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What is Screen Printing and How Does it Work?

The market for printed merchandise is, at the moment, more prominent than ever. From TV shows to movies to games and even YouTube bloggers/influencers, the surest way of publicity plus making some extra profit is to create merchandise with their own logos and designs on it. 

There’s a myriad of ways through which you can achieve your very own design on a T-shirt, a Hydro flask, or, pretty much, anything under the sun. We are going to be discussing one of these methods today and that Screen Printing.

A General Idea

This may sound a little bit complicated, so we are going to skim through how this procedure is done, and then we are going to talk in more detail later on. Screen printing is, in essence, printing on a negative picture. 

What you do is that you create the design through subjecting UV light to an emulsified screen. Only parts that have not been processed by the light as they have been hidden by design, done on a transparent film, will allow the intended color, later on, to pass through onto your material. So, it’s basically blocking your design.

Needed Tools:

  1. Mesh, Silk, or Polyester screen.
  2. Wooden or Aluminum Frame.
  3. A Squeegee.
  4. Your design printed on a Transparent Film.
  5. Desired Inks. 
  6. UV Light. 
  7. Basic Ink.
  8. Emulsifier.
  9. Fan.
  10. A Sink/Bathroom.

Procedure

The printing step its self is the easiest one. Hence, before we get to that, we are going to discuss what Is called the pre-press. That, simply, includes all the needed preparation of the previously mentioned tools in order to reach a smooth final print.

Pre-Press

Take your screen and stretch it as much as you can over the frame. This is a crucial step because any wrinkles on the screen will mess with the UV light penetration and therefore allow more light to pass than needed.

Spread the emulsion over your screen. Make sure that you have done this with swift strokes to make sure that the emulsion is spread equally over the screen. Use a fan to dry your emulsion completely. This must be done in a dark room.

Take your transparent film, place it over your mesh screen. Always make sure to have your transparency film with your design printed and ready. This can be done either at home if you have the required printer or at a printing shop for a relatively low-cost.

Drying

Use direct UV light over your screen and let it dry for 30 to 45 minutes. The UV light will harden all of the emulsion in the exposed parts, meaning that it won’t let anything pass through it. 

However, the unexposed sports remain soft enough to allow the ink to pass through them. These are the parts that have been hidden by the design printed on the transparent film.

Alignment

Align the screen and the film using duct tape in order to prevent the ink from running outside and ruining some future designs and may even cause mishaps with your current material.

Some advanced shops use laser alignment; however, if you are doing this in your own modest workshop, you can use tape and ruler to align the transparency film over your material. 

Hole-Filling

The last pre-printing step is to check your emulsion thoroughly to make sure that there are no pinholes or exposed areas that will allow the ink onto unwanted places. If any of those are found, block it out using tape.

Printing

Lower the screen at the 45° angle in a way that will allow you can deal with it without touching your material yet. Place the required ink at the bottom of your screen and place the screen down firmly on your material.

Using a squeegee, with one swift, equally pressured stroke, take the ink from the bottom to the top firmly. Repeat the same step in the opposite way taking the ink from top to bottom.

Tilt the squeegee carefully to carry out extra ink if not further needed.

Post-Printing

When you are done, make sure to wash your frame, screen, and squeegee using water. Scrub all your tools vigorously as not to allow any remnants to cling and ruin your future projects. One tip is that the ink likes to grab on soap scrum, so make sure that your bathroom is clean. 

Leave your material, whether a shirt or a paper, to dry well. Some advanced workshops will put it in a sort of heater or dryer with a specific temperature to allow it to dry thoroughly on the material.

Advantages 

  • Low cost.
  • Available materials.
  • Can be done at a home workshop.
  • Useful for bulk.
  • It creates an extraordinarily vivid and soft design.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned before, there are many many ways to print these days. Why screen printing is still there, although it might seem like something tedious? It does not require rare materials; everything you might need can be found at the nearest hardware store. 

You can do it at home, and it’s advantageous in bulk production as you’re just going to remove one T-shirt, place the other, use the squeegee, and you’re done.

Adam William
 

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