Producing high-quality screen prints requires a thorough understanding of the screen printing process and a great deal of practice. Many people don’t realize the screen printing process is lengthy and requires much attention to detail. Aaron Allen, a long-time member of our team, created this step by step video of our process. We’ll elaborate on each step below.
This video shows the screen printing process AFTER artwork is already created, separated into individual colors (each color = 1 screen), and printed onto clear films.
Step 1: Lining up and taping your image to be exposed in a light source.
In order to transfer an image from a clear film to a screen for printing, we first place the film on a UV light source and secure it with clear tape. Then we coat our screen with a light activated chemical called emulsion and place the screen on top of our film.
Step 2: Exposing the SCREEN TO THE light in order to burn the image into it
When emulsion is hit with UV light, it cures, or hardens, on the screen. The printed areas of your film will block out light. The emulsion will cure on the blank areas of the film only. This process, commonly referred to as ‘burning,’ essentially turns your screen into a stencil. Later, when your screen is on the printing press, ink will only be able to travel through the areas of the screen where there is no emulsion.
Step 3: Soak the screen
After your image is burned in the screen, take the screen to the wash tank and thoroughly soak each side of the screen. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the water time to react with the uncured emulsion.
Step 4: Spray out screen
Still at the wash tank, use a hose to spray off excess emulsion from your print area. You should spray the screen until you can clearly see through the design.
Step 5: Taping the screen up so ink doesn’t get through
Once you’ve let your screen dry and you’re ready to go to press, tape all around the edges of the screen’s borders. This will ensure no ink leaks onto your garment.
Step 6: Lining the screen up and adding ink
Now you’re moving the screen to your printing press and lining it up for print. For multi-colored designs, you will have multiple screens so it’s important to pay attention to detail and align the screens correctly. Otherwise, you could end up with one part of a print at the top of a shirt and the other part at the bottom.
Once your screens are lined up on your press, add ink. Only add one ink color per screen.
Step 7: Loading and pulling the shirts while running them through the dryer
As the press starts, load shirts onto blank pallets. Once a shirt has gone through it’s printing cycle, remove and place it onto the drying belt. It’s important to make sure the temperature of your dryer is high enough to properly cure the ink. If the temperature is not high enough, the image will crack and wash out. Once again, attention to detail is required. To ensure a high-quality print, check the dryer temperature with a laser thermometer.
Step 8: Remove squeegee and flood bar. Unhook air lock.
When all of your shirts are printed, it’s time to clean up. We first remove the squeegee and flood bar. The squeegee in screen printing is similar to the squeegee you use to clean your car windows, except this one was used to force ink through the mesh screen onto your garment. The flood bar is used to contain the ink. It helps keep ink under the squeegee and away from the edges of the frame.
Step 9: Remove and clean screen out. Return ink to its proper container
Once you’ve removed the screen from the press, clear the screen of ink and tape. If there’s excess ink, put it back in the ink container, it’s okay to reuse!
Step 10: Fold shirts
Finally, fold the shirts and box them up for customers to enjoy!
While this is a very simplified version of our process, we hope it was helpful to see how a T-shirt is made at Cornerstone Impressions!
What else would you like to know? If you have questions about our company or what we do, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer them on the blog! In the meantime, we love to connect with readers on social media: