Posted on 10/23/2013 at 12:00 AM by The Graphic Edge

Screen Printing is an ancient art that spans all the way back to the tenth century, when Asian cultures adopted the practice for general printing purposes. Since then the craft has gone through many transformations and continues to evolve today. From Andy Warhol’s 1960s portraits of Marilyn Monroe to present-day students making custom tee shirts, screen printing continues to be an effective and versatile tool for artisans of all disciplines.

The process is an integral part of mainstream fashion, and yet there are many elements of basic t shirt screen printing that continue to mystify the masses. Thus this article aims to illuminate some of the basic aspects of screen printing (also known as screenprinting).

1. Millions of dots create solid colors

The solid colors appearing on your custom tee shirts are the result of millions of dots of ink, forced through a screen stencil by a squeegee. Most screen printers use a spot color technique to maximize the appearance and brightness of colors. And unlike methods that created different color shades by mixing from four colors - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) - the most popular method today eliminates color combining in favor of using the actual colors featured on your personalized t shirts. If black, blue, or green is needed for the design, then black, blue, or green ink is used.

2. Computer Imaging and Ultraviolet Light bring your images to life

Images and graphics for your custom tee shirts are configured with computer imaging programs and then burned directly into screens with ultraviolet light. First, the color, size and image appearance is perfected in a program such as Adobe Photoshop. Pictures and images can be scanned and imported, or created from the tools of your respective computer program. Once the image is complete, it is sent directly to the screen and burned into it with an intense ultraviolet light. The process generally requires several minutes. These screens can then be used and reused to print endless copies of your personalized t shirt.

3. Ink setting requires multiple drying stages

Simply put, your custom tee shirts would be a mess if the various inks were applied simultaneously. Thus a series of intermediate drying steps is necessary to ensure each color appears crisp and clean. The first color is applied and dried partly with a process known as “flashing.” This step is repeated with each subsequent color until the print is complete. The t shirt screen printing process is then completed after the full image passes through a final high-temperature dryer that resembles a pizza oven in many ways.

4. Light colors can shine on darker surfaces

Light colors naturally appear darkened when printed on darker fabrics. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon any designs and color configurations for your custom tee shirts. Screen printers overcome this obstacle by first printing a white undercoat on darker fabrics. With a white surface area in the necessary places, the normal process can then be undertaken without fear of colors not shining to their full potential.

5. Squeegee’s are more important than you think

While squeegees might elicit thoughts of fast food drive-thru windows, their impact in the screen printing process cannot be easily dismissed. In fact, the squeegee rivals only the screen for equipment supremacy. Therefore, selecting the appropriate squeegee for the job can make or break the product. The hardness, angle, and pressure vary in relation to the surface (garments or cardboard). The squeegee performs several roles: It pushes ink through the screens and onto your personalized t shirts, dictating how much ink passes through; sustains contact between the garment and the screen; and removes excess ink from the screen, preventing unwanted prints on your custom tee shirts.

To learn more about custom screen printing services from The Graphic Edge, contact us today!

Categories: Custom T-Shirts

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