Printing on fabric/textiles

Dear Letterpress Community,
I’ve been printing on paper for 2 years now and recently tried a design on cotton using a Pilot Press. The prints came out beautifully, although Van Son Rubber Base Plus inks faded after a few washings. Any advice on pre or post treating products to prevent the ink from washing out? Or shall I move on to a different ink and printing method all together? Any advice would be much appreciated, thank-you!

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You need a textile ink….perhaps a silk screen ink would work.

As I’m sure you are aware, screenprinting is the standard way of printing on textiles. It is cheap, easy and lasts a long time.

I’d say that if you plan on doing more than a handfull of shirts, or plan on selling them, screenprinting is the way to go. With research, the right ink, and a bit of practice, you don’t need any expensive equipment to print sharp, bright and long-lasting shirts.

For technical advise, the forums at are the best place to look… any question you can think of has been answered many times over by people who know what they are doing. Come over and we’ll help you out with what supplies you need and where to get them for cheap.


Can textile ink be used on a press? Or is Silkscreening a better method?

Great! Thanks Kim and Girl w/ a kluge!

Screenprinting ink is a lot thinner than letterpress ink, I don’t think any of the screenprinting inks I’ve used would work with letterpress. There might be some out there that would work, but I say go for the real thing…

For $100-150 you could get two aluminum screens, a squeegee, scoop-coater, Ulano QTX emulsion w/remover and ink.

For $50-75 extra you can get exposure and washout as well, but you likely already have what you need. I expose my screens with a $20 worklight (with the protective glass taken off) and the glass from a $25 frame. With a garden hose you can wash out your screen in the back yard. If you don’t have a place to blast your screens with a hose, throw it in a plastic bag, seal it up and go to your nearest car wash. I did that for a year.

You’ll have everything I listed, with exception of the screens, with a trip to any well stocked Dick Blick and a hardware store.

I suggest you stay far away from the speedball screens you find at art-supply stores. They are just as expensive as a real screen at the same size, but their mesh is very rough, bad quality, poorly stretched and the wooden frame will fall apart and warp. An aluminum screen will last you for years with the right care.


Screen printing is the way to go. Van son makes a tough tex ink that will not wash out, i’ve used it to print a couple of shirts on my c&p. Dick G.

i’m with gigimarieh — i’ve got carved blocks i want to print on t-shirts using my c&p. i’ve done one as a tester, and the gans polyacrylic ink that came with my press is lasting pretty well. i’d be happy for suggestions for better inks to use, however.


Martha, talk to an ink supplier, they will tell you the best ink to get. When you print t-shirts make sure you put a sheet of paper in the middle of the shirt so it doesn’t come thru the other side. Dick G.

thank you, dick! i always appreciate the advice you give on here.


try an oil based ink, most likely soy ink, in a dark color. Some colors are more fugitive than others, look for pantone numbers preceded by a zero which are supposedly less likely to fade. This is based on light fade, but may apply to washing as well. Oil based inks should fix better, and soy based are supposed to be “laser safe after 72 hours” so they are supposed to fix harder on the paper. Perhaps some of those characteristics will carry through to the fabric printinng. Wait 72 hours before laundering. Let us know what results you get.