Best screen printing kit: The top 5 choices of the year

Angie Renner
Published by 
Angie Renner
Last updated: 
January 3, 2024

If you love creating art and designing t-shirts, it’s high time to consider a screen printing kit. For some people, it is merely a hobby. For others, it might be a home business venture. If you have been looking into designing t-shirts or home decor, screen printing is the best option for a few reasons.

Screen printing is great for projects of any scale with the right kit. A single screen can be used for various designs or you can use the same design over and over again. If you choose quality inks, like plastisol ink, it will increase the durability of your print. At first, the whole process can seem like a daunting task. You must follow specific steps for creating a stencil for your shirts using photo emulsion or vinyl on a silk screen. Once you get the hang of the process, you will easily create incredible and long-lasting designs.

Above all, the most crucial step to screen printing is finding the best screen printing kit for you. Couldn't you just buy the components and make a kit yourself? Sure. But the huge advantage of purchasing a quality screen printing kit is that you can get started right away. We're here to help you find the best screen printing kit for your projects.

What Is Screen Printing?

Creating a stencil for your t-shirts requires you to choose between two particular methods. On the one hand, using photo emulsion is common but is also more time-consuming. On the other hand, vinyl cutting is less popular but very simple and effective.

Photo emulsion

Photo emulsion includes particular products and steps you need to follow very carefully. While cutting vinyl is a more straightforward process, it is also much less popular, so we won't be discussing it here. If you'd like to know more about cutting out vinyl stencils or the whole process, however, there are some excellent instructional videos on Youtube.

Step 1: Preparing your image

First, print the image on transparency paper. Remember that laser printing the image is the only way to accomplish a pure design that will show on transparency paper or films.

Next, cover a screen with emulsion in a dark room and let it sit for four to six hours. Then place your image on top of the screen and expose it to light from a 250-watt bulb. The screen will only need to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until there is a faint outline of the image imprinted in the emulsion.

Finally, return to the dark space and rinse the screen thoroughly to reveal your picture. Be sure to let it dry before putting the print to use.

Step 2: Printing your image

Creating the base for the picture using photosensitive emulsion is the most time-consuming part of the process. Everything else is straightforward. First, put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt, line it up correctly, and place the screen firmly over the shirt. After you prepare everything, you can apply a small amount of ink and use a squeegee to push the ink into the shirt. Finally, you'll need to swipe the ink in a few different directions to ensure it is covered appropriately.

Step 3: Setting the design and cleanup

When all of these steps are finished, you can pull off the screen and place parchment paper over the design on the t-shirt. Iron over the parchment paper to set the design. You also don’t want to forget to wash your screen so you can use it again. You can even clean the emulsion off the screen to apply a new design.

What Should You Look for in a Screen Printing Kit?

Screen Printing Kit

Each screen printing kit is different. Some are extremely basic and may not contain everything you need. In general, these kits usually come at a lower price with all the essentials, such as screens, squeegees, and an emulsion. However, they may be missing the appropriate lighting accessories or inks.

In case you're unsure what you'll need for the whole process we wanted to give you a quick list of all the essentials you need in an emulsion screen printing kit. That way, you will know what you need to pick up to fill in any blanks. For a vinyl kit, the only additional thing you may need is a vinyl cutting machine, which I will explain in the reviews.

If you want to do emulsion screen printing, these are the basics that you will need.

  • Screen and frame
  • Photo emulsion and sensitizer
  • Squeegee
  • Scoop coater
  • Silkscreen fabric ink
  • Transparency paper
  • 250-watt bulb
  • Latex gloves
  • T-shirts
  • Cardboard
  • Makeshift black room

How We Reviewed

Screen Printing Designs

These screen printing kit reviews are not in any particular order. They all have something to offer. Additionally, they're not all the same as far as the items included. Some are very basic, and others are more advanced. Some will cover everything you will need, and others will require additional tools.

We looked at the specs for each kit. And then we factored in customer reviews. 

How Much Will You Pay for a Screen Printing Kit?

There's an incredible variety of screen printing kits on the market. Some can exceed $2,500, like the Riley Hopkins Jr tabletop press. For this list we will be focusing on much more affordable kits you can consider as a new or intermediate screen printer. Basic and reliable kits like these will cost anywhere from $50 to $450.

The price all depends on what is in the bundle, as well as the quality of the materials. All kits will include what you need to make the stencil. But they may not always include silk screen fabric inks, proper lighting, or a press. But in some cases that might be for the best. Then you will be able to do a little extra shopping and pick out the press, cutting machine, and inks that will work best for your project.

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Our Top 5 Screen Printing Kits

We wanted to include a fantastic variety for all budgets and interests. Many of us are interested and think of taking up screen printing on a small scale for personal projects. So in that case, a small kit with the basics would work very well. Other people will be interested in taking screen printing a little bit more seriously and will want high-quality materials. They will also be willing to pay a bit more. Choosing the best screen printing kit for you will all depend on your level of interest in the hobby.

1. Simple Bundle Screen Printing Kit

The first screen printing bundle is more than enough to get you screen printing like a professional. It comes with all the basics and plenty of materials to work with several designs at once. There is also a particular substance to remove the emulsion safely from the screen to prepare for a new design.

