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Screen Printing - What You Should Know

Developed in China and introduced in Western Europe sometime in the late 18th century, screen printing was popularized by Andy Warhol and is today a widely used method to create graphics in large batches.
HobbyZeal Staff
Screen printing generally uses a hand or electronically prepared stencil. The part that is to be printed is created of silk, nylon, or a stainless-steel mesh. Ink is allowed to pass through this region but not through the part of the stencil that is framed. The printing surface is placed on a flat surface under the frame. The required impression is created by coercing the ink through the screen area with a rubber squeegee.

The need for heavy ink consistency and halftone screen restricts reproduction quality. But such a process offers good opacity and brilliant color possibilities. If you want a sharp and huge print, then this may just be the option you are looking for. It is a process that is effectively used for t-shirts, banners, posters, etc. It is though, not an automated process and limits that amount of detail that can be captured. While cost-effective, it is not great for detailed prints for which it is better to use a digital process.

Now that you have a general overview of the process, let's take a look at some of the precautions that you need to take when using this form of printing.

Precautions
  • Precautions should be taken to avoid exposure to solvents in inks, thinners, and clean-up materials.
  • Inhalation must be avoided as it can lead to narcosis, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and lightheadedness.
  • Solvents should be stored in approved and capped flammable storage cabinets.
  • Before beginning, all sources of fire should be removed from the surroundings.
  • Solvents should be purchased in the smallest quantities to minimize fire hazards.
  • Gloves should be worn for all printing processes to protect the skin from pigments, solvents, and other chemicals.
  • Products only with water, propylene glycol, or ethylene glycol should be used.
  • Use of the diazo photo emulsion method can make the need of solvents unnecessary.
  • Basic personal hygiene is very essential for those working with art materials.
  • Hazardous pigments and some toxic solvents are used in the manufacture of water-based inks and related materials. So, be careful while working with these.
  • There has to be no eating, drinking, make-up application, or smoking in the studio while working or otherwise.
  • For water-based printing, correct ventilation should be provided by a window exhaust fan.
  • If lacquer stencils are used, then one explosion-proof slot exhaust hood is required for the process.
Other than these precautions, if you are employing the process to print t-shirts, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Tips
  • Allot time for the t-shirts to be printed
  • Have a design professional handle the preparatory work
  • Reduce the number of colors in the design
  • Create the artwork in a vector-based drawing program
Additional Guidelines

Digital art: The art must be vector-based artwork in .Al, .CDR, or .EPS formats. There should not be any trapping in the design and it is important to separate all layers. Embedded objects or bitmap images are not accepted. The text has to be transformed to outlines or curves. If the text cannot be converted, provide the .TTF font file.

Paper Art: If there is no access to digital art, paper artwork can be used. Multiple color designs have to be separated so that every color in the design can be seen in the correct position on separate pages and these must be printed in black ink. If separate artwork cannot be provided, it is possible to re-create the design by scanning it and re-drawing the image digitally.

Color: Screen printing is done in spot colors. The inks are not blended. Every color is applied one at a time with individual screens.

These are some important things that you should definitely know about the process of screen printing. While a little complicated, with the correct training and a bit of practice, it is possible to master this form of recreating designs.