What is Screen Printing & How Does Screen Printing Work?

For years, the screen printing method has become one of the most widely used methods for many bulk printing operations—the trend of the screen print rise in the 18th century. From the east, it became easy to export silk mesh, a key component of screen printing. Then in the 19th century, screen printing became a trending method as it went into the world of advertising.

Author John Cary
DECEMBER 23, 2022

Since then, screen printing has been widely used across many factories and fashion industries, including the electronic and electronic industries, because of the easy customization options. Screen printing can sometimes be complicated, complex, messy, and frustrating. It's not the easiest way, but definitely, a beneficial way to make eye-catching clothes and designs.

What's all this hype about the screen printing and why it is popular? Let's check out.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing means when a printer uses ink, mesh screen, and squeegee to print the stenciled design over a flat surface. First, the printer is used to stencil to design on a fine mesh screen, after it is used to push or transfer the ink through it to get the desired results. This is the final stage, where the design is placed over the shirt surface.

The screen printing method is widely used not just in the manufacturing industry but also other industries as well. You might have worn tons of t-shirt designs based on the screen printed designs, without realizing it.

This screen printing method is often known by names silkscreened printing method or serigraphy method. There are different names that refer to the same primary method of printing i.e., screen printing.

What is Screen Printing on Shirts, and Why Should You Use It?

Screen printing is a manual process of priming a design over a t-shirt. This method uses a silkscreen, and this screen is placed over a t-shirt. Then a bright-colored ink is dragged over and across the t-shirt to create a design.

How is Screen Printing Unique?

The screen printing method uses an effective and unique technique to produce posters, artworks, and bold canvases. Moreover, this screen printing method also works with textiles and fabrics. One can easily create all kinds of customized clothes and products through screen printing.

How Does Screen Printing Work?

Custom screen printing is a versatile method for printing clothing lines and a lot of clothing brands are designing their clothing lines based on the different ideas. This blog will let you know everything from a light reactive emulsion for creating a custom stencil to finishing a style using the screen printing method. Let’s jump in and explore the whole process of how screen printing works

  • Design creation

    The process starts with the printer, which carries the design to be printed over the finished product. The design is printed over a transparent acetate film. This creates a stencil.

  • Preparation of screen

    Then, based on the complexity of the design, the printer chooses a mesh screen, and the texture of the fabric is printed. After that, the mesh screen containing the design is coated over the layers of the light reactive emulsion, which results in hardening under the bright light.

  • Emulsion exposed

    Now, the acetate sheet that contains the designs is placed over the emulsion coated screen. Then the whole design comes in contact with the bright light to harden the emulsion. This bright light hardens the emulsion, so the screen part covered by the design stays in the liquid form.

    If the design includes two or more colors, then a separate screen is used in its making. A different layers screen is applied at each layer of the ink. Moreover, to produce a multicolor design, the printer must be able to design every stencil; after that, the printer should line them up perfectly so that all the patterns of the final designs are set correctly over the object.

  • Washing of emulsion & creation of a stencil

    The screen is exposed to the bright light for a particular time period, apart from the areas not covered in the designs turning to complex. Then the rest of the emulsion area that is not hard is rinsed away carefully, leaving a clear imprint of the design over the screen; this causes the ink to pass through.

    After this, the screen is left for drying. On the other side, the printer still works on the corrections or touchups necessary to make. It makes the imprint accurate and according to the original design. In this way, the stencil is ready to use.

  • Printing phase

    The printing phase is where the design is printed over the shirt or product. The screen containing the design is placed over the printing press. The shirt, clothes or product where the design needs to print is laid down on the printing board.

    Now comes the pressing phase; there are several pressing phases that include the automatic or manual method of pressing. The advanced printer used in this printing method uses an automatic rotary carousel press, which allows pressing different screens at once.

  • Pressing of ink into the item

    Now, the screen that contains the design is lowered down into the board of printing, where the ink I added at the top of the screen and the function of the squeegee is to pull the ink at full length. It helps in pressing and spreading the ink across all the stencil areas, leaving the design imprint over the product laid down below.

    After the printing is done and the stencil has done its functions, the emulsion over is removed with the help of washing liquid, and the mesh becomes re-useable for creating new stencils.

  • Finished and done

    After the design is printed, the printed design is printed into a dryer. In this phase, the ink is cured, creating a colorful and smooth finish. The final product is checked and washed correctly, and all the residue is removed.

Types of screen printing

There are 06 types of screen printing that result in different kinds of results.

  • Spot color printing

    It is one of the commonly used screen printing methods in which the ink's color is used by printing through the stencil of mesh. The spot color printing can produce a vibrant looking and solid spot of color.

    This screen printing method is considered the best technique to print over the shirt, hoodies, and jackets, and it's simple to use compared to other methods.

  • Grayscale printing

    Grayscale printing is another efficient method for printing full-color images of halftones or grayscale. This is not a B/W printing technique, but this type of printing pulls out the RGB colors in the shades of grey. This method is a cost-effective screen printing method used to print B/W design into the clothes.

  • Halftone printing

    In this type of printing, single colors in the gradients are used for printing. This method uses one color of ink and halftones, which produces a different shade when seen from a distance. The halftone printing is best to look at multicolor printing without doing it. This makes it a cost-effective method.

  • Duotone printing

    As the name tells, the duotone printing uses a combination of different halftones to print the same image in two different colors. The first color is the halftone of black color printed with black ink. At the same time, the second halftone of the image is printed with colored ink. The designs look sepia-toned, creating art like effect in the picture.

