fabric Printing: Daler-Rowney System 3 Screen Printing Set
Best for Artists Printmakers and Fabric Printing
This is a great kit for printing posters, ads, artwork, greeting cards, or fabrics.
What makes it a bit different is that it uses regular water-based acrylic paints to which a medium is added to transform the paint and make it suitable for textile printing or screen printing paper or card.
Check Price on Blick.com.
If you are arty and like the idea of creating freehand designs, or aspire to become a printmaker, this is the kit for you.
The kit is specifically set up to enable you to hand draw (or hand trace) your designs directly onto the large 16.14″ by 21.65″ screen – using the screen drawing fluid, provided.
The screen is then prepared for printing with a removable screen block which also comes in the kit.
You can see how this kits works in the short demonstration video, below.
Kit also includes:
- 5 Full-sized acrylic paints.
- Textile printing medium.
- Screen printing medium.
- Removable screen block.
Best for Printing T-Shirts and Small Business Set-Up: DIY Print Shop Screen Printing Kit
Best for Printing T-Shirts and Small Business Set-Up
Now first let me say, you are going to need to do a bit of DIY to put this one together, (no pun on the name intended).
The instructions say the 14 x 14-inch platen should be fixed to a table, (so if you don’t have a designated craft table, you might want to consider fixing it to a wooden board instead).
And just in case you didn’t know, the purpose of the platen is to allow you to mount and hold your shirt in place (tacking adhesive is provided) so that you get a perfect print every time and the ink can’t run through to the back.
With this kit, you’ll get a generous 16 × 20 inches screen, allowing for larger prints, a professional 70 Durometer squeegee, and, something the Speedball kit doesn’t come with – a scoop coater.
What’s a Scoop Coater?
A scoop coater is the black colored tool you can see in the image below, it helps you easily apply a nice even coat of emulsion to the screen via its built-in reservoir design.
Unlike the Speedball kit, this kit comes with a sensitizer that is light sensitive – so it needs to be prepared and applied in a darkened room away from light.
For that reason, the kit includes a light-safe bulb and a UV Bulb.
Kit also includes:
- 14 x 14-inch platen.
- 16 × 20-inch screen.
- Screen degreaser and emulsion stripper.
- Black water-based ink.
- White Plastisol ink.
- Cleanup cards, sponge, tape, gloves, pack of 10 parchment paper (so you can cure the shirts with an iron), 2 sheets of Rite Film WP film, and an instruction manual.
And again, you can see how this kit works in this full demonstration video, below -it quite long so you may want to bookmark it for later.
Check the latest price on Amazon.
Best Introductory Kit | Best Budget Kit: Speedball Introductory Screen Printing Kit
Best Introductory Kit | Best Budget Kit
It’s basically a two in one kit:
You’ll be using paper stencils (x50) to make prints. I recommend getting a good die cutting machine if you want to take this method to the net level.
You can also draw freehand (or trace) using drawing fluid and screen filler to create and print your designs.
Kit also includes:
- 10 × 14 inch screen.
- Screen degreaser and emulsion stripper.
- Red and Black ink.
- Acrylic black drawing fluid.
- Screen filler.
- Screen cleaner, marker paper pad, knife*, paintbrush, mixing sticks, and instructions.
* The kit would make a lovely craft gift – but be aware, it contains a knife.
Other Worthy Mentions
The biggest kit we’ve looked at. It comes with Diazo inks which aren’t light sensitive so you don’t need a darkroom. And a 12 x 18 inch screen.
- Red, Blue, White, Black, and Yellow Diazo inks.
- Screenprint with both fabric or paper.
- Comes with enough emulsion to coat at least 10 screens.
This kit has a wrap resistant aluminium frame and the kit is suitable for multi-surface printing.
- 10 x 14 inch screen.
- Self-curing and opaque colors for printing on dark fabric.
- Photo emulsion and Diazo sensitizer
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it easy to screen print at home?
Yes, screen printing is pretty easy! Like learning any new skill, it will take practice to become proficient.
But you should know that it looks way more complicated than it is. There are a few different methods that you can use. The photo emulsion method is a little more involved, so it’s perhaps not the best method to start with.
But once you understand the principles behind each method. The actual process won’t get in the way of your creativity.
Is screen printing expensive?
You really don’t need to spend a small fortune to get started, if you just want the try it out to see how you get on. There are a number of very affordable kits that allow you to do just that.
If you want to print big orders, you will obviously need a more sophisticated set up in order to turn your hobby into a profitable business.
We hope this list of the best screen printing kits has been helpful.
If there’s anything good that you think we’ve missed, or if you have any questions about anything, then let us know down in the comments below.