Screen printing is not a very difficult process. It can be messy, and it will be messy, but will get less messy as you become more proficient in your printing technique.
For this brief explanation, we will assume that we are printing on fabric, which can be anything from t-shirts, to canvas bags. But the principals are applicable for printing on paper, glass, or any other type of substrate. You'll need a variety of screen printing products to get your job done.
How do I screen print?
- The first step in the process is preparing a workspace where you can print. It doesn't need to be a big space, but room enough that you can work with inks, screens, squeegees, and your printing surface without getting anything important to you dirty.
- Once you've cleaned and prepared a printing space, lay down your t-shirt, and place a divider inside your shirt so that the ink will not sublimate from the printed side through to the other side of your shirt. This can be a piece of cardboard, or a wood.
- Spray adhesive is a good idea to use so that you can smooth out the creases in your t-shirt for a better print.
- Now make a beed (line) of ink at the top of your design on the inside of your screen. Grab your squeegee, and using medium strength pull the squeegee over the design at a 45 degree angle, riding the edge of the squeegee over the ink.
Finishing up your printing project!
It's generally a good idea to have your silkscreen off contact from your shirt. This way the only part of the silkscreen touching the shirt will be where the squeegee is pulling the ink. This will ensure a crisper print.
If you were to lie the silkscreen directly on the shirt your print will most likely smudge, and the shirt will lift off when you pickup your silkscreen.
Depending on the silkscreen ink you are using, you might require to clean the screen during your printing process. For water based inks, you need to keep an eye on your printed design to ensure the inks are not starting to air dry in your silkscreen. If you see this, then it's time to wash out your screen using cold water. If you are using plastisol inks, you might notice some clogging, and this can be fixed on press by using some screen opener.
When you are done with your printing remove the extra ink from your silkscreen, and put it back in your container. Heat set, or let air dry your water based prints. Plastisol inks require heat setting or they will never set (dry).