So What Is Screen Printing?
Screen printing is a widely used printing technique which uses mesh stretched around a frame to transfer ink onto a wide variety of items, the design is defined by the use of a stencil. We screen print paper and textiles such as t-shirts, hoodies and bags.
A blade - or squeegee as it is known - is moved across the screen to fill the open parts of the mesh with ink. A reverse stroke is then used to lay the ink on to the chosen material. This causes the wet ink to stick to the material and be pulled out of the mesh - the screen springs back after the blade passes it.
The print is then heated to a very high temperature to ‘cure’ the ink, the curing process ensures that the design will be fixed permanently to the garment. One colour is printed at a time, so several screens are used in combination to produce a multicoloured design.
Traditionally, the process was called ‘silkscreen printing’ because silk was used (Noooooo, really?) prior to the invention of polyester mesh. Nowadays we tend to drop the ‘silk’ and simply call it screen printing.
The Benefits Of Screen Printing
Due to the composition and thickness of inks used in screen printing, designs placed with this method can withstand far more stress than others without losing the quality of the print.
Screen printing produces vibrant colours that are hard to replicate by other printing techniques. Techniques like direct to garment (DTG) use cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) dots to recreate their images and while it is a great method to replicate details it usually pales in comparison (literally) to screen printing.
Big Order Friendly
Since this is a method that requires the fabrication of screens for every colour used in an artwork, it is best reserved for large orders. The more garments placed in an order then the cheaper the cost per unit will be.
It is hard to find a printing method as versatile as screen printing. It can be done on almost any surface as long as it is flat, fabric, wood, plastic and even metal, among many others.
Screen printing allows for greater thickness of the ink than other techniques, which results in greater possibilities when it comes to the finish of the piece.
It is a basic process that does not change so there is far less to go wrong. It has stood the test of time, after all screen printing has been around for over 1000 years!
The Disadvantages Of Screen Printing
It might sound like a contradiction but screen printing can be quite complex depending on the design and project because it has more steps than other methods.
Not practical for small orders
Screen printing needs far more prep than other printing techniques before going into production. This makes it suitable for “on-demand”, time sensitive or short order printing.
This said, we do have printing options available for shorter runs.
More colours mean more cost
Having to create a screen for each colour is more work.
Adding more colour and intricate designs complicate the process which make it more expensive.
It is far better to keep designs for screen printing simple with as few tones as possible.