In diverse instances, when choosing the most appropriate method for printing t-shirts, the personalization professional faces the question of which technique to select best: whether screen printing or digital printing. Yet, both are widely used personalization techniques for t-shirt printing. And there is no option that is better than the other, but it depends on the type of order, experience, design, fabric, or color. However, if we don’t have much access to the digital world, screen printing will always save the day.
Screen printing is one of the oldest printing techniques that ever exist. It is an ancient technique that, although it is assisted by machines nowadays, it is still a handmade course. It is often necessary to retouch the designs to adapt them to create the photoliths and screens, making the colors by hand, and sheathing the shirts one by one. It is a multi-step process that begins with selecting a design to be printed on a photolith film, and then transferred to a woven mesh stretched over a frame or hoop, which is called a screen.
Screen printing is also the best-known textile printing technique and possibly the favorite of both companies and designers. Excellent results are achieved on garments. Screen printing on paper and textile works very similarly. They are made from the ink passing through a mesh stretched on a screen and they are printed color by color; in the case of textiles, directly on the fabrics.
History of textile screen printing
To better understand, one must go back to ancient China and the Song dynasty (AD 960-1279) to know the origins of screen printing. Although it is said that they began using the interlaced hair of women, they soon switched to the use of silk meshes for the passage of ink.
Screen printing soon spread to Japan and neighboring countries, but it was not introduced in Europe until the late 18th century when the silk trade was at its peak. In France, in Lyon City, screen printing began to be used to print fabrics, giving its name to the ‘Lyonnais printing’.
1910 is considered the year of birth of today’s screen printing because photosensitive actives began to be applied to create the screens and block the ink passage. It became popular in the United States with billboards and later for creative purposes. However, Andy Warhol made screen printing stylish in the 60’s with his portrait of Marilyn Monroe. Today, most t-shirts and garments are printed using this technique.
The indispensable process
The three main elements that take part in this course are the photoliths, screens, and inks. This trident is the one that established the technical expenses. The more colors the design has, the more photoliths, screens, and inks come into play and the higher the costs. Here is the necessary process to achieve a quality screen print:
1. Separate the design to customize by colors. Depending on the shirt, the maximum will be six to eight colors.
2. Make a photolith by color from the design, printing it on transparency on vegetable paper.
3. Prepare the screens and then place the photolith on a screen (gauze or mesh stretched in a frame), previously covered with a photosensitive emulsion, and expose it to ultraviolet light. We will have as many screens as colors have our design.
4. Recycle screens. Exposure to light will have solidified the part of the design that we are not interested in, and when rinsing the screen with water, only the part of the design where the ink will have to pass will be removed.
5. Fix the shirt to personalize well and apply the ink with a ruler. The solidified part of the mesh will block the ink from the “negative” part of the design.
6. Finally, our personalized t-shirts go through the drying tunnel at the precise temperature so that the ink is permanently fixed.
Upbeats of screen printing
1. It can print on various materials (paper, glass, wood, plastics, natural or synthetic fabric, ceramic, metal); supports of diverse shapes (flat, cylindrical, spherical, conical, cubic); and even outdoors or outside the workshop (vehicles, doors, showcases, machines)
2. It does not damage the support or part that is printed since it receives only a weak pressure when stamping.
3. It achieves strong ink deposits, obtaining vivid colors with resistance and permanence in the open air.
4. It has a wide selection of ink types: synthetic, textile, ceramic, epoxy, etc.
5. It could obtain saturated, transparent, fluorescent, bright, matt or semi-gloss, frosted, and even metallic colors.
6. It has relative simplicity of the process and equipment, allowing operating with completely manual and economical systems.
7. There is a variety of highly automated equipment for all stages of the process, guaranteeing speed and quality in high productions.
8. It is profitable in the short and long runs.
Downbeats of screen printing
1. Screen preparation costs a good amount of money.
2. It is necessary to have some experience to apply this technique with an optimal result.
3. A minimum order is required.
4. Sometimes, it can have an excessively thick finish.
5. You must prepare a screen for each color.
6. It is perceptibly not suitable for photographic images and full-resolution details.
Screen printing and beyond
All the garments in general, depending on their composition, some printing methods or others do better. Distinguishing the fabrics of each garment is necessary to know which printing methods to apply in some cases or in others when customizing t-shirts. The problem only comes when working with other types of printing techniques as they require more attention.
Screen printing on fabric is a great way to promote your business, though proprietors prefer digital printing for easy access and quick results. However, brand recognition, especially on clothing items and accessories around your company’s office and marketing events, helps turn impressions into long-lasting customer relationships.
At InskterPrints, we assure to offer you the best printing, apparel, drawing, painting, and sculpting in town. We handle the screen printing of custom t-shirts for individuals and logo wear for companies and prides itself on excellent customer service on every order. Direct-to-garment printing, embroidery, promotional products, and custom gifts and home decor are also available. Our clients can request preliminary help with hand-drawn designs, scanning and retouching, logo design, premium fonts and artwork, unlimited colors, quick turnarounds, and zero-minimum ordering.