The kit includes:

  • Four 10.5-inch by 15-inch metal frames
  • Four 16-inch by 20-inch metal frames
  • Photosensitive emulsion
  • Two emulsion scoop coaters
  • Four spatulas
  • Eight squeegees
  • Twenty sheets of transparency paper
  • Graphic blackening agent
  • One roll of aluminum tape
  • Pallet adhesive
  • White paste
  • Transparent base
  • Pigments colors include: black, blue, red, green, and yellow
  • Emulsion removal powder

As you can see, it seems like this simple bundle screen printing kit has everything you might need. The only things missing are a press, latex gloves, and light bulbs. You could consider buying or making a press.

Since there is a lot to see with this bundle, it is a bit expensive. But even without the press, customers loved this kit.

2. Speedball Advanced All-In-One Screen Printing Kit

If you're looking for an ultimate kit for printing t-shirts at home, the printing kit by DIY Print Shop is hard to beat. It has everything you could need in a screen printing kit. If you're an absolute beginner, this may be perfect. Ryonet has a fantastic instructional video to walk you through the process.

Speedball Advanced All-In-One Screen Printing Kit s:

  • 14-inch by 14-inch DIY Starter Press
  • 16-inch by 20-inch wood framed screen
  • One UV bulb
  • 10-inch squeegee.
  • 11-inch scoop coater.
  • A 15-foot roll of 2-inch screen tape
  • One pint of emulsion
  • Light safe bulb for darkroom environment
  • One pint white plastisol ink
  • One pint black water-based ink
  • Degreaser
  • Emulsion stripper.
  • Supreme wash
  • Pallet adhesive
  • Scrub pad
  • Four pairs of disposable latex gloves
  • Ten ultimate cleanup cards.
  • Two sheets of 16-inch by 24-inch parchment paper
  • A 10-pack of Rite Film WP film.
  • One Allmade aluminum gray large tri-blend T-shirt

DIY Print Shop has undoubtedly covered their bases with this kit. It is the best kit for beginners because it has everything. But even though it includes everything you will need, it does not contain as many inks or screens as the last kit. The only screen is wood framed which won’t hold up as well over time. So it comes at a lower price.

3. Caydo 23 Pieces Screen Printing Starter kit

The Caydo 23 Pieces Screen Printing Starter kit  is much different from the options listed so far. You will not be using an emulsion of any kind with this kit. Instead, you will be working with vinyl which is much simpler and chemical free. However, you will need a Cameo screen printing machine to print out your stencils.

This is a unique method for screen printing at home, but it's not widely used by professionals or anyone printing on a large scale. The vinyl stencils don't last as long as a photosensitive emulsion.

Caydo 23 Pieces Screen Printing Starter kit:

  • 10-inch by 14-inch wood frame screen
  • Blue tape
  • Eight Speedball ink colors: black, blue, yellow, red, white, green, gold, and silver
  • Squeegee
  • Hook tool
  • Scaper tool
  • Transfer paper
  • Six-foot roll of vinyl
  • The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Screen Printing
  • Instruction guide

Overall, this is the best screen printing kit you could buy if you don’t want to deal the with emulsion process. It will require a vinyl cutting machine, which adds to the cost. The machine has a few different uses because you can also use vinyl prints for home decor, on cups, or for scrapbooking.

4. Speedball SB4526 Screen Printing

The Spe​​edball screen printing kit is a popular kit for beginners or those screen printing at home. It's extremely basic which makes it very easy to use. The best use for this kit is small scale projects. It is a minimal kit, but is effortless and would be fun to use with kids.

Instead of printing an image and using light to sear it into the emulsion, you use drawing fluid to paint the image on the screen. Then you can coat it with the emulsion and wash away the drawing fluid. The whole process is simple, but not always as precise.

The Speedball SB4526 screen printing kit includes:

  • 10-inch by 14-inch screen
  • Red and black inks
  • Drawing fluid
  • Screen filler
  • Speed clean
  • Photo emulsion
  • Sensitizer
  • Squeegee
  • Round brush
  • Craft sticks

The Speedball screen printing kit is a breeze to use and very affordable. It only costs about $45 to $50 for a single set. While it is trendy for home use, it is not as impressive as some of the other kits on the market.

5. Speedball Advanced All-In-One Screen Printing Kit

The Speedball screen printing kit is a fantastic set that includes a press, unlike many of the others. The press uses hot-swap technology for multi-colored designs. The whole process is similar to many of the others that use emulsion. The press will make it much easier to set your design in place.

The Speedball kit includes:

  • Printing press
  • Exposure unit with build in light and timer (which includes light bulbs)
  • 10-inch by 14-inch metal frame screen
  • Squeegee
  • Ten sheets of transparency film
  • Dual-core emulsion
  • Scoop coater
  • Emulsion remover
  • Instructional DVD
  • Black water-based ink
  • White water-based ink

While this kit is handy and easy to use, it comes at a higher price. The higher price is attributed to the heavy-duty printing press included in the kit. Keep in mind that the heavy press will also come with additional shipping costs.

Using a Screen Printing Kit Will Make Designing T-shirts a Breeze

Woman Screen Printing

Screen printing at home might seem like a difficult task. After learning a little about using photosensitive emulsion, you might shy away from the whole idea. But we can promise it's much easier than it looks. There are plenty of resources that will help you along the way and make learning how to screen print a breeze.

Before you know it, you will be creating your designs and wearing them or giving them to friends and family. You don’t need to be a professional to make professional looking t-shirts. You might even be inspired to try it on different kinds of clothing.

We would love to hear about your favorite screen printing kit in the comment section below!