How It Works

How Screen Printing Works

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The Basic Screen Printing Process

  • 1. A screen is purchased from a screen shop. It is made of an aluminum frame with screen mesh stretched across it. A 110 screen means the screen has 110 holes per square inch. The larger the number the more fine the screen.
  • 2. Photosensitive emulsion (shown in blue) is evenly coated onto the open screen. This reacts to light and hardens in the screen when exposed to light. Screens are coated and kept in a darkroom to keep them from being exposed.
  • 3. Film positives are needed to 'burn' the screen. The best quality are provided by a camera film shop. The black is super dense, and the clear parts are 100% clear. This ensures clean-lined imagery from the start.
  • 4. The film is placed directly over the screen, and the screen with film is then exposed to bright light for a short period of time.
  • 5. The film is now removed and placed in an envelope. We keep this film on file to use for reprinting in the future.
  • 6. The black part of the film positive kept that part of the screen from being exposed by light. That part of the screen is washed away with water. This leaves an opening in the screen - the rest of the emulsion is hardened and will resist ink.
  • 7. The screen is dried and checked for pinholes. It is now ready for printing.
  • 8. The screen is set up on the press. It needs to be aligned to a platen that will hold a shirt. If there are other colors, they are set up at the same time (our press goes up to four colors), and lined up so they print in registration to each other.
  • 9. Plastisol inks are individually mixed for each individual screen. We use the Coated Solids color book from Pantone Matching Systems (PMS). Digital references to color may be different from monitor to monitor, so the printed PMS color book is used for color choices.
  • 10. A shirt is loaded onto the platen of the press, and ink color of choice is spread across the screen.
  • 11. A tool called a squeegee is used to pull the ink across the screen with even pressure. The ink goes through the openings in the screen and onto the shirt below. After printing a heat element is used to set the ink into the fabric.
  • 12. The shirt is heated a second time to set the ink, and the shirt is now finished and ready to go!