Block Printing on Fabric (Pt.2): Paints, Inks, and More

Part 2: What Type of Paint Do I Use for Block Printing?


This is Part 2 of my Block Printing on Fabric guide comparing the various blocks for printing as well as inks. You can find Part 1 in the previous post.

Before I get started, I just want to mention that although I have used a lot of these materials extensively and have my own unique process, there are no right or wrong ways to go about printmaking. So feel free to experiment! 

Types of Inks

First off, is it ink? Or paint? Probably ink, but I use both interchangeably so don't get confused :)

You're going to come across a lot of different types of inks when you go pick out your supplies. If you're planning on printing onto fabric you're going to have to pay close attention to labels.

If you google something like 'block printing ink' you'll probably end up with a bunch of listings for ink, but not necessarily what you need. Here's what you need to know:

Speedball brand fabric inks are the most common brand you'll probably see around when you start hunting for supplies. There are a lot of brands out there, some common ones being Versatex by Jacquard and sometimes art stores will have their own store brand inks as well, like Blick. 

Block printing inks for fabric


On top of that, within these brands there are different TYPES of ink, usually for different purposes and various mediums.  

You'll see some that are oil based and some that are water based, some that come in big tubs, and some that come in little squeeze tubes. Some will say block printing and a lot won't. It's hard to figure out what exactly you'll need.


Download Your Block Printing Resources List!

A list of every tool you'll need for creating beautiful block printed fabric <3

So here are the main questions to consider when picking out your ink:

Oil based or water based inks?

Oil based inks can be printed onto fabric or paper. They are much thicker, drier, and stickier than water based inks. This can be good and bad. It's good because these inks stick really well to paper and will give you a beautiful and textured print. It's bad because they also tend to dry up in the tube on occasion, and you can go through a tube fairly quickly.

Another issue with oil based inks is that you may have to wait up to a week for the paint to dry (depending on how thick you made it). If you need to finish a project quickly, then oil based is not the way to go. 

Water based inks can also be printed onto fabric or paper, although they work better on fabric. They are a lot more liquid-y, but still pretty thick as far as water based inks go. They can be a little difficult to print onto paper because the ink is slippery, but it can definitely be done.  

A little bit of ink goes a long way, so you'll get more for your money, and clean up is a breeze..I just use warm water to rinse everything off.

Block printing ink for printmaking on fabric at home


What are you printing on?

If you're printing onto paper, I'd recommend using oil based inks. For fabric you can try either type, but if I had to choose I'd go with water based. Also keep in mind you may want to use linoleum blocks in combination with oil based inks.

If printing on fabric, will you eventually need to wash that fabric?

I say this because once again, you really need to check labels. If your ink's label says "Block Printing Ink" and not much else, then most likely it's for paper and will not hold up through the wash.

The 3 most important things to look for when buying ink
for fabric printing are that the label says:

"Water based/Screen printing ink"

"Heat set"

"For fabric"
(sometimes it will say for fabric and paper, that's ok too)


If it doesn't say 'heat set' or 'fabric', then assume it's for paper printing. Basically you just want to be really sure that once you go to all the trouble of carving and printing your design, it's not just going to wash out of the fabric.


Download Your Block Printing Resources List!

A list of every tool you'll need for creating beautiful block printed fabric <3



Water based screen printing inks are great inks to work with when it comes to block printing on fabric. Oil based inks can be used as well, but are better for use on paper.

I prefer using water based inks for my fabric printing, mostly because oil based inks are stickier, more smelly, and dry much more slowly. Water based inks dry fast, I can set them quickly, and not have to worry about smudging things for the next few days.

That's a quick summary on my experience with inks. If you have anything to add, let me know in the comments below <3