Did you know that the screen printing industry has a market size of 8 billion U.S. dollars?

Whether it’s the latest fandom’s T-shirt mania or your precious posters, screen printing is an underrated art that takes a lot of labor to get right. If you’re already into art, you might be familiar with the screen printing process. But, if you’re not, then don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Keep on reading for the full breakdown of what is screen printing, why it was created in the first place, as well as the step-by-step process from start to finish.

What Is Screen Printing?

Before starting our deep dive into the nitty-gritty of screen printing, let’s cover our bases and begin with explaining what screen printing is all about.

In the simplest of terms, screen printing is the artistic method of transferring a stenciled design using a mesh screen, and into a flat surface.

With fabric and paper being the most common screen-printed surfaces, you’re probably familiar with the end design and how it looks. Moreover, with the help of special inks, screen printing can also be used to transfer designs onto wood, metal, glass, and even plastic.

The core of the process is all about creating a stenciled design on a mesh screen, then ink (or paint) is pushed through to create an imprint of the design on the intended surface. Basically, think of it as a complex stamp.

Why Did Screen Printing Show Up?

Following the regular rule of necessity is the mother of invention, you’ll find that screen printing was created to produce a printed surface with the colors bright and vivid, even on darker fabrics.

Moreover, screen printing has the perk of giving up a pleasingly tactile quality, as well as conserving ink (or paint) through its ability to be used for reproducing a single design multiple times in a row.

Since the same stencil can be reused to replicate a design an untold number of times, it’s a great way to create multiple copies of the same accessory, poster, or garment. Therefore, if you’re looking for a simple way to create large batches of custom clothing, screen printing is a rather efficient technique to use.

How to Screen Print: The Breakdown

Now, we’ve come to the fun part of the process. Let’s see how screen printing works. Needless to say, at this point you’ve already chosen your design and its color palette. We’ll be assuming that you’re interested in the screen printing process of T-shirts, specifically.

If you’re looking for design inspiration, check out this shirt printing company, as they have many different styles and aesthetics.

1. The Screen

After you’ve fallen in love with the mockup of your shirt, it’s time to start the process.

Using a screen with minuscule holes, it’s secured in a wooden frame, then covered with a specialized layer of emulsion. This layer will prevent the ink from seeping through and ruining your garment.

At this point, the result will be two-toned, typically green and yellow. The screen tends to come in a shade of yellow. But, keep in mind that these aren’t the final colors, and they won’t affect the printing process.

2. The Color

Here’s where the fun truly happens. The screen printer will play around with custom colors, mixing and matching them, until they reach the colors the customer desires for their print.

High-quality inks are used, which are rather thick in nature so that the design comes out looking good and saturated. Once the right colors have been reached, the press comes in.

3. The Press

The shirt is silk-screened at the press. Simply put, imagine a huge 12-armed mechanical beast out of a steampunk novel, and you’ve got it.

The press spins around, while each arm has a wooden silkscreen, where your shirt will be placed. Your shirt will be stretched over a device that looks like an ironing board, and it’ll be lined up with the help of lasers to ensure that the design is placed in the right location over all of the shirts in the press.

Next, the screens will be lowered on top of the shirts, and custom ink will be poured on top of those screens. Using a rubber squeegee, the artist will quickly push the ink from one side of the silkscreen to the other. The t-shirt below will soak up all the ink on the front, and the design will start taking shape.

4. The Dryer

Now you’ve got your design, but you need to dry the shirts in a specialized dryer that looks more like a conveyer belt device.

This will make sure that the temperature is constant, with the shirts all drying in one pass, so you can prevent any color bleeding. Once the shirt comes out on the other end of the belt, it’s time to take a look at the product and compare it to the mockup the customer has sent.

5. The Final T-Shirt

There are other ways that companies can print designs of fabrics, like DTG printing. However, slick screening is a process that’s completely done by hand.

Thus, if you have a design or artwork that you want to replicate a million times that cave minimal colors, then screen printing is your new best friend. It’s a highly custom job that takes a bit more time than your regular DTG printing, but the higher quality speaks for itself.

Ready to Get Some Shirts Printed?

Blank T-shirts haven’t been in fashion for the last decade or so, but that doesn’t mean that you have to make do with the generic prints everyone wears.

If you’ve been wondering what is screen printing exactly, then we hope that our guide sheds some light on the whole process, and how it works. Now, it’s time to do some design research for your next batch of T-shirts.

Also, don’t forget that screen printing can be used for other materials, like paper and wood. If you’re feeling some unique wooden posters, then screen printing can do wonders.