Understanding Screen Printing Basics (What is Screen Printing, Anyway?)

Custom printed tees

The history of screen printing goes all the way back to the first century when crude methods were used and then refined by printers in Asian countries. Today, the business of screen printing onto garments serves the promotional needs of companies, sports teams, and groups of all types.

Screen printing is the fastest, most efficient, and most durable form of decorating T-shirts, apparel items, tote bags, bandannas, and other fabric products. Here are some other things about the process of screen printing and the steps that are taken to make sure a product turns out perfectly that you may want to know before choosing screen printing for your promotional item needs:

3 Things You May Not Know About Screen Printing

1. Screen printing is an artistic process.

Screen printing begins with exposing a film containing the printed artwork to a special screen made of a mesh material using UV light. This creates a negative image on the mesh that will allow ink to pass through the clear areas, or areas where the artwork exists in the original. After the screen is exposed, washed out, and dried, the screen is ready for ink application. The preparation of the ink is a specialized process that varies depending on fabric colour and material, equipment used, and other factors that printing experts can identify.

The screens are registered and mounted on a screen printing machine and a test print is made; if all looks good, printing can proceed. A person on a manual printer, or in more recent years, an automatic screen printing machine, applies the inks—an effective innovation that allows companies to print many products throughout the course of a day. After the first color is dried with a flash cure unit, the second color can be screen printed onto the material. The garments are put into conveyor dryer with infrared heat that cures the ink making sure the print will last a long time.

2. Graphic designers are part of the screen printing process.

After a customer decides on the design and colour he or she wants on their t-shirts, a graphic designer separates the colours onto a special film, which is then attached to a screen. After a detailed process of preparing the screen and mixing colours, the operator applies the inks to the t-shirts via a screen printing machine. Once this step is complete, the inks are then dried and the completed order is prepared for the customer. More advanced methods include the use of i-Image screen printer, where the image is prepared with more technologically-advanced digital practices, and the colour separated image is then printed directly onto the screens eliminating the need for films.

3. Screen printing is done one color at a time.

During the screen printing process, one color is applied at a time. For each colour of a design, an additional screen is used this is why the artist has to separate the ink colours in the art preparation step. The number of colour arms on a printing press determines how many colours can be printed at a time. This process of screen printing makes it one of the most high-quality and efficient methods for apparel design. The care that is given to each garment ensures the colors don’t overlap and are registered perfectly to result in a beautiful vibrant and durable print.

Screen printing is a form of art that can transform ordinary materials into wearable art through innovative design methods and a unique attention-to-detail. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our behind-the-scenes video:

Think that screen printing is the solution you need? Contact us today with any questions about your project.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *