Getting Started… Screen Printing

A behind-the-scenes peek into the process.

Start with some art. Doesn’t have to be pretty – we work from rough concepts daily. From a sketch or drawing, we redraw/scan/retouch/color separate to make it high quality and ready to print.

Put it on film. This next step is where your art is printed onto specially coated clear film positives, using a waterproof, opaque black ink. For multi-color graphics, this step is critical to have all the parts of the design line up, or register, correctly.

Make a Screen. Fine screen mesh (it’s not silk these days, but polyester) is tightly stretched on a wood or aluminum frame. The mesh fabric is coated with a glue-like, light-sensitive emulsion, and once that dried, the film that we made in the previous step is placed between the screen and a halogen light source. The black areas on the film block the light from the emulsion, and wash away to reveal open areas that will allow ink to come through.

Go to Press. Next, the screen is dried and clamped onto the press. When there are multiple colors in a design, the press operator lines the screens up to one another precisely, using a series of registration marks. This process has many other small steps, such as mixing custom ink colors to match Pantone formulas or other items.

Print! Finally, once the screens are perfectly registered and the pre-production proofs are OK’d, production can begin. The shirts are pulled onto flat platens on the rotating stations of the press. The screens are lowered to be parallel to the shirt surface, but not touching, and a squeegee is pulled across the screen using just the right amount of pressure.

And the Cure. The last but soooo not least step is curing the ink on the shirts. This is critical – screen printing ink needs to reach proper cure temperature in a heated conveyor dryer in order to produce a lasting print.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *