How to Screen Print
Screen Print 101
Watch the video below to see the multi-step process of screen printing custom t-shirts.
Screen printing is the art of layering ink colors onto a fabric to create a desired graphic. The design is transferred to a fine mesh screen using a stencil and photo emulsifier. Then, the emulsifier blocks areas of the screen where ink should not transfer onto the garment.
The emulsifier is washed off the areas of the screen that should transfer ink onto the t-shirt. Each color requires it’s own screen. Once the screens are made, a squeegee is used to press ink through the mesh onto the shirts.
A quick flash dryer sets the ink before another screen with a 2nd color is used. After all of the colors in the design are transferred to the shirt through the mesh screen, the t-shirt goes into a dryer to cure. Once cured, the design will not wash off.
Screen Printing Techniques and Inks
The techniques and inks used to produce your custom apparel will affect the way the garment looks and feels. Below are examples of common screen print techniques we use. Need help deciding what Screen Printing method is right for your design? B-BAM! offers complimentary design consultations with every order!
Plastisol Ink (This is the most widely used ink in screen printing)
Screen printing with plastisol ink is the most durable option and offers the most accurate reproduction of PMS colors due to the opacity of the inks. Screens are used to transfer one color of ink at a time onto the garment. Each color of your design will require a separate screen. Each additional screen will require an additional screen fee.
How to pick the right T-shirt starts with understanding the fabric
Discharge / Water base ink
Unlike printing with Plastisol, Screen Printing with water based inks will provide you with a softer “vintage feeling” print. This is due to the color pigment being suspended in a “water” base which is evaporated during the curing process. Most of the color penetrates into the fabric which leaves a softer feeling print. The print will soften after the first wash and when cured correctly will last the life of the shirt. Waterbase colors only work on light colored shirts unless combined with a discharge agent.
Discharge printing is accomplished using a special water based ink that actually removes the dyes from the shirt leaving the natural color fibers. This will yield an extremely soft print for your shirts. It can be used by itself, as an underbase on dark shirts for plastisol screen printing, or combined with color pigments to achieve a dye discharge color. Discharge screen printing is less detailed than plastisol and exact colors are difficult to achieve, however they are great for vintage and distressed looks.
Index / Simulated Process printing
Simulated process is great for reproducing photographic, complex artwork with opaque, vibrant spot colors. This process prints much cleaner than traditional process printing, and is the only direct screen-printing option for printing photographs on dark shirts. We hand pick the colors in the composition, which gives us much more control over the finished product. Resulting in rich, vibrant & consistency in production.
Textile foil adds tremendous value to any apparel item. It is not uncommon to see retail shirts with foil added cost over $50 in retail shops. We have a variety of colors, our most popular being silver. You can combine foil with screen-printing, rhinestones, water based inks, discharge, flock, and many other techniques.
Heat transfers give us the ability to do full color images on dark and light colored shirts, jackets, bags etc. It’s especially good for doing multicolor images on foam trucker caps or nylon materials like bags and jackets with a nylon outer shell.
Add some bling and a tremendous amount of value to your t-shirt design. Not only do we offer a robust selection of rhinestone colors, but we also offer a huge selection of studs and shapes. All can be combined with other forms of printing and embroidery to add even more value. When requesting a quote, make sure you state the exact size and color of the stones or studs.
Over sized prints
The all over print is achieved by printing on large scale screens. We can print up to 4 colors using 17″ x 20″ screens.
Direct to garment printing is like taking your t-shirt and running it through your inkjet printer. Water based ink is applied to the shirt and it is done digitally so it can full color and contain lots of gradients and still keep the detail. This is cost effective if you have a full color design and want to print smaller quantities of shirts since you will be bypassing the multi-screen process with DTG. We print any order under 36 shirts using the DTG method. Over 36 we will most likely screen print them for you. However, we will evaluate your design and make the most cost effective suggestion for you.
Pricing Rule of Thumb
- Each color in your design requires a separate screen which results in a set-up /screen cost.
- Each location of printing you add will also add a set up/screen cost.
To keep your costs low, design with fewer colors in one location. If the shirt color is darker than the ink color then we will have to print a base coat before we print the actual color you would like. For example, let’s say you would want a black shirt printed in pink. You might think that would be one set up charge but when you include the base it is two set-up charges. The reason we need to print a base is so that the dark shirt will not show through the lighter ink color.
To help understand this, imagine if the walls of your room were painted black and you wanted to paint them pink. You would first have to paint a primer on the walls and then the lighter color on top of that. It is the same process when you screen print.
If your design has lots of colors or is full color than we would print an index print for higher volume orders or a DTG print for lower volume orders.
Printed with water based ink
Printed with a light Hand Chino Print
Printed as a full color index print.
Our Minimum order for screen printing is 50 items.
However, we can print fewer shirts with our DTG method. Click the link to order 24 -50.