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What Is Screen Printing?
So, obviously you’re wondering what screen printing is… Simply put, screen printing is a printing technique that has been in use for centuries. The process utilizes a mesh-based stencil that applies ink to an item (a t-shirt, a poster, bags, wood, etc). It’s actually a fairly simple process, but it does require some special equipment, basic techniques, and an understanding of the art. At Anthem Print, our resident screen printing expert has over 20 years of first-hand experience with screen printing methods. Curious how it works? Let’s see the steps of the process!
How Does Screen Printing Work?
1. THE ARTWORK. The entire process is dependent upon the quality of the artwork. Bad in, bad out. Our artists have spent years learning the tricks to designing quality artwork that will result in stunning prints. Unless you want the artwork to print in a solid color, it is also necessary at this stage to decide how many colors of ink you’ll use and where each color will go. Keep in mind that the more colors you use, the more expensive and time-consuming the process will be because each new color will require a unique screen. If you don’t know what screens are yet, don’t worry! We’ll get there in a minute.
2. THE FILM POSITIVE. Next, we create a film positive transparency of the artwork. Remember overhead transparencies from your school days? Film positives look a lot like those — just black ink on a transparent sheet of plastic.
3. THE SCREEN. After that, we’ll use the film positive to create a screen. The screen is composed of polyester mesh stretched onto a wooden or aluminum frame. Using emulsion (a light sensitive liquid), your film positive, and a special light, we prepare the screen. When it’s finished, you will see the outline of your artwork on the screen. There will be areas where the mesh is closed (where ink cannot penetrate) and open (where ink can penetrate).
4. THE PRESS. Now the printing begins! You can use a manual or an automatic press, but today we’re going to focus on automatic. The auto press must be set up according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, we insert the screen, lock in the squeegee(s), and apply the ink. After that, the t-shirt (or bag, or poster . . .) must be lined up perfectly and flattened out on the pallet. The auto press will raise the shirt that is loaded on a palette to the screen and the squeegee will push ink through the openings in the mesh, printing your original design onto the t-shirt with ink. Then, the shirt is dried so that the ink cures. If there are multiple colors, multiple screens will be used (one for each color of ink).
Although this was only a quick overview of the screen printing process, you should now feel confident answering the question “What is screen printing?” It’s a simple process once you understand the logistics of it, but it does require concentration, care, and a lot of specialized equipment.
If you’re interested in ordering a custom screen printing job, contact Anthem Print in Phoenix, Arizona. We offer full-service textile screen printing and we would love to work with you to create amazing t-shirts (or bags or pants or sweatshirts or prints . . .) Click here for a free screen printing quote.