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Silk Screen Printing

Silkscreen printing is known as one of the oldest printing methods in printmaking. It is also known as Serigraph which is based on two Greek words, seicos which means silk and graphos with means writing.

This printing process is useful for making multiple originals of an artwork. It works by using a stencilling method that involves printing ink through stencils that are supported by a porous fabric mesh that is stretched across a frame. This requires a mesh screen.

With mesh screen printing, it is ideal for printing bold and graphic designs. This transparent overlay assists the silk screen print by performing a “screen printing press” via pressure applied by the stencil.

The stencils used for the silk screen printing technique were first used to decorate Egyptian tombs and Greek Mosaics. It was later used in China for the production of the images of Buddha.

Because silk was the first material used, hence the name silkscreen. However, today you can print an assortment of designs on polyester and other fabrics.

What is the screen printing process?

Most printing companies in the printing industry that specializes in silk screen printing or screen printing use cutting-edge automatic machines (also known as a screen printer) to produce high quality screenprint for your custom t shirt designs.

Why you should choose silk screen printing?

If you are looking to have your design printed in bulk on the same t shirts for a cost effective price then this is the best printing process for you.

The silkscreen printing method also has a much higher quality output than digital prints with much more vibrant colours.

The t shirts with screen printing designs usually last longer than other printing methods and you can use your stencil to print on different materials such as drawstring bags, glass, wood, textiles, signs, banners, electronics and plenty more.

Other than printing on different materials, you can also print on a specific part of the print material which makes this printing process suitable for printing logos.

Disadvantages of using screen printing

Although there are plenty of advantages to using screen printing for your custom t shirt printing, the main disadvantage would be the start-up costs required compared to other printing methods such as digital printing.

Other disadvantages include:

1) Limited colour range as it uses a four-colour process method.

2) Excess ink can cause the desired design to appear raised from the print materials.

3) Its printing technique isn’t customizable

What is the silk screen printing process?

Step 1: Create your design

You can choose to draw your own design by hand if you already have an idea of what you want to print on your t-shirt.

Otherwise, you can look for printing companies that have a design department or an agency to help you with your design.

Step 2: Scan and edit your design

If you have drawn your own design, you can scan it into the computer and edit the design by cleaning up the lines, adding colour, and text, or even changing the design itself to create the perfect art file.

As most printing in Singapore processes art digitally, this is a necessary step to avoid any additions or tweaks during the printing process.

If you submit art that is already fully digital, you can skip this step.

Step 3: Print Film Positives

Your final digital art file is colour separated to make film positives that consist only of solid colours.

A good colour separation software will split your image up into several colours without losing the integrity of the image as manually splitting an image into individual colours is time-consuming and tricky, but software can automate the process and reduce how many screens you’ll need to use to get the right result.

Screen printing can only be done one colour at a time and separate images are needed to make multi-colour prints.

You can see your final design by layering all these images on top of each other.

Step 4: Create the screens

A wooden frame or metal frame can be used in the pre-press process.

The frames are covered with an acrylic mesh fabric that is stretched tight. These mesh-covered frames are the screens that will be used to print.

Blank screens are coated with a light-sensitive emulsion and after it dries, the film positive is affixed to the screen with some clear tape.

The frames are then placed on a large vacuum table, called an exposure unit, and exposed to intense light for a short period of time that varies depending on the amount of detail in the design and the tightness of the fabric weave.

Black ink or toner on the film positive blocks the light from shining on the emulsion in those areas and once the calculated exposure is complete, each frame is rinsed off with water and unwanted ink and the emulsion in the areas that were blocked from the light dissolve.

These areas remain open and screen printing ink will be able to pass through the open mesh.

Step 5: Setting up the printer or the press

The press operator printing requires one colour on a scrap shirt that aligns the other screens and this alignment is called registration.

Once the screens are registered, the press operator adds the appropriate type and amount of ink to its corresponding frame and runs a sample by printing all of the colours.

Any nudges to the registration can be done at this time until all colours line up perfectly.

Step 6: Running the press or the printer

Each shirt is loaded on a screen printing pallet (also called a table) and makes its way around the press stopping at each head (or station).

Each head discharge inks in a different colour and the design printed uses a squeegee that is sometimes attached to a rubber blade that pulls the ink across the stencil made on the frame.

Once all of the colours are printed, the shirt is removed from the pallet and placed on a conveyor belt.

Step 7: Heat Curing

It’s important to heat cure the T-shirt to ensure the print is sealed and stays in place.

Different types of ink such as solvent-based inks or even dri fit polyester material need to be cured at varying temperatures and for different lengths of time.

Upon exiting the dryer, the t-shirts continue on the conveyor belt where they are caught and counted by a Quality Control specialist.

Need a hand?

Screen printing or silk screen printing for t shirts has been the preferred printing method, especially for t shirt printing in Singapore for decades.

It’s a versatile and effective way to print custom T-shirts with bright colours, gradient colours and dark fabrics in large quantities that are cost effective.

Screen printing is also a popular method to be used in marketing campaigns to print banners, posters and logos.

At Imprint, we offer silkscreen printing services at a bargain rate. Our silk screen printing method is tried and true, with many satisfied customers over our years of business. Contact us for a quote on our silk screen printing services today!