Silk screen printing has been around for centuries, dating back to ancient China, where it was primarily used for art and textiles. Today, it's evolved into a modern printing technique used to produce a wide range of products.
If you're new to silk screen printing, it's important to understand the basics. Yep, we're talking about some of the screen printing terminology associated with the process.
At Holdens Screen, we're passionate about all things screen printing, and we're here to help you navigate the world of printing with ease. We can provide you with the highest-quality printing supplies and equipment so that you can produce stunning prints. However, we're also here to help you understand how to understand screen printing basics.
Follow along as we cover some essential terms you need to know to get started in silk screen printing.
What is Silk Screen Printing?
Silk screen printing is a versatile technique that involves transferring an image onto a surface, such as fabric, paper, or plastic. The screen printing process begins with creating a stencil, or screen, made with a mesh material. A screen printing professional will mount it onto a frame before transferring the image onto the screen using a photosensitive emulsion. Sometimes, they'll draw it.
Once the image is on the screen, the printer applies ink and uses a squeegee to spread the ink evenly across the mesh. The ink passes through the open areas of the screen and onto the surface below. Heat then cures the ink to ensure that it is permanent.
Sounds cool, right? It's different than digital printing, that's for sure. However, the unique screen printing process produces products in vibrant colors, textures, and finishes. That makes it a popular choice for creating eye-catching designs on various surfaces.
Screen Printing Terminology
Simply understanding what silk screen printing is isn't enough. You can understand screen printing basics, sure. But it's essential to familiarize yourself with key terminology used in the industry.
From basic concepts to more complex techniques, understanding the language of screen printing can help you communicate better with your fellow printers. It can also help you better understand the nuances of the craft.
Here are some of the most important screen printing terms to know. These should help you understand how the process differs from digital printing:
- Screen: A frame made of aluminum or wood onto which you stretch mesh fabric.
- Mesh: The tightly-woven fabric material you stretch over the screen frame.
- Stencil: A physical or digital design that you etch or print onto the surface of the mesh, which acts as a guide for the ink to pass through in the screen printing process.
- Squeegee: A tool with a flexible rubber blade you use to press ink through the mesh.
- Substrate: The material onto which ink is printed, such as paper, fabric, plastic, or metal.
- Registration: The process of aligning or registering each color layer of a print on the substrate.
- Curing: The process of heating the ink and substrate to a specific temperature to solidify or set the print.
- Spot color: A specific ink color created by mixing individual ink pigments in predetermined amounts.
- Process color: A method of printing using a combination of different ink colors (usually cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to create a full-color print.
- Halftone: A technique used to simulate different shades of a color by using a series of small dots that vary in size and spacing.
- Underbase: A layer of ink you apply to a substrate before printing other colors, especially those with low opacity, to create a solid foundation and prevent substrate color from bleeding
- Stencil remover: A chemical solution used to dissolve and remove the stencil from the mesh.
- Emulsion: A light-sensitive liquid you apply to the mesh before burning the stencil onto it (the emulsion hardens where it's exposed to light and remains soft where it's not).
- Burn: The process of exposing the emulsion to light through the stencil to create a solid area where the ink will be printed.
- Tension meter: A device used to measure the tension of the mesh fabric in the screen frame.
- Mesh count: The number of threads per inch in a mesh fabric; a higher mesh count allows for more detail in the print, but a lower mesh count is better for printing heavier ink deposits.
These are just a handful of the many terms used in screen printing, but they provide a basic foundation for understanding the craft. By mastering these concepts, you'll be well on your way to becoming a proficient screen printer and communicating more effectively with others in the industry.
Types of Screen Printing
Now that you're familiar with a few screen printing terms, understanding the different types of screen printing can help you choose the best method for your project. It can also help you purchase the right products for your screen printing business or solo endeavor. Here are some of the most common types.
Flat Screen Printing
This is the most traditional and commonly used type of screen printing. The process involves passing ink through a stencil onto a flat surface, with each color printed separately.
Rotary Screen Printing
This type of printing uses a cylindrical screen. Usually, it's the ideal option for printing onto cylindrical objects such as bottles or cups.
Heat Transfer Screen Printing
This type of printing involves using heat to transfer a design onto a surface. It's often used for creating high-quality and long-lasting custom t-shirt designs.
Direct-to-Garment Screen Printing
This type of printing involves using inkjet technology to print onto fabric. It's perfect for creating full-color designs on fabric.
Get Products for Silk Screen Printers
Silk screen printing can seem like a complex and technical process. But with a basic understanding of terminology, anyone can master this art. However, having the right tools is essential, too.
At Holdens Screen, we offer high-quality tools to pair with your silk screen printers, including pre-burned screens, custom screen print screens, inks, and accessories, all made with precision and care. Our products are trusted by artists, designers, and printing professionals nationwide.
Whether you're just starting or looking to upgrade your tools, we have everything you need to bring your ideas to life. Browse all of our products today. If you're unsure where to start, try our screen printing kits.