Screen printing is a wonderfully simple process. In essence, it is a stencil that ink is passed through onto a surface.
In practise though, there are many other steps involved to reach that point and more after to ensure a perfect print.
Here are the core of those steps broken down to show how your designs are realised.
This is what gives screen printing its name. it is an aluminium frame with a very fine mesh stretched taught over it.
There are 2 sides to a screen, the side you put the ink on and the other being the tee side.
First things first, we’ve got to clean and degrease the screen.
A dirty screen is a bad screen
To turn the screen into the useable stencil we spoke of earlier, we smoothly coat the mesh in a light sensitive emulsion.
It is then placed in a light-tight heated cabinet to dry the emulsion.
Once dry, it is time to transfer your design onto the screen.
We achieve this using a powerful UV light source and blackened version of your design.
The blackened version of your design is printed digitally on to a clear plastic sheet called an acetate.
This positive will act as a block between the UV light source and the light sensitive emulsion we have coated the screen with.
Now the screen and positive will be exposed to the UV light source.
The emulsion that has been touched by the UV light reacts and turns solid. However, the emulsion that has been blocked from the light by the positive, won’t have reacted and remains soft.
Once the correct exposure time has been reached, we use a pressure washer to wash out the soft, unreacted emulsion.
This leaves a perfect rendering of your design on the screen where the mesh is clear and open. Or in other words, a stencil.
Now that we have a useable screen (or stencil) it’s time to actually start printing.
The screen is now lined up and locked in place in the printing press and Ink is applied to the inside of the screen. (7)
Using a rubber squeegee, the ink is drawn across the screen and is only able to pass through the areas of open mesh (in the precise shape of your design) onto the garment below(8)
Now that the garment has your design on it, it’s time to make sure that it stays there!
It is therefore passed through a long tunnel dryer on a conveyor belt to cure or fix the ink,
If your design has more than 1 colour in it, separate screens must be made for each colour within the design.(10)
Each screen must then be accurately lined up to one another and printed individually(11) to build up a reproduction of your complete design.(12)