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What Is Screen Printing?


Andy Warhol and Maud Lewis did not ask what is screen printing. They created art with it. Warhol made a color screen print of Marilyn Monroe, and works by Maud Lewis were recreated in screen printing by other artists, with her approval. But screen printing is not just for famous artists. You can have detailed designs recreated on t-shirts for a charitable event or conference, so don’t let your company SWAG get boring, try something new.   

What Is Screen Printing?  

Screen printing is sometimes called serigraphy or silk screen printing, although the screens are not made with silk anymore but synthetic fabrics. It is an art form where a stencilled design is transferred onto a flat surface with ink, a mesh screen and a squeegee. Traditionally, paper and fabric were used to create posters, artworks, or interesting t-shirts. Today it is used in more than garment printing but also for modern promotional products such as key chains, mugs, and pens. Did you know screen printing is used to print circuit boards? It is now a technology that allows products and items to be mass produced at an affordable price. 

What Is The Process?  

The traditional screen printing process has numerous steps, requiring patience and precision. What is the process?

The graphic design is printed onto a transparent acetate film, creating the stencil.

Select the type of mesh screen that suits the stylistics of the design and texture of the materials used, then coat the screen with a light-reactive emulsion.    

Place the acetate sheet with the design onto the emulsion coated mesh and expose it to a bright light. The light will harden the emulsion not covered by the design. If there are multiple colors, create a new screen for each one.  

Wait for the emulsion to harden, then wash the liquid emulsion under the stencil away. A clear imprint of the design will be on the screen. 

Wait for the mesh screen to be fully dry and make corrections or touch-ups as needed. The stencil is now ready for use. 

Place the screen onto the printing press and the item onto the printing board that is below the screen.

Lower the screen onto the printing board and add printing ink on top. Use a squeegee to pull the ink across the full length of the screen. It pushes the ink through all open areas of the stencil, imprinting the design onto the product. When all the items are printed, remove the emulsion from the mesh with washing liquid, and reuse it for a new stencil.  

Place the finished product in the dryer, where the ink is cured for a smoother finish.

It Lasts Longer 

Originally, water-based ink was used for screen printing but tended to fade quickly. Today plastisol ink is used for mass-produced goods and lasts longer. It is made of PVC particles suspended in a plasticizer, creating a flexible print that bonds with the product. Because it sits on top of the product, vibrant designs can be created on darker fabrics and items.   

It’s Bolder Than Other Forms of Print Marketing

Screen-printed products are bolder than other forms of print marketing because the process produces vivid colors and feels more tactile. Businesses wanting something even more dramatic for their marketing products can use puff ink, glow-in-the-dark inks, glitter inks and more. When you want to do something innovative, use screen printing.

Strand360, a full-service marketing company in Alberta, can help your business with a wide range of digital and traditional marketing products and services. It includes direct mail marketing, buyer persona development, and Something We All Get (SWAG). Do you want custom t-shirts for your next event and wonder what is screen printing? Contact Strand360 today.