T-shirt Screen Printing: Essential Guide on how it Works

February 27, 2019 By

Any screen-printed T-shirt starts its operation with the design. A digital art file in vector form, like .AI or.EPI is the simplest to work with because it can be reduced or enlarged to the desired imprint size without altering the quality. Most screen printing Melbourne is created using “spot color” designs, which implies that the design features a few distinct colors rather than the complete spectrum of the rainbow. These colors are detected by using the Pantone Matching System, or their “PMS colors,” which enables a precise color match. Compared to another printing project, a one-color design is the simplest screen printing project.

The next step is the creation of screens, one per color. A screen is similar to a big stencil. It will enable the ink to be applied at the exact position, and nowhere else. First, you place a very fine mesh on top of a rectangular frame. Then the screen is wrapped around a photo-reactive substance – that is, a substance that distorts when it is exposed to light. The design is incorporated into a transparent film, to enable light to pass through some areas and prevent it from others. The emulsion always hardens whenever light passes through it, but the dark areas will remain soft. Those places are sprayed with a high-pressure hose, so their space becomes enlarged to enable ink to access the T-shirt.

There is a diverse range of options for screen printing ink. The most popular ink is commonly referred to as plastisol. Made of PVC particles suspended in an emulsion, it is very easy to work with plastisol inks because they will not dry up if exposed to the environment. Of course, that implies that can’t just be exposed to the environment – they have to pass through a heat lamp to treat it before they can be worn. The demerits of using plastisol are that they can appear more like plastic. Water-based inks require more work during printing, but they deliver a softer finish. Discharge inks ensure the removal of the dye from darker fabrics, and you won’t feel the texture whenever the garment is touched.

Once the screens have been created and the ink has been selected and mixed with the right color combination, the actual printing operation takes place. In a simple tabletop press, the printer positions the t-shirt, lowers the screen placed on the top, and pulls the ink and squeegee across the screen manually for each color. In an automated mechanical press, hydraulics is responsible for heavy lifting, ensuring the design of more shirts in less time. Then the shirts must cure or dry, depending on the ink applied.

This operation determines the cost of screen printed t-shirts. The labor involved in setting up and creating the screens is referred to as the “screen charge.” This is the same regardless of the number of shirts you are printing. The price of a single piece is determinant of the number of colors in the design since people have to put extra effort into each additional color and the number of shirts produced.