What’s the Screen Printing Process? How to Make Custom Shirts
It’s estimated that a screen printing business can make at least $100,000 a year, so it’s easy to see that it’s a booming business.
Many people love screen printing because of how easy it is to make hundreds of customized items in a short amount of time, but what exactly is it, and what’s the screen printing process?
Continue reading to find out what screen printing is and how easy the process is.
What Is Screen Printing?
Screen printing is when you press ink through a mesh screen stencil to create a design on a shirt.
Fabric and paper are the most common materials used with screen printing so it’s perfect for creating your own custom shirts, and it’s popular throughout a wide range of industries.
Its popularity is likely due to its ability to easily reproduce your design multiple times. This is great for when creating business merchandise, as you can create a large batch of clothing quickly.
Screen Printing Process
There are different methods of screen printing, however, they all follow the same basic technique.
The step-by-step process is as follows:
Create the Design
First, you’ll create the design. The printer will take the desired design and print it onto a transparent film. This is what will create the stencil.
Prepare the Screen
Next, the printer chooses a mesh screen depending on the design. The mesh screen must fit the complexity of the design as well as the texture of the fabric you’re using. A layer of light-reactive emulsion will coat the mesh screen.
Harden the Emulsion
Next, an acetate sheet with the design on it will cover the light-reactive emulsion. A bright light will harden the emulsion and the parts of the screen with the design will remain liquid.
If your design requires multiple colors, you’ll see separate screens for each layer of ink.
Create the Stencil
Once the areas of the screen not covered by the stencil are hard, the remaining liquid emulsion will wash away. This will leave the design on the screen so the ink can pass through it.
Once the screen is dry, the printer will touch up any areas of the design as needed.
Item Prepared for Print
Next, you’ll lay your fabric down flat on the printing board and lay the screen on top of it. This fabric will likely be a T-shirt, as shirt printing is popular.
Most modern printers use an automatic rotary carousel printer, allowing for different screens to be used at once. This is good for designs that require more than one color.
Press Ink Through the Screen
The next step is to add ink to the top end of the screen. A squeegee will pull ink along the length of the screen, pressing the ink through the stencil and printing the design on the fabric underneath. Once done, the screen is raised and a piece of new fabric is placed underneath before repeating the process until all items are printed.
Dry the Product
Your printed fabric will then pass through a dryer. This cures the ink, creating a smooth finish. The final product will be checked for errors and then washed to remove any residue.
Ready to Screen Print?
Now that you’re familiar with the screen printing process, you can decide if screen printing is something you’d like to try.
You don’t have to stick to just shirts though — bags, flags, bandanas, even jackets can all be customized with your own screen printing design.
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