Also known as silk screening, screen printing is a traditional method of printing various types of graphics on apparel with the use of a thick ink that rests on the shirt. This method has been in use from way back before the introduction of direct to garment printing.
Screen printing is suitable for graphics that require one or two colors which is different from DTG where you can print over 16 million colors in a single pass. However, sometimes it’s better to use screen printing instead of DTG, especially if you are in no rush with the order.
How Screen-Printing Works
With screen printing, you have a mesh laid out on a frame which is the screen made from silk or polyester depending on the technology. A negative of the initial design is the printed on the screen which will be placed on the shirt.
Afterward, the screen is placed on the shirt and the ink spread on the screen. The areas where the design is printed is the only place where the ink will slip through to the shirt. Once the printing is over, you can put it away to dry.
However, there’s more to it than what meets the eye.
You can start out with a simple image from Photoshop. This image needs to be quite dark to block out the light. The image will then be burnt on the emulsion when it comes to printing. After coming up with your preferred image, print it on a laser printer.
Coat the Screen
This is where you prepare your emulsion. The latter comes in two, the emulsion and the sensitizer. You need to mix them according to the directions provided on the packaging. After the emulsion is ready, place your screen on a surface and pour the emulsion.
Spread it out so that it covers a larger area than what you intend to print. Repeat the process and make sure you can’t see through the emulsion. Leave this emulsion in a dark room to dry off completely.
Place the Image on the Screen
Still, in the dark room, place a black cloth. Next, place the screen as well as the frame with the screen facing down on the black cloth.
Lay a transparency containing your image on the screen with the photo emulsion. Next, place a glass over it or tape the transparency with scotch tape.
Afterward, move the light just about a foot or two from the screen and the leave the room. You can use a desk lamp for this job, but you can also use a reflector made from tin foil if you don’t have one. Make sure you don’t turn on any other light and come back after at least 15 minutes.
Uncover the transparency slowly to reveal some blue lines where the image is burned on the screen. If it’s not what you want, wait another few minutes, but make sure to avoid overexposure which will make the image bleed.
Clean the Image
Once you have the image you want, it’s time to clean it off using cold water. Clean it off until you can see through the image clearly. Once it’s clean, leave it to dry. After it’s dried up, cover other areas of the screen with tape.
It’s Time to Print
Place your shirt on a flat surface with a board inside it. Place the screen on top of the shirt and pour some amount of ink on the screen. Use a board or squeegee to spread out the ink over the screen using some amount of measured force.
Do this a couple of times and ensure you move in all directions. After you’re satisfied, lift the screen from your shirt and let it dry. After you’re done with the screen, clean it off quick since the ink will dry up fast.
Screen printing requires a lot of expertise to pull through, but with enough practice, you’ll be a pro in no time. You can use different designs, colors and techniques to see how you fair off in the process. There’re also some big shops that use screen-printing machines, but the process is just the same as you would do it at home.
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