Screen Printing is a popular choice of custom printing. The technique is ages old but has modified itself with the change of time. There is great demand for screen printing services by both commercial and individual clients and a variety of services are at sale. However, it is important to understand what screen printing is, its history the detailed process and a few pros and cons of the printing technique.
In this post, we have covered all the important aspects of screen printing in great detail .
History of Screen Printing:
The first occurrence of screen printing was observed during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) in China. The Chinese used this method to transfer the designs to the fabric and make clothes. However, the credit of making screen printing a recognizable printing technique goes to the Japanese who use the technique to make more designer clothes. The Japanese are known to be innovative with their screen printing methods as they used stencils, woven screens made with human hair and stiff brushes to transfer the ink through the screens onto fabric.
The use of screen printing in Europe was identified in the early 18th century. The use of sulk screens was common in France in the early 17th century but it wasn’t a widely accepted painting technique back then. As silk was a rare commodity, the technique became common in the country only when the trade of silk mesh started from Asia.
In the early 20th century, there was a revolutionary development in the field of screen printing when three men- Roy Beck, Charles Peter, and Edward Owens came up with the idea of photo-image stencils to screen printing.
A significant development in screen printing was made in the year 1938 when a group of printing enthusiasts formed a group named as the National Serigraph Society. Seri is a Latin word that means silk and graphein in Greek means to draw. However, the group was predetermined to promote their work as art and not commercial printing.
Later in the 1960s, several pop artists used serigraphy and later in the same year, inventor Michael Vasilantone made the first-ever silk screen machine. The very machine evolved with time and gave rise to the modern press machine we use today.
Screen Printing process: step by step
The most popular screen printing technique is using a special light-reactive emulsion to make custom stencils. The technique allows to make the most complicated types of stencils and hence is a popular commercial printing method.
Here are the steps involved in the screen printing method:
Step 1: Creating the design
This is the first step of the process in which the printer analyses the design that will be transferred to the fabric. A stencil is made by printing the design on a transparent acetate film.
Step 2: Preparing the screen
Once the design is created, the printer will choose a mesh screen for the next process. The mesh screen selection is based on the complexity of the design and the fabric on which it is to be printed. The mesh screen is coated with a layer of light-reactive emulsion. The emulsion develops and hardens when exposed to bright light.
Step 3: Exposing the emulsion
The printer now combines the acetate-made stencil and the light-reactive emulsion created mesh screen and exposes the arrangement to bright light. The light reacts with the emulsion coated parts exposed and hence the rest of the design remains liquid.
One screen is used for one color and if the design has more than one color, you will have to make different screens.
Step 4: washing off the emulsion to create the stencil
Now that the emulsion coated parts have hardened any unhardened emulsion is rinsed off by the experts. The final product is a clean screen with a design that will be printed on the fabric. The screen is then dried and any rectification needed is made.
Step 5: Preparing the item for print
The print setting is made on the press where the screen is fitted and the fabric is laid down underneath the screen. Depending upon the type of press the printing is set. Automatic rotary carousel printer is the most widely used printing press as it allows multiple screens to work simultaneously which helps in easily printing different colored designs.
Step 6: Pressing the ink through the screen
The design screen is not laid on top of the fabric and ink is added to it. With the help of a squeegee, the ink is pushed down which passes onto the fabric from the open areas of the stencil. The fabric is changed one after another if it is a bulk order.
The mesh can be reused as the emulsion is washed with a special cleaning agent.
Step 7: drying and checking the finished product
The printed garment is then sent to a dryer where the ink is treated to create a clear and smooth finish. The final product is then checked by the QAs, washed to remove any residue and is now ready to be shipped to the consumer.
Advantages & Disadvantages of screen printing
It is important to know everything about the printing process before you get your t shirts, caps or jerseys printed with your favorite design. If you have chosen the screen printing method, you are making a wise decision as screen printing is one of the most trusted printing method. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the printing methods that you must know:
- Highly cost-effective method for bulk orders
If you are placing bulk orders, screen printing is the best way to save money. The screen once prepared for one color can be used multiple times to print on different apparel. The larger the quantity, the lesser would be per piece cost.
- A versatile printing method
Whatever is your printing surface, you can trust screen orienting for the finest results. Screen printing is ideal for printing on flat, fabric, wood, plastic and even metal surfaces.
- It allows the use of multiple inks
It offers a better finish and allows the use of different inks. As the ink used is thicker than other printing, the final product looks amazing.
- Highly durable and long-lasting results
As the ink used is high quality and thick, screen printing is the most durable and long-lasting printing technique.
- It is unsuitable for small order quantities and costs heavenly.
- The more colors you add to the design, the more money you will have to pay.
- For complicated designs, preparing the screen is relatively complex.
- A lot of water wastes and ink residue make this printing technique not very eco-friendly.
Screen Printing FAQS
- How do you do screen printing?
A mesh screen is used to create a stenciled design. The screen is then laid on top of the fabric or printing surface and the ink is pushed through the screen onto the fabric with the help of a squeegee. The final product is then dried.
- How many washes does screen printing last?
As the ink used in the printing is thicker, screen printing lasts for 40-50 washes approx. without fading away.
- Can a screen print be removed?
Yes, it can. You can use a nail paint remover or iron the print onto another fabric to remove the print.
- How much does it cost to screen print a shirt?
1 color print can cost you around $5 to $10 depending on the design complexity. At Custom One Online, we try to make it affordable for you.
- Is screen printing still used today?
Screen printing is the most popular commercial printing technique to date, with advanced printing machines being developed, the scope of screen printing is increasing.
- Why is screen printing so expensive?
The process of preparing the mesh screen, design stencil and ink itself is very expensive which makes screen printing expensive. However, if you are placing a bulk order, screen printing is the most suitable method of printing.
- Does Screen Printing crack?
No, it does not. We dry the ink properly which prevents it from cracking.
- Is screen printing the best for T-shirts?
Screen printing has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you are considering durability, yes, it is the best.
- How long does it take to screen print a shirt?
The process of making the design stencil is long. The printing itself however takes just 5 minutes.
- Does Silk Screen Printing last?
If the ink used for the printing is of high quality, the silk screen printing would last long. It all depends upon the quality of ink.
- What are the disadvantages of silk screen printing?
- Silkscreen printing is expensive when:
- You are making a small order.
- There are many colors in the design.
- It does not work with gradient colors.
- Screen printing wastes a lot of water.
- Preparing the screen is complex and expensive.
- What's another word for screen printing?
Traditionally screen printing was known as Silk screen printing as the screen was made of silk. It is also known as serigraphy and serigraph printing.
- Why is screen printing used?
Screen printing is popular because it is versatile and can be used to print any color on any surface. Also, the quality of results from screen printing is better than any other printing technique.
We hope this guide would answer all your screen printing-related queries and concerns. For any other inquiries or orders for custom screen printed shirts, contact us at Custom One Online.