How to Thin Screen Printing Inks

By Meg Butler
One way to mix screen printing ink is to apply it to clothing.

Screen printing ink often comes from the manufacturer thick and paste-like. This high concentration of pigment is a sign of high quality ink. However, it can be difficult to work with and tough to get through the screen. To increase its viscosity, you must thin the ink with a thinner. The type of thinner depends on the type of ink. Read the label carefully before adding the thinner. Using the wrong product may render the ink unusable.

Open the ink container and mix it well with a paint shaker, high speed power mixer or paint mixer drill bit for 10 minutes.

Add the ink thinner. Most acrylic inks are thinned with water, but always read the label to be sure. Always use the exact thinner specified by the manufacturer. Start small. Add no more than 1 teaspoon water or thinner — or the amount specified by the thinner's instructions.

Stir the ink with a paint paddle or an electric shaker or mixer for one to two minutes.

Check the consistency. If the ink is still too thick, add more thinner, 1 teaspoon at a time — or as directed. Mix well after each addition.

Record the ratio of thinner to ink that gave you your desired result.

Mix the ink according to the instructions in step one each time you remove it from storage and use it again.

Tip

Go slowly. You can always add more thinner, but thickening thinned ink is more difficult. Signs that your ink is too thin: the screen print smears, the screen print's edges look blurred, the ink looks mottled, the ink bubbles as it goes through the screen.

About the Author

Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.