Screen printing (also known as silk screening) is a printing technique that uses stencils and ink to create designs on fabric. Although it requires significantly more set-up time than digital printing or heat transfer, screen printing remains popular because it is the most economical method for producing large quantities.
SCREEN PRINTING PROCESS Screen printing has a steep learning curve that requires knowledge of everything from making screens and press set-up to actual printing.
- IMAGE DESIGN: Create a customized graphic using professional graphics software. The graphic must be separated by color, with each color printed on its own clear film positive. Fewer colors mean a simpler set-up, resulting in lower costs.
- SCREEN MAKING: Following a process that requires the use of a darkroom and photographic chemicals, a stencil, known as a screen, is made for each colour in the graphic image.
- PRINTING: Each screen must be inserted and carefully aligned in the printing press to ensure that adjacent colors in the image are correctly aligned. The printing press applies ink to each screen, then uses pressure to squeeze the ink through the screen’s open mesh areas and onto the shirt. There are three common types of screen printing presses: flat-bed; cylinder; and rotary, which is the most widely used.
- DRYING: After all colors are printed, the shirt is placed in a drying chamber at around 350°F for about 40 seconds to cure the screen print ink. Once cooled, the shirt is ready to wear.