Screen printing Step 1- Create designs or patterns

Screen Printing Process & How It Works, VS. DTG, Heat Transfer, Embroidery.

Screen printing is widely used across a great many industries for cost-effectiveness, vivid printing, and other good features. It’s always good for adding custom logos or designs to your products for differentiation.

It can be done manually or automatically, alongside different types used to realize desired results. But the fundamental working process is the same. Follow me to explore and see the table of contents below for a quick look.

 Table of Contents

  • Screen Printing Process Step by Step (5 Simple Stages)
  • Screen Printing on Fabric (Custom T-shirt Example)
  • Screen Printing VS Digital Printing (In Garment Industry)
  • Screen Printing VS Heat Transfer (In Garment Industry)
  • Screen Printing VS Embroidery (In Garment Industry)
  • 3 Common Types of Screen Printing

Screen Printing Process Step by Step (5 Simple Stages)

Simply speaking, screen + ink + squeegee = screen printing. It’s basically to create a stencil on a screen and then push ink through to transfer a design to the object’s surface beneath. I list 5 simple steps to help you better understand how it works.

Step 1: Create designs or patterns

Begin with an original image, that is, what you want to print on your products. Clearly present layer images of each color and the printing order if there’s more than one color. That directly influences the rendering effect. Although some artistic creations can be done through multi-color synchronous silk screen printing, yet that does not work in product printing practice.

Take T-shirt screen printing for example. You need to choose a plain, clean T-shirt and employ the computer to start graphic designs.

Screen printing Step 1- Create designs or patterns

Images (step1-4) are all from wikiHow.

Step 2: Make screen plate

How to make a screen plate? It consists of a frame and mesh. The aluminum frame is common for its convenience to operate and hardness to deform. Chemical fiber mesh can meet the general demand. For high-precision patterns, metal mesh made of stainless steel can realize.

Once materials are confirmed, all we need do is to lay out the frame onto a screen and staple it tightly. A screen is applied to one color. Multiple colors mean you need to make more screens.

Screen printing step 2 - Make screen plate

Step 3: Coat emulsion and expose it to light to obtain a stencil

Find a completely dark room and then coat the screen with a screen printing emulsion. After drying, use the transparent acetate film with a design created in step 1 for exposure. You can understand the “film” as a photo film. The only difference is a photograph paper changed to the emulsion-coated mesh screen here.

Under the bright light, the emulsion will harden and develop. Wash away unhardened emulsion on the film’s black area. A clear pattern appears on the screen. So far, a stencil is created.

Screen printing step 3 - Coat emulsion and expose it to light to obtain a stencil

Step 4: Ink up and print the design on the product

Put the object to be printed on a printing board, below the screen. Line up the stencil on the object correctly. This makes sure the correct alignment of designed patterns.

Pour the desired color ink on the screen top. Apply the squeegee to evenly pull the ink down until the entire design is covered. The ink goes through the stencil. A thin and even layer of ink is left on the object’s surface. That is to say, print a pattern designed in step 1.

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Screen printing step 4 - Ink up and Print the Design on the Product

Step 5: Dry and clean the screen for reuse

Place the printed product in a clean area. Dry it up using a dryer. This helps ensure screen prints would not wash out or fade away. Then obtain the final products.

Utilize a special washing fluid to wash the emulsion away. Then reuse it to create a new stencil.

Screen Printing on Fabric (Custom T-shirt Example)

Screen printing techniques are widely used in the garment industry. You might be confused about whether it can go on any fabric? In theory, it applies to all fabrics. But in practice, natural fabric works best with screen printing. Cotton is ideal.

Here we only focus on the scenario of fabric printing. The first thing that comes to mind is T-shirt with graphically simple prints. For such ready-made products, flat-screen printing is most used. While for entire rolls of fabric, rotary screen printing is more suitable. The 2 common types are classified by used screen-printing presses “flat-bed” and “rotary”.

Either for flat screen printing or rotary screen printing, the basic process is the same. In other words, the above-mentioned steps are applicable to screen printing on fabric.

Take our company’s cultural shirt for example.

At first, we created several Jingsourcing logo designs. After getting the results of all colleagues’ preferences, we chose the following for silk screen logo printing. T-shirt samples with different colors and styles were bought from Hangzhou, the famous clothing wholesale market in China.

logo design for screen printing on Jingsourcing Cultural T-shirt

Then, find clothing manufacturers to design on different T-shirt samples. Thanks to the long-term cooperative relationship, we found some silk screen manufactures to do, although our quantity is far less than their printing MOQ.

Before the start of printing, create a printing mold (step 2 alike), then coat emulsion and expose it to light, and ink up (step 3 and 4 alike).

Do some tests about the two logo colors: white and orange, to see whether the ink color is OK. Once confirmed, start printing and then dry.

Screen_Printing on t shirt

By silk screen printing, we customize corporate cultural shirts at a good price. Most important is, these T-shirts look the same as the brand sold in the mall, and our colleagues all like to wear them.

Contact Us to Screen Print Products for Customization

Screen Printing VS Digital Printing (In Garment Industry)

With the technical advance, digital printing, hereinafter referred to as DTG, becomes popular. And it’s a common method for fabric printing as well.

Still taking T-shirt printing for example, which is better? This is up to your order quantity and the complexity of pattern design and style. If your order is large and the design is simple, screen printing is best for you. The MOQ is 500 pcs/item. Otherwise, DTG is suitable, as one piece can be printed. And it’s eco-friendly in comparison to screen printing, in keeping with the call for environmental protection.

