What is Screen Printing? The History, Process, and More.
Turning a plain tee into something more? There are a few methods for adding your company logo, artwork, or funny quotes to a t-shirt. When someone is looking to make multiple copies of a printed design, they choose screen printing. Even if this is your first time hearing about screen printing, it’s easy to understand and you might realize your closet is full of screen printed items.
What is Screen Printing and How Does it Work?
Screen printing is the process of transferring ink through a stencil screen onto a flat substrate repeatedly. Other terms for screen printing are silk screening, serigraphy, pad printing, silkscreen printing, and serigraph printing.
The screen printing process is simplified for one-man shops and large manufacturing facilities because of screen printing presses. Smaller screen-printing presses have a place for the etched screen, ink, squeegee, and substrate. Larger screen-printing presses can handle the ink, operate a squeegee, and can even move the products to the next screens to apply multiple colors.
What can be screen printed on?
Traditionally, screen printing is used to customize clothing items. This custom printing method can also be used to print on canvases, posters, artwork, fabrics, textiles, decals, balloons, paper, metal, plastic, glass, and wood. Here at BR Printers, we use screen printing for a variety of custom promotional products such as hoodies, t-shirts, foam hats, baby onesies, mugs, promotional products and much more.
The Process of Screen Printing
- Design Creation
- Once there is a design finalized for your item, it’s time to start the screen printing process.
- Screen Preparation
- There are two essential considerations when preparing a screen for screen printing. First, what screen mesh count is best for the details of your print? The higher the screen mesh count, the harder it is for screen printing ink to transfer through the screen. This is beneficial if your design has lots of detail. Secondly, you’ll need to select a type of emulsion to coat the screen. If there are multiple colors in a screen printing design, there will need to be one screen prepared per color.
- Emulsion Exposure
- Similar to developing a photograph, the screens coated with emulsion need to be exposed. A transparent acetate sheet is printed with the design. That sheet is placed onto the screen and then exposed to bright light and the exposed emulsion will harden.
- Stencil Creation
- Since the acetate blocked the development of certain areas of the screen when the screen is rinsed, the blocked areas will wash off. This creates the stencil used for printing.
- Printing Prep
- Once it’s time for printing prep, the screen is placed on the press, the ink colors are ready for application, and the substrate being printed on is placed flat on the printing board.
- Ink is poured onto the top of the screen, above the open stencil designs.
- A squeegee pulls the ink down, evenly spreading it across the screen and applying it to the substrate below. If there are multiple colors and screens per substrate, the item will then move to the next screen and the screen printing ink & squeegee processes will run again.
- Once all colors are applied to the item, it’s then dried. Drying the shirt, hoodies, or other items will create a smooth finish and ensure the designs last.
How to Screen Print Multiple Colors
The screen-printing technique you choose will determine what the final product looks like. Certain techniques allow for more colors to be applied. Typically, a design with multiple colors requires one stencil per color. If you are printing complex designs with a wide range of colors, direct-to-garment or digital printing is a screen-printing alternative that can print multiple colors at the same time.
History of Screen Printing
The earliest account of screen printing was in China during the Song Dynasty. This practice was then adopted and advanced by the Japanese. Eventually, screen printing was adopted in Western Europe around the 18th century. At this point, screen printing had been primarily used throughout history for fabric and paper. While screen printing was a known process, it didn’t become commonly used until the 1900s when silk and other textiles became more affordable and accessible. Once screen printing took off, it was used to produce a large number of artwork prints and copies. Finally, screen printing has developed into the process we know today. With over 12,471 custom screen printing businesses in the US in 2022, according to IBIS World, screen printing is alive and well.
Showoff Your Designs with BR Printers
Whether you’re looking to sell your artwork or print customized logo apparel, screen printing can build revenue and awareness. At BR Printers, we’re able to bring your vision to life. Our printing capabilities range from screen printing tee shirts to building custom new hire kits for employees. Contact us to get in touch with a custom apparel sales rep at our promotional merchandise company, Casa del Mar.