The six steps we take to screen print shirts are as follows: 1 create the artwork, 2 print a film positive, 3 expose the positive to a screen, 4 set up the press, 5 print the artwork, and 6 clean it up! That may sound like a pretty easy process but there is actually a lot of work that goes into each step.
Step 1: Creating your artwork.
The very first thing you need to do before you can print a shirt is to design the artwork that you are going to print. Whether you already have existing artwork or need some help from one of our expert graphic artists, you need to come up with what you want printed and where!
Keep in mind colors are printed one at a time, so the more colors the more work to be done and the higher the cost.
Step 2: Printing a film positive.
Now you need to print out each color of your design in black in onto a transparency. You can also hang draw the design if need be, but the artwork MUST be in black ink in order for you to continue making this screen.
Step 3: Exposing to a screen.
Next you are going to transfer your positive to a screen. Screens are made from metal frames covered with polyester mesh that are then covered with a light sensitive film or emulsion to transfer the artwork.
We attach the artwork to the screen and expose it to a special light so that the emulsion hardens and the black-inked design keeps the area where the ink will pass through unexposed to be rinsed off.
Step 4: Setting up your screen.
The only step left before you can start printing is setting up the screen. This step could take some trial and error to get it right because you need to adjust the screen on the press so that it prints onto the correct placement of your shirts.
You’ll need to line up the screen so that when you pull ink through it, it isn’t crooked. Doing a couple test runs is an easy way to make sure the screen is where you want it.
Step 5: Print it!
Here comes the fun part, printing! Now you are going to apply ink to the screen and use a squeegee to push it through the screen onto the shirts.
If your shirt is multiple colors, it will need to be dried before you can pass it though the next color. Once all the colors of the design are printed onto the shirt, it will need to be completely dried in very high heat and it is ready to go!
Step 6: Cleaning up.
To get the screen ready for the next design, you will need to use a special cleaner to get all of the emulsion off of it and then recoat it with a new layer of emulsion for the next design. It is a good idea to keep your film positive just in case you need to make more shirts in the future, then you don’t need to print it again!
So there you have it, the steps we take to print the shirts that we make every day!
Categorised in: Screen Printing 101
This post was written by Brian Molina