Screen Printing, a widely embraced method in custom printing, skillfully unites traditional technique with contemporary modifications. Its services, catering to both individual and commercial clients, reach far and wide. It's crucial, though, to comprehend the intricacies of screen printing, grasp its historical lineage, understand its exhaustive process, and weigh its pros and cons.
In this comprehensive piece by Printfits, we dissect key elements of screen printing, offering an in-depth understanding of this intricate art form.
HISTORY OF SCREEN PRINTING
Screen Printing's origins trace back to Song Dynasty China (960-1279 AD), where this technique was employed to render designs onto fabrics for clothing. Nonetheless, it was the Japanese who propelled screen printing into a recognized fashion, using innovative practices such as stencils, woven screens crafted from human hair, and stiff brushes to apply ink onto fabric.
Europe's tryst with screen printing began in the early 18th century, despite evidence of silk screen utilization in France as far back as the 17th century. However, due to silk's scarcity, the practice only gained prominence when silk mesh trade commenced from Asia.
The early 20th century witnessed a monumental shift in screen printing, thanks to Roy Beck, Charles Peter, and Edward Owens who introduced photo-image stencils to the process.
A landmark advancement occurred in 1938 when a cohort of printing enthusiasts established the National Serigraph Society. 'Seri' is Latin for silk and 'graphein' is Greek for to draw. Despite their techniques, the group was resolute in championing their work as art, not merely commercial printing.
Further progress was seen in the 1960s when pop artists embraced serigraphy. That same decade, inventor Michael Vasilantone created the first silk screen machine, marking the genesis of the modern press machine we use today. Over time, the machine has evolved, fostering the screen printing techniques we see today.
SCREEN PRINTING: STEP BY STEP
The widely acclaimed technique in screen printing involves using a unique light-reactive emulsion to design custom stencils. Its capability of crafting highly intricate stencils makes it a popular choice in the realm of commercial printing.
STEP 1: CREATING THE DESIGN
In the initial stage of the process, the printer evaluates the design to be transferred to the fabric. A stencil is then created by printing the design onto a transparent acetate film.
STEP 2: PREPARING THE SCREEN
Following the design creation, the printer proceeds to select a mesh screen ideal for the design's complexity and the chosen fabric. This mesh screen is then coated with a layer of light-reactive emulsion, which hardens upon exposure to bright light.
STEP 3: EXPOSING THE EMULSION
Next, the printer aligns the acetate stencil and the emulsion-coated mesh screen, proceeding to expose the combination to bright light. The light-reactive emulsion hardens where it has direct exposure, while the rest, shielded by the design, remains liquid.
Notably, each color in the design requires a separate screen. Thus, for multi-colored designs, multiple screens must be created.
STEP 4: WASHING OFF THE EMULSION TO CREATE THE STENCIL
Once the emulsion-coated areas have solidified, the remaining liquid emulsion is meticulously rinsed off, resulting in a clean screen featuring the design to be printed. Following a thorough drying process, any necessary adjustments are made, ensuring precision in the final output.
STEP 5: PREPARING THE ITEM FOR PRINTING
At this stage, the screen is positioned on the press, with the fabric placed underneath. The printing setup varies based on the press type, with the automatic rotary carousel printer being a common choice. Its capacity for multiple screen operation enables easier multicolored design printing.
STEP 6: PRESSING THE INK THROUGH THE SREEN
The design screen is positioned over the fabric and ink is applied. Utilizing a squeegee, the ink is pressed through the open areas of the stencil, transferring the design onto the fabric. For bulk orders, fabrics are swapped out one after another.
Importantly, the mesh can undergo multiple uses as the emulsion can be cleaned off with a special agent.
STEP 7: DRYING AND CHECKING THE FINISHED PRODUCT
Post printing, the garment is directed through a dryer, where the ink is treated to produce a crisp, smooth print. Quality Assurance personnel thoroughly inspect the final product, after which it is washed to eliminate any residual traces. Now, it's primed and ready for shipping to the consumer.
ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES OF SCREEN PRINTING
Understanding the printing process is crucial before personalizing items like t-shirts, caps, or jerseys with your preferred designs. Opting for screen printing is a smart choice, as it is a reliable method. To make an informed decision, consider the following advantages and disadvantages of this technique:
1. HIGHLY COST-EFFECTIVE METHOD FOR BULK ORDERS
For large volume orders, screen printing offers a cost-effective solution. Once a screen is created for a particular color, it can be used repeatedly across various items of apparel. As such, the cost per piece decreases as the order quantity increases.
2. VERSATILE PRINTING METHOD
Regardless of your printing surface, screen printing is reliable for providing superior results. It's a versatile method, ideal for diverse surfaces, such as flat, fabric, wood, plastic, and even metal.
3. IT ALLOWS THE USE OF MULTIPLE INKS
Screen printing delivers a high-quality finish by utilizing a variety of inks. The application of thicker ink compared to other printing methods results in an impressive final product.
4. HIGHLY DURABLE AND LONG LASTING RESULTS
The use of high-quality, thick ink makes screen printing the most durable and enduring printing technique available.
- Screen printing may not be the best fit for smaller orders due to its high cost.
- Adding more colors to your design will invariably increase the price.
- Complex designs result in a more complicated screen preparation process.
- The printing technique's ecological footprint is significant, given the substantial water waste and ink residue.
SCREEN PRINTING FAQS
Q: How is screen printing done?
A: A stenciled design is created using a mesh screen, which is positioned on the fabric or printing surface. Ink is pushed through the screen onto the surface using a squeegee, and the final product is dried.
Q: How long does screen printing last?
A: Screen printing lasts for approximately 40-50 washes due to the thicker ink used.
Q: Can a screen print be removed?
A: Yes, using a nail polish remover or ironing the print onto another fabric.
Q: How much does screen printing a shirt cost?
A: A one-color print typically costs $5 to $10, depending on design complexity. Printfits aims to offer affordable options.
Q: Is screen printing still popular?
A: Screen printing remains the leading commercial printing technique, with an expanding scope thanks to advanced machines.
Q: Why is screen printing expensive?
A: Costs stem from mesh screen, design stencil, and ink preparation. However, for bulk orders, screen printing proves cost-effective.
Q: Does screen printing crack?
A: No, properly drying the ink prevents cracks.
Q: Is screen printing ideal for t-shirts?
A: For durability, screen printing is the top choice despite its pros and cons.
Q: How long does it take to screen print a shirt?
A: Stencil creation takes time, but printing only requires around 5 minutes.
Q: How long does silk screen printing last?
A: Longevity depends on ink quality, but high-quality ink ensures lasting prints.
Q: What are silk screen printing disadvantages?
A: Expensive for small orders, many colors, gradient colors, water waste, and complex screen preparation.
Q: Are there alternative names for screen printing?
A: Silk screen printing, serigraphy, and serigraph printing.
Q: Why use screen printing?
A: It's versatile, adaptable to any color and surface, and offers better quality compared to other techniques.
For further inquiries or custom screen printed shirt orders, contact us at Printfits.
And there you have it — a comprehensive look into the compelling world of screen printing. From its innovative process to its lasting results, screen printing is a versatile technique that mixes durability with artistry. Whether it’s a multi-colored design on a t-shirt or a branded print on a corporate product, screen printing stands the test of time and trends.
Though it has its pros and cons, its popularity as a go-to printing method is unrivaled. We hope this guide has enhanced your understanding of screen printing, and inspires you to consider this technique for your future printing needs!