Everything You Need to Know About Screen Printing

Screen printing is a popular printing method, using a process that presses ink through a mesh screen in order to create a printed design.

It’s used in a huge range of industries across the globe to create custom clothing, canvasses, artwork, posters, and more. It is intermittently referred to as silk-screen printing or serigraphy.

Screen Printing Explained

What is screen printing?

Screen printing is the process that involves transferring a stenciled design on a flat surface with ink, a mesh screen, and a squeegee.

Although paper and fabric are the most typical of surfaces that are used in screen printing, it is also possible to print onto metal, plastic, glass, and wood.

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How does screen printing work?

The most basic screen printing method will involve making a stencil on a mesh screen.

Then, pushing paint or ink through that stencil to create the imprint of your design onto the surface of the chosen material.

One of the most interchangeable factors involved in this process is the various stenciling techniques that can be used. So, while the actual process of printing remains largely the same, there are many ways to create the stencil.

Any designs that are created with the screen printing method can use multiple shades of ink.

However, with a multi-colored design, it is necessary to apply each individual color with a separate stencil.

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Why is screen printing so popular?

There are many reasons why screen printing is a popular technique, but the most compelling of these comes from the extensive choice of colors that can be used. Screen printing is effective on darker fabrics too.

Aside from this, the printer can quickly reproduce a design many times. Because a stencil can also be used to replicate a design repeatedly, it is ideal for creating bulk garments and accessories.

Compared to digital printing alone, a professional printing company will be able to achieve a far more intense coloring.

However, due to the complexity of the process overall, there are limitations to the number of colors that can be used in a design.

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Will screen printing ink wash out?

When an item is professionally screen printed by a company, using the correct washable heat-treated ink, then it shouldn’t wash out.

If all elements of the process are done correctly, including the drying temperature and the correct timings, you should get a long-lasting product that should not wash out.

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Will screen printing ink wash out?

There are many different screen printing methods, but they all use a similar basic technique.

Here’s a quick overview of the steps involved in screen printing.

#1 Create the design – The design is printed onto a transparent acetate film, which is then used to create the stencil.

#2 The screen is prepared – The printer will need to select the right type of mesh screen to suit the stylistics of the design and the texture of the fabrics being used. This mesh screen is then coated with light-reactive emulsion, which will eventually harden as it’s developed beneath the bright light.

#3 The emulsion is exposed – The acetate sheet with the design is then placed onto the emulsion coated mesh, and it is exposed to a bright light. This light will harden the emulsion so that any parts of the screen that are covered by the design will remain in a liquid state.

If there is more than a single color being used in the design, then a new screen will need to be used for each color. Each screen will need to be aligned with precision by hand.

#4 The emulsion is washed off, and the stencil is created – Once the correct time period has elapsed, all of the areas of the screen that are not covered by the design will go hard. Any emulsion that has not hardened will need to be rinsed away. This will result in a clear imprint of the design on the screen in order for the ink to pass through.

#5 The screen is dried, and touch-ups made – Oonce step 4 is complete, the screen will be fully dried and the printer will need to make any corrections or touch-ups. The stencil is now fully prepped and ready to be used.

#6 Items prepared for printing – The screen will then be placed onto the printing press. The item is then placed onto the printing board, below the screen.


#7 Inking and squeegee – The screen is then lowered onto the printing board, with ink being added to the top. A squeegee is used to pull the ink across the full length of the screen. This process pushes the ink through any open areas in the stencil, which results in the design being imprinted onto the product.

If the order is for multiple items, this process is repeated. Once complete, the emulsion is removed using a washing fluid. The mesh can then be reused in order to create a new stencil.

#8 Dry, check, and finish – The final stage will see the printed garment or product passed through a dryer. This will cure the ink and ensure a smooth finish. The final product is quality checked and washed in order to remove any remaining residues.

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In Summary

For those looking to print onto darker-colored fabrics, screen printing is ideal. It is a highly versatile process that allows you to print on wood, glass, metal, paper, fabric, and plastic.

Because a stencil can be used many times in succession, it is a great printing process for bulk orders.

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