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To help you better understand, I sum up the difference between screen printing and digital printing as follows:

Screen Printing

  • Good for simple design (multi-colored image is ok, four colors at most for good printing effects).
  • Design patterns that can be divided into layer images of each color.
  • With a 3D look and feel.
  • Make a screen and create a stencil.
  • More time consumed.
  • Suitable for large quantities.
  • Cheaper bulk production. Though labor cost rises as one color requires a screen, yet it’s been used for design reproduction many times.
  • Soft hand only limited to water prints & discharge print.
  • Long-lasting and durable.
  • Less environmentally friendly.

Digital Printing

  • Well adapted for fine patterns with high detail designs. Easy to print many colors.
  • Designed patterns without requirements.
  • Much cleaner, with brighter colors.
  • No screens as it’s directly printed.
  • Quicker printing.
  • Better suitable for a small batch.
  • High initial investment due to equipment and ink costs, but a flat fee per T-shirt regardless of numerous colors.
  • More soft hand feel, without coating feeling in general.
  • No fading when rubbing or washing.
  • Eco-friendly.

In short, both screen printing and DTG have advantages and disadvantages. Choose the right one according to your needs. If still confused, you’re welcome to ask our Jingsourcing expertise for help.

Screen Printing VS Heat Transfer (In Garment Industry)

Heat transfer is your best choice if you want to print gradient color logos or designs. But keep in mind heat press printing has a temperature requirement, 140℃ – 180℃. So, is there any other difference? Let’s look at the summary below.

Screen Printing

  • Applied to almost all kinds of materials, ideally to cotton fabrics.
  • Good for simple design and few colors, unable to print gradient color.
  • More durable, longer-lasting.
  • More suitable for dark-colored fabrics.
  • Cheaper.
  • Suitable for large quantities.
  • Pollute the environment.

Heat Transfer

  • Mainly applied to chemical fibers, with some limits to materials.
  • Suitable for complex, detailed designs & multi-colors, especially gradient color.
  • Less durable and easy to fade.
  • Better for light-colored fabrics.
  • Expensive.
  • Preferred by small batches.
  • Involves fewer chemicals.

Which is better? It depends on situations, just like many questions we encountered in daily life. Still unclear? Contact our sourcing experts. We’re always here to support you.

Screen Printing VS Embroidery (In Garment Industry)

Aside from screen printing, embroidery is also a good solution to add logos on fabric-made products. What’s the difference? Let’s go on reading.

Screen Printing

  • Good for a simple design.
  • Less 3D look as logos is screen printed on the surface of the fabric.
  • Less costly.
  • Cheaper to print designs in bulk and good for a single color.
  • More colors mean the cost increase, as each new color requires a screen.
  • Less durable as it’s printed on the surface of the fabric.
  • Better for thin or lightweight garments like T-shirts and hoodies.
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Embroidery

  • Appropriate for very intricate designs.
  • Enhanced 3D look and higher quality compared to screen-printed logos.
  • Kind of expensive.
  • Higher price. Especially costly when the printing area is large.
  • Flat fees or priced by the stitch count other than the number of colors.
  • Longer lasting as it’s stitched straight to fabric, no color fading issues.
  • More suitable for heavier garments like polo shirts and caps.

Both printing methods have pros and cons. When making a choice, you should consider 5 key factors: the specific product to be customized, the number of colors, printing area, the quality and quantity of apparel, plus your budget. Contact us to find out which one is best for your custom projects.

Types of Screen Printing

Whether in the past or the present, silk screen printing techniques are widely used due to their applications to almost all kinds of materials. Fabric is just one common material.

Screen printing can be categorized by the materials to be printed as follows: fabric printing, plastic printing, ceramic printing, glass printing, circuit board printing, metal printing, etc.

Let’s focus on fabric printing. As shared by T-shirt printing manufacturers, there’re 6 different types of screen-printing methods: spot color screen printing, halftone printing, grayscale printing, duotone printing, CMYK (4-color) printing, and simulated process printing. Here I explain 3 popular types.

1. Spot color screen printing

Most common and easiest. With the help of pe-mixed specific color inks, it’s often used to print high-density colors such as white, dark black, and fluorescent colors.

Note: it’s not mixed by 4 colors, as each spot color requires special plate printing. In this way, the accuracy of color transfer is ensured.

2. Grayscale printing

Reproduce color images by gray shades from black and white. It stands out by the low print cost, as no additional colors are used. Don’t worry about the image quality. It’s still high, but the color is either in light gray or and dark gray.

3. Halftone printing

Essentially use one-color ink to create various shades (from light to dark) and print images. Different size dots are used to create seemingly different colors, as those tiny dots cannot be perceived when looking from further away. With the enhanced layering of printed images, halftone printing is suitable for multi-color T-shirts.

Besides, screen printing can be classified by types of screen-printing inks that have a direct influence. In other words, each type of ink means a kind of screen printing.

Here we just concentrate on the most used 3 types: plastisol, discharge, water-based inks. The latter two deliver softer prints, also known as “Soft-hand Screen Printing”. That’s a perfect fit if you want to print clothing with a softer touch and a higher-end look.

A Final Takeaway

We hope you learn something new or enjoy refreshing your understanding about screen printing, either process, common types, or its comparison with digital printing, heat transfer, and embroidery. Should you have any further questions, leave a comment below.

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