Purpose In this study, it is aimed to synthesize ultraviolet (UV)-curable water-borne polyurethane acrylate (WPUA) binders using different types of polyols (poly (propylene glycol), PPG(1000)and PPG(2000)and poly (ethylene glycol), PEG(1000)and PEG(2000)) at different molecular weights, DMPA (2,2-bis(hydroxymethyl) propionic acid) at different amounts and isophorone diisocyanate (IPDI) and use for pigment printing on synthetic leather. Design/methodology/approach UV-cured films were characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and differential scanning calorimeter (DSC). The effect of binder structure on printing performance was determined with hardness, crock fastness, abrasion resistance and color measurements. Findings The highest abrasion resistance (60,000 cycles) and crock fastness values (dry crock and wet crock: 3/4) were obtained with binder PEG-C synthesized with PEG(2000)and lower DMPA amount of 4.89 wt%; however, PEG-C binder showed lower hardness values. Due to lower urethane groups in PEG-C binder, more flexible films were obtained which imparted good adhesion property to printing film. Synthesized binders provided lower crock fastness and abrasion resistance properties than commercial WPUA binder. Originality/value Pigmented formulations including UV-curable water-borne synthesized PUA binder were developed and for the first time applied onto synthetic leather using screen printing method. Within this context, a new environmentally friendly printing method was proposed in this study including binder synthesis in the preparation of printing formulations.