Learn How To Screen Print
Screen printing is coming back in with a bang and we have decided to teach you how to start screen printing! Screen printing is so much fun, creative and artistic and we want you to enjoy it as much as we do. This guide will include everything you will need to start your screen printing journey so let’s get started!
- Prepare your image / artwork
To print something, you need to have something to print. You can use whatever image / artwork you would like. It’s your work after all! You can copy it, create it or have someone create it for you. It all starts with artwork. You should use a good quality (hi-definition) image because the better the quality then the better the screen print. If this is your first time screen printing then we suggest that you DON’T use an image with fine lines. Something such as lettering or a simple image such as a Christmas tree. You can print your image onto regular paper and cut it out or you could print it onto transparency paper (either is absolutely fine). If you’re using a basic image, you can print it onto regular paper and cut it out.
When screen printing onto something such as a T-shirt, you print one colour at a time so if your image / artwork is multiple colours then you need a way to separate the colours so you can create different screens for your design.
Most screen printers use Photoshop as their artwork programme in order to separate and clean up their artwork before screen printing.
- Print out your film positives
Now your artwork is created and separated, the next step is to create a film positive so you can burn your artwork into a silk screen. A film for positive transparency is more or less an overhead transparency. Whatever you want to print, you print it out in black ink on the film positive.
There are many ways to make film positives (such as using us), or hand drawing your image. It is so important for your film positive to be as black as possible. If you’re unsure as to whether your image is dark enough, you can just hold your image up to the light. If light comes through your artwork then it isn’t dark enough but don’t panic! You can either print another copy and double them up on top of each other or colour in your paper with a black marker.
- Expose your image into a screen
So you have the art, you have printed your films, now it is time to make your screen… (or you can buy a screen from us). A screen printing frame is a wood or aluminium frame stretched with polyester mesh on it. The mesh is there to hold the image onto the screen and it lets the ink pass through when you press it through with a squeegee. The mesh holds the image by using an emulsion that is coated onto the mesh or a film. Before you coat the mesh, make sure to clean it with a special screen printing degreaser so that the emulsion sticks to it.
Emulsion reacts to light so you are best off doing this part in a dark room and it must be stored until it is dry in a COMPLETELY DARK room. When the screen is completely dry, get your film positive and align it to the screen. You should expose it with a screen printing exposure unit or a light for a little amount of time. The screen will harden when exposed to the light but the positive or black area of the film blocks the light from reach the emulsion and this leaves the that area of emulsion unexposed / soft.
This is why it is fundamental to ensure that you have a VERY black film. If your film is only partially black then it will let light in during the exposure process. After the screen has been exposed simply rise it with water and the soft part that was not exposed should simply rinse out, leaving that area of mesh open so you can go and print the ink through it.
- It’s time to print!
Screen printing actually goes pretty fast but there are a few tips to keep in mind during the screen printing process. The first thing to keep in mind is ‘flashing’. If you are printing on a dark garment such as a black t-shirt then you have to use a white under base under the colour ink or if you have ink touching other ink, you will need to flash dry in order to set the ink which gives you the ability to print another colour on top of your first layer, simple!
Flashing only takes 10-15 seconds but it does slow the process down. One the t-shirt is printed, it will need time to cure so the ink will set into the garment. To cure a t-shirt, you can use an oven or a heat gun. It is important that you make sure the ink is dry otherwise it will wash out of the t-shirt. To help ensure the ink is cure, you can use a laser temp gun which measures the temperature of the ink while it is being cured.
- Now it’s time to clean up
Lots of people think that screen printing is a messy business but they are wrong! It’s only messy when people don’t clean up after themselves! Cleaning up is a pretty easy thing to do. The first thing you should do is save as much ink as possible and you can do this by using an ink clean-up card to scrape up the excess ink out of the screen and put it back into the pot.
You should use a screen printing screen wash to clean up the ink out of your screen and if you want to use that artwork / image again, you can save your screen! You can also use your screen again for a different design by using emulsion remover and a power sprayer to take the image off the screen so you can start the process all over again!