How Screen Printing Is Used To Create Custom T-Shirts

by:Jalofun      2020-07-29
Over 2 billion t-shirts are sold in over 200 countries around the world every year. Many of these shirts undergo some form of screen printing in order to add a design, a production logo or a custom graphic. The screen printing industry does well over $11 billion in business. Although many people are familiar with the results of screen printing, few know what the process actually entails. Screen printing is also called silkscreening and has been around in some form for centuries. Screen printing is one of the skills that most illustration, design and fashion students are taught in school. It is also a precise process requiring skill, experience and the right equipment especially when performed commercially. The process of screen printing involves placing a stencil over a mesh in a wooden frame and then forcing ink through the open areas of the mesh onto a shirt underneath. The stencils can be made from paper, acetate or metal. They can even be painted directly on the screen using liquid masking fluid. The stencil creates the design by covering all areas where ink should not pass through to the shirt underneath. A more complex way to create an intricate stencil is to cover the screen in a photosensitive coating. A printout of the design is then placed over the coating. The screen is exposed to light and then washed. The areas that were exposed will fall away leaving the design behind on the screen. The printing process is fairly easy once the stencils and screens have been prepared. The screen and stencil are laid flat on top of the shirt. A certain amount of thick ink is poured into the frame directly on top of the stencil and mesh. A squeegee is then used to push the ink through the open areas of the mesh transferring the ink to the shirt. Commercial manufacturers of custom t-shirts use special presses and some automated systems so that many shirts can be produced over a short period of time. Certain inks require a heat treatment after printing to set the colors. The primary benefit that screen printing has over other techniques like heat-transfers or airbrushing is that it is very durable and resilient. Custom t-shirts can undergo regular wash and dry cycles as well as harsh weather conditions. Screen printing is also reproducible. Hundreds or even thousands of shirts can be printed in the exact same way with the same screens or stencils. The printing process creates very sharp and bold areas of color that are clearly visible from a distance. Screen printing is very flexible and allows any size shirt to be printed regardless of what material the shirt is made from although cotton and other common fabrics provide the best results. Screen printing does have some complications. One is that every design for a custom t-shirt needs to be color separated. Each screen can only be used to apply one color. This means a shirt with four colors will need four separate screens. There are some exceptions. The other issue is that the process is not good for images that have large areas of graduated or blended colors since these are difficult to reproduce even with an automated press.
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