  • CMYK (4-color print)

    This screen printing method is considered the most complex method. The method involves 04 primary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). By combining these colors a required color tone is produced. This method can be done using both manual and automatic methods, but the automatic method works best.

  • Simulated printing

    The simulated printing includes 04 color printing methods and spot color printing. This method helps create lighter and darker shades. This method is preferable when developing photo-realistic details in the prints.

Also read: 05 questions to ask clothing manufactures before working with them

Benefits of Screen Printing

Screen printing technology is one of the trending printing techniques used in the clothing industry. And that's because of the vast number of benefits. Here are some of the mentioned.

  • Durability

    The method includes a certain number of ink coatings and different additives, which makes the ink resistant to ultraviolet rays. Also, it prevents UV rays, scratches, chemicals, moisture and more. This makes the screen printed clothes to be worn outdoors easily.

    Compared to the other methods, the screen printing method creates a durable design.

  • Vibrant colors

    The screen printing method creates vibrant colors that are pretty difficult to produce by other methods. Different separate layers are used for the making multicolors. The various layers methods allow for the preservation of every color's brilliance.

  • Versatile

    The custom screen printing methods is versatile printing methods. With limits or restrictions the custom screen printing method is pretty easy to work with different kinds of fabrics, designs and colors. Moreover, you can also screen print your design on glass, plastic, wood, or even metal. You can easily create endless designs with the freedom of screen printing.

  • Speedy process

    Screen printing is undoubtedly one of the speedy processes many manufacturers use because of its quick response.

  • Cost-Effective

    The screen printing method is cost-effective. Once you are done with it, you can easily and quickly produce large masses of a clothing line. This makes plans a cheaper choice as compared to others.

  • Simple and easy process

    The method is simple and easy, whether the whole process is done automatically or manually. Moreover, the tools that are used in production are not costly.

What is an Example of Screen Printing?

The good thing about screen printing is that you are getting a bright, vibrant color and a solid color t-shirt. And the design of the shirt is heavier, thicker and of good quality. The print gives a soft feel to the shirt.

Here is an example of a screen printing shirt:

Difference between Silk Screen Printing and Screen Printing

There is a myth among people between the silk screen printing and screen printing. Although there are number of differences between both, which makes them apart.

Well, the answer is NO. There is no difference between silk screen printing and screen printing. Both of these terms are used to refer to the same printing technique. Screen printing is a new term, while silk screening is an older team.

To custom print a shirt, the mesh transfers an ink into a substrate while blocking some areas that are made impermeable to the ink.

Steve Apparel is a professional screen printing clothes manufacturer equipped with cutting edge automatic screen printers. The screen printers produce a high-quality print with vibrant colors. Our custom silk screen printing speaks for style, elaborates your story perfectly, or expresses your opinion most easily and stylishly.

Difference between Screen Printing And Direct To Garment (DTG) Printing

Many people think that screen printing is similar to the DTG printing, but there are numerous number of differences which makes both printing methods sets apart. The screen printing method is long define method based on different step that involve multiple stages like design creation, screen preparation, exposing of the emulsion, printing over the fabric and more.

One the other side the DTG method requires a fabric printer that is similar to the inkjet printer. The DTG printing methods involves no stencil creation stages. Compared to the screen printing, the DTG printing method is much less time and effort taking process. You don’t need to set multiple layers to printing different colors, instead this ink jet printer comes with a CMYK dots of colors that makes the color printing process much easier. But with DTG printing you will have to compromise of color accuracy as the color vibrancy is not as précised as Screen printing methods.

Difference between Heat transfer printing and Screen Printing

As the name tells, the heat transfer printing method is a method that involves the high use of heat to transfer the design over the fabric in high temperatures. A sublimation paper is used in the process that holds the design over the paper and in the extreme temperatures of heat, sublimation paper makes contact with the fabric, to transfer the design over the fabric. The high temperature makes sure design is goes deep in the fabric layer and become prominent.

On the other side the screen printing method is different and uses a different approach for the creation style, and printing it over a fabric. Combatively the heat transfer printer is cost effective and recommended method of printing if you have detailed designs. The screen printing doesn’t provide good results for the detailed designs, while heat transfer screen printing is effective method in this case. s

The main reason behind the popularity of screen printing is that this method can be used along with a wide choice of colors. Moreover, it also has a more significant effect on the dark color fabrics.

The printer can repeatedly produce a design for many times in the screen printing method. The stencil used in the process can be used to replicate a design repeatedly.

Here are some of the benefits for which screen printing is popular:

  • A high quality compared to other prints

  • The prints are durable and can perform for long terms

  • Are printable on a vast number of options like fabric, wood, glass, banners, signs, electronics items and much more.

In Summary

Silk screening or screen printing method is best if you look for t-shirts with texts, designs, and logos. The ink used in this method is of high quality and feels excellent when printed over a shirt. If you are looking for a manufacturer capable of printing on your custom t-shirts, hoodies, etc., right according to your specifications, then search no more; give us a call and see how professionally dedicated we are towards your brand's success.

Author John Cary

About the author:

John Cary is a keen fashion blogger who primarily provides detailed guides and advice about anything that comes under fashion. He has worked closely in the fashion industry, which enhances his experience and makes him more passionate about the fashion industry. When it comes to clothing and fashion John Cary makes absolute sense.