Screen printing method was introduced in China during the Song Dynasty as a way to break free from rudimentary printing processes prevalent previously.
This printing technique has become one of the world’s most popular print processes, now recognized as an art in its own right.
No wonder: besides its technical simplicity and economic nature, it provides an incredible range of effects, especially on fabrics.
This guide describes in detail the entire process of screen printing, from the preparation of the film positive to the printing itself – monochrome to multicolored, going through the steps of coating the screen, color selection, sunstroke.
Industry uses this method to create customized t-shirts and other materials. With the help of logo digitizing process, for example, they produce branded t-shirts, mugs, and other promotional items to market their product and services.
So, what goes in the Screen Printing Process, what materials are required, and what is the entire process and problems involved? We are going to take a deep dive today for details so that you can familiarize yourself with the process. This will help you immensely in your next project.
Let us get started.
What is Screen Printing?
Screen printing is a stencil printing process. Unlike conventional stencils (e.g. paper), this printing technique can also represent very detailed independent graphics. This is power of screens in screen printing. Because the ink is pressed by the blade during the printing process.
To create such a stencil, you need a silkscreen frame, a photographic emulsion and a UV light source, as well as a graphic model, printed entirely in black on a film for insolation. The frame is then sun stroked using the created template. This finished frame having been subjected to insolation with a clear pattern then makes it possible to apply the screen printing process to different materials.
What are the Processes Involved?
1. Design Your Artwork
So, the first process is to create your artwork. There are a number of ways depending on your style of work.
You can do this using black paint pens if this is something very abstract and unique. Here, you have the liberty to try your own designs.
You can also scan any premade artwork and work on it using photo editing software (Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop), or you can also try your hand in Graphic Designing and digitize logo for your favorite brand to print it on a t-shirt.
Whatever way you chose; you have to keep these things in mind:
2. Prepare the Screen
After you are done with your artwork, It is now time to prepare the screen. Before the first use, the silkscreen frame must be free of grease (no fingerprints) and dust particles, so that the photographic emulsion holds well. After unpacking the frame, it should be cleaned with degreaser, rinsed thoroughly and then dried.
The degreaser is safe and can be evacuated simply by the wastewater system. So you can wash in the bath or shower. The silkscreen frame can then be dried with a hairdryer.
In doing so, maintain a gap of about 10 cm with the screen because it may tear at high temperature. The frame can also be dried in the open air or near a radiator.
What material will you need?
Photo Emulsion: To create the stencil in the silkscreen frame.
Squeeguee: To spread the emulsion on both sides of the screen. Match the size with the size of your screen.
Dark and Dry Area: Photographic emulsion is only applied in the dark and dry room.
Yellow Light Lamp: For photo development
You must coat the frame on both sides with the photographic emulsion. For this purpose, the coating doctor is filled with photographic emulsion. Fill the photographic emulsion squeegee to half the height.
Apply the photographic emulsion passing the squeegee on both sides of the screen printing fabric. In doing so, the frame should be held at a slight angle. The lip of the coating doctor is then held on the screen, tilted towards the fabric and pulled up along the screen as soon as the emulsion touches the screen fabric on all sides.
When the coating of the frame is finished, it must be dried, e.g., using the hairdryer.
Another method is to put the frame to dry flat and in a dark place. We recommend quick drying with a hairdryer. Make sure to keep a gap of at least 10 cm with the hairdryer.
Also, be careful not to overheat the screen as it may tear. Once the frame is dry (the emulsion is no longer bright or sticky (finger test it).
We will now move to the sunstroke. Things are getting serious now.
3. Sunstroke the Screen
Now, you will sunstroke the screen with the UV light. We do not recommend sunlight because it makes thing complicated. Use the insolation lamp here.
Position the film with the inverted pattern on the outside of the dried screen first. Glue it firmly to the frame with clear tape.
Protect the inside of the frame from the light with a piece of cardboard, newspaper, or photo card. Be sure to use the right exposure time with the corresponding watt of insolation lamp.
After sunstroke, wet the screen with water on both sides.
Ideally, give a water bath to the screen for 1 to 2 minutes. Wait 2 minutes, then rinse all emulsion residue from the stencil.
Let the screen dry down.
One last thing before printing: stick tape around all the edges of the screen so that ink does not penetrate around it while printing.
If the pattern does not develop, or only schematically or incompletely, after several minutes, it is a sign of over insulation. We will discuss the way around it in Part II of this post, so hold your horses.
If everything went well, you should have the beautiful looking screen on your hand.
Drum Rolls! It is time to PRINT.
Try to go as smooth as possible during this action step. This is the final step, and you cannot afford to go wrong here. Place your substrate (t-shirt) on a flat surface, and place the cardboard backing underneath the area you want to print on.
Drop down the screen on the fabric and make sure it nicely touches the fabric. Now, slowly drop the ink on the end screen surface. Take your squeeguee and slowly move it to the other end of the surface with mild pressure on it.
As a piece of advice, use scrap paper as a substrate to get an idea of your print.
Run the squeguee up and down a couple of times so that the ink nicely rinse stencil to the fabric. Pull up the screen to get an idea of your print.
Voila, your shirt is ready to wear.
In Part II of this series, we will dive into more details about screen printing. We will talk about problems, expert advice, and also the pros and cons of the screen printing technique.
Keep Reading to Keep Improving.
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