Screen printing is a great way to transfer images to wood, fabric and other materials. Read our expert advice on how to get it right and avoid disappointment.
12 Tips for Screen Printing Success
Screen printing is a powerful method for creating practically any image on paper, fabric, wood, and many other materials. However, as we’ve learned during our long history, getting it right every time is anything but easy. You need to adopt the right approach.
Screen printing, also called pre-burned silk screen printing, involves applying inks to materials using a stencil, mesh, and squeegees. The stencil and mesh let the ink pass through them onto a screen, depositing beautiful artwork onto the material below with the help of the squeegee. It’s a simple and cost-effective process, which is one of the reasons why so many budding bands and artists use it on their t-shirts.
Doing it well remains a challenge, even for seasoned hobbyists, so here are our tips and tricks for easy screen printing success.
Gather All The Tools You Need
Just as you might collect and prepare all the ingredients you need before cooking, you should do the same for screen printing. You don’t want to get halfway through the process only to find that you are missing something critical.
For proper screen printing, you will need the following materials:
- The artwork stencil
- The screen frame that will contain the ink, mesh, and artwork
- Black background layer, you will place the screen on
- Activator and sensitizer
- Material such as t-shirts or wood
Prepare The Ink Correctly
Ink quality is critical to the quality of the final image screen printing produces. If it’s too thick or thin, it is hard to regulate how it deposits onto the substrate surface, leaving it looking messy.
If your ink doesn’t have quite the correct viscosity, you can add various products to either thin or thicken it without compromising on color. For instance, if the ink is too thick, you’ll need to add a reducer – a soft, clear substance that allows the ink to better pass through both the mesh and stencil. Likewise, if the ink is too thin, you can thicken it naturally by storing it at room temperature and simply waiting for some of it to evaporate.
Always stir ink before pouring the mixture onto your screen printer. Mixing reduces blotches and clumping and ensures proper consistency throughout.
Get Your Artwork Ready For Printing
Most professional screen printers copy the required image onto a transparent layer to achieve the best results. They use in-house printers, but if you prefer the DIY route, you can go to a local print shop and get them to do it for you for a low fee.
When choosing artwork for your first foray into screen printing, select a simple design. Complex screen printing is possible, but it can be more challenging to achieve good results. If done correctly, the artwork should block the emulsion on the screen, allowing ink to pass through and create the intended image on the surface below.
Check Your Mesh Count
Screens have varying mesh counts. Those with higher densities release less ink through the printing frame, while those with low counts do the opposite.
When choosing a mesh count, you’ll need to consider the colors you want to use, the complexity of your design, and the material substrate. The more complex the design, the higher the mesh count to prevent excess ink from saturating image features.
Keep The Screen Tight
Keeping the screen tight is challenging, particularly if you want to print over a large area. If you don’t get it right, the final printed image may appear blurred.
You can ensure a tight screen by using the correct printing equipment from us. Adopting professional standards can help to keep screens taut throughout the printing process.
Understand How Colors Work
While it is possible to screen print multiple colors, you need to be careful. The more colors you use, the more likely you are to run into problems.
When screen printing with more than one color, you will need to change the screen between color applications. If you don’t have a spare screen, make sure that you rinse the one you have thoroughly between each inking.
Never Move The Image
When screen printing, don’t let the platen move. If you do, it will distort the final printed image.
Remember, Some Colors Do Not Discharge Well
Garments of a certain color don’t always discharge well, and inks may appear in a different tone from what you intend. The worst offenders here are bluish tones, such as cobalt, teal, royal blue, and turquoise, as well as red, green, forest, and purple. If you must print on these colors, adjust your ink color to compensate.
Some Garments Do Not Show Details Well
It’s also worth remembering that not all garment types will display details well. While professionals have techniques to make the most of prints on these fabrics, DIYers rarely achieve high-quality results. Detailed prints on ribbed materials, canvas, and burnout tees can be disappointing without professional help.
Give Your Print Time To Cure
After you finish printing, give your print time to cure. Allowing it to settle before moving gives the ink time to harden and bond with the underlying substrate.
Use The Correct Pressure And Number Of Strokes
How hard you apply the ink and the number of strokes you use also determine the outcome. In general, the fewer squeegee strokes you use, the better the quality of the screen-printed image. Always apply consistent pressure, and use as few strokes as possible.
Get Professional Screen Printing Supplies
For best results, always use high-quality tools. Holden’s Screen Supply Corp. stocks a host of professional-grading printing supplies designed to provide you with easy screen printing. Our colors, high-quality wood frames, and squeegees give you everything you need to create the perfect print at home. Check out our collection and improve your screen printing today.