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Stand Out With Speciality Screen Printing Inks

The new year might have you thinking about fresh collections and ways to push your brand forward. In the busy independent clothing label market sometimes an original design alone is not enough to set you apart, that’s where speciality screen printing inks come in. Here’s a little breakdown of some of the most popular options available here at 3rd Rail.


These inks are chemically designed to puff up when cured which basically means that they become raised when they reach the correct temperature. Popular in the 80’s this process works really well with large and bold designs but also as a final accent colour in a multi layer print.

Puff screen printing ink
A close up of the finish you can achieve with puff ink (left). Disco Pigs Apparel recently used puff inks on one of their long sleeve t-shirts (right).

Not so much an ink as a transfer flock is a way of adding a soft velour like texture to a design. The process works by first screen printing an adhesive base before applying small synthetic or natural fibres and heat pressing to seal, for a more fluffy finish we would recommend cad cut transfers. Flock is available in a variety of colours and can be combined with other printed areas on a garment.

Screen printed flock
Examples of the types of effects that can be achieved with flock.

The pigment in fluorescent ink works by absorbing UV energy and transmitting it as longer waves. The inks can be fairly transparent so almost always require either a base or double hit but the final outcome is striking, particularly on dark garments.

Fluorescent screen printing ink
An example of a design which uses two fluorescent colours being screen printed here at 3rd Rail.
Glow in the Dark

Glow in the dark or photo luminescent inks owe their magic to phosphors –  a chemical that absorbs energy and re-emits it as visible light. Though glow in the dark inks can be produced in a variety of colours the human eye is most sensitive to green light so this will appear brightest hence its popularity as a default shade.

Glow in the dark screen printing ink
These t-shirts screen printed for digital creative agency Phantom had a final glow in the dark layer added to the print.

Metallic inks are made up of a mixture of pigment and a liquid resin system. The traditional metallic appearance is usually achieved by using a mixture of copper and zinc with the proportions determining the final shade of the colour. The pigments have to be ground so that they are fine enough to pass through the mesh of a screen which makes them less brilliant than using a process such as foiling however the final results are much longer lasting.

metallic screen printing ink
Examples of how both gold and silver metallic screen printing inks can be used in designs on garments.

Reflective ink has seen a steady rise in popularity particularly in sportswear fuelled by the release of the first Nike Flash Jacket a few years ago. You may recall our post about how cycling brand Hitteur were using it in their range as a way of introducing road safety into their clothes but since then we’ve seen it being requested by fashion and sports brands alike. The ink is made up of a lycra binder mixed with light reflecting glass beads.

Reflective Screen Printing Ink
Bandanas screen printed with reflective ink.


If you would like more information about any of the inks mentioned above drop us an email at