Screen printing is at the center of all project here at The Foundry. Almost all jobs that come across our production board contain printed garments in some form. Also known as silk screening, screen printing is by far the most diversely applied method for garment decoration.
Ways you can use screen printing
You can use screen printing in so many application scenarios it’s hard to remember them all but let’s talk about the most popular forms. First is obviously your standard front, back or sleeve print applied directly onto the garment.
Screen printing is also used to apply care and size information to the inside collar of the garment. This is a great way to add perceived value and brand recognition to your printed tee shirt and printed hoody projects.
Another very prevalent system that utilizes screen printing is plastisol transfers or screen-printed transfers. These transfers are great for applying screen printed images to items that are irregularly shaped or heat sensitive. Items like printed outerwear, printed hats and accessories are all common items embellished with plastisol transfers.
Types of screen-printing inks
There are also several ink systems used in screen printing with plastisol being the most common. Plastisol screen printing applies a thin polymer film to the surface of the fabric. Traditionally people think of plastisol as a thicker print, but that’s not really the case with modern plastisol inks.
Other popular ink systems for screen printing are water base and water-based discharge inks that essentially dyes the material. Water based printing is a great system but is only compatible with 100% cotton or very polyester light blends. Lastly we offer acrylic screen printing, similar to plastisol inks but lighter weight and more eco friendly.
There’s a ink system for every print project.
As I mentioned above, screen printing is a very diverse process and we’re always finding new ways to use it. Come to us with your project and you can be assured that we’ll find the best practices to produce optimum results.
We know that the screen printing process can be hard to understand so we wanted to take a second and go over the key factors involved.
All screen printing projects start at the art and garment, we need to discern what process would be ideal to render the screen printing stencils and to what material the screen print will be applied.
First we create what we call separations, this is the process of dividing your art into the positives also known as films that will represent the screen print stencils. There are several different ways to do this depending on the complexity of the art. For most prints we will just separate them into spot colors. For complex separations we use what’s called simulated process, simulated process involves screen printing a series of halftone dots to create a larger overall image. The tiny halftone dots allow you to create extremely fine details in your screen prints. Where different colors of dots overlap, your individual ink colors begin to blend together.
Next we use those positives to expose the information from each color into individual screens creating the stencil, the screen print stencil is then the positive information that the ink will pass through to the garment.
Now that the screens contain the stencils we align all the screens on the printing press so the art fits back together like a puzzle, this is called registration. Registration is a very crucial part of quality screen printing and is possibly the most difficult part of the screen printing process to master.
Once we have everything on press we can start test printing the project. Setting up the squeegee pressure, pre-cure temperatures, print speeds and final touches to registration. We have learned through the years that’s it’s always better to run a few more test before you start your production screen printing.
Creating quality screen printing is all done in the setup stage, when mindful steps are taken by experienced printers the production stage is smooth sailing.
Check out the infographic below showing the basics on separations, exposure and registration.