One of the most important steps in screen printing pre-production involves creating artwork for making a stencil.
After you have created your design, what do you output your artwork onto for making your film positives?
The most popular media for making film positives are vellum paper using a laser printer and inkjet film printed with a inkjet printer.
WRIST SUPPORTS If you are like most t-shirt screen printers, you will most likely start off in the business using a manual printing press. Using a manual press, means literally “doing the printing by hand.”
One drawback of manual printing is that using a squeegee is a repetitive task. With what is known today about carpal tunnel syndrome with regard to repetitive tasks, we highly recommends the use of wrist supports. Wrist supports (when worn properly) help protect against carpal tunnel syndrome without affecting the range of motion that is used when pulling a squeegee. Wrist supports should be worn on both wrists. They are inexpensive to purchase and are well worth the money. They are available from HarborFreight.com.
To be able to screen print photographic or grayscale images, an image must be converted into what is known as “halftones”.
A halftone image consists of many small dots that make up the grayscale portion of that image.
Screen printing halftones can present certain challenges and we’ll address them in this tutorial.
I'm sure you have had a customer walk into your screen printing shop and tell you they need to have some t-shirts “silk screened”.
If you are new to the business, you may be wondering where this expression came from.
Years ago, the fabric used in making the screens for screen printing was usually made out of silk. Silk fabric works well for the screen printing process, however it has been replaced in large part with the use of synthetic fabrics, mostly polyester.
This tutorial is limited to curing plastisol ink only.
IS IT “DRIED” OR “CURED?” The last step in the screen printing process is the curing of the print.
Plastisol ink must reach a temperature of 320 degrees to be considered “fully cured.” Although it would seem natural to use the term “dried,” it would be a misnomer as the ink film on a product may feel “dry” to the touch, but not be fully cured throughout the entire ink deposit. The print surface may seem “dry,” but the inner portion of the ink film may not be.
What is “off-contact?” Off-contact is the gap between the bottom of the screen and the platen.
In the screen printing process, the screen is filled with ink and the squeegee is pulled across the screen pushing the ink through the stencil to produce a printed image. When the screen is lowered onto the substrate (a fancy term for the item being printed), you must have a slight gap between the screen mesh and the substrate, otherwise the ink will most likely smear onto the substrate.
As a screen printer, you make screens on a regular basis.
For your stencil making, we'd like to know if you coat your screens with emulsion, capillary film, or use both on a regular basis.
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One of the wonderful features of printing with plastisol ink is the ability to print “wet on wet.”
Printing wet on wet simply means you can print each successive color without usually having to flash (or dry) any of other colors in between.
We use the word “usually” guardedly as there will be some jobs (especially on dark shirts) when wet on wet printing will cause smearing and affect the print quality.
Exposing a screen is one of the essential steps of the screen printing process.
The phrase “burning” a screen has become a popular way to describe the exposure of an emulsion-coated screen to a light source, so throughout this article, you will see both terms being used to describe the same process.
You can burn a screen from many light sources including the sun!
The best light sources are those high in UV (ultra-violet) light.
ALL ABOUT FLASH CURING A SCREEN PRINT
If you are starting up your shop on a small budget, you may only be able to afford a flash cure unit to completely cure the prints on your shirts.
It is possible to start and operate a small T-Shirt screen printing shop with just a flash cure unit. In fact, a textile dryer (the ideal method for curing) is essentially nothing more than a belt driven chamber that usually contains the same type of heating elements that you find in a flash cure unit.