What is Screen Printing?

What is Screen Printing?

T-shirts are common items of clothing worn by the masses around the world. While they were originally worn only as undershirts, they are now worn frequently as one of the main clothing items in any given outfit. With their casual and comfort appeal, there will always be demand for them. While a t-shirt is simply an item of clothing, however, it is also a blank canvas for designers, businesses and brands, alike.

Custom printed t-shirts are trendy. Having your own branding and images printed on a t-shirt is symbolic of creativity, personality, and helps market your brand. For apparel printing and design companies, this opens up a huge opportunity to serve customers looking to make their own printed t-shirts.

So how are t-shirts actually printed?

There are only a handful of methods used for shirt printing. In this context, we are going to discuss the one that is very popular in terms of durability and cost - screen printing.

Screen printing is a printing technique that has been around for quite a while. It is the most popular method for printing custom t-shirts because it produces durable and long lasting results. Setting up the screen printing press for each design is labor intensive in the initial stages, but turns out to be quite cost-effective when printing t-shirts in bulk.

The Screen Printing Process

So, let’s try to break down the technology behind screen printing in easy terms. Screen printing involves the creation of a stencil, which in printing terms is called a “screen”. What this does is to allow the printing process to only happen in the areas uncovered by the stencil to create the design.

With this stencil in place, colors can be added on to the t-shirt in layers. For each color, a unique stencil is created. The final image or design is a composition of the individually deposited layers of color. You with me so far?

Durable and Soft

If you are looking for durability and a soft feel, screen printing is the way to go. Screen printing is most commonly printed using one of two ink types: plastisol or water base.  Both ink types offer different benefits, but in general, will last as long as the shirt. Since water based ink essentially dyes the fabric of the shirt, it is known for its super soft feel. Plastisol, on the other hand, lays on top of the fabric, but can often be very soft as well.

Best for Bulk Printing

Screen printing is great for bulk printing with the same design. If the design uses more than four to five colors, the cost of screen printing the t-shirts can be a bit pricey, because of the higher input cost and labor required. So essentially, screen printing will work great and be cost effective for relatively simple designs that use less than four colors.

Best for Simple Designs

For more complicated designs and images, like full color pictures, digital printing is the best option. However, this can be a time-consuming or costly option, so it is best suited for small orders and speciality products. For the bulk shirt printing market, screen printing rules.

So, the next time you need to get custom t-shirts printed for that upcoming event, or just need comfortable branded t-shirts for your organization, you will now know a little something about the technology used to print that t-shirt.

Want to find out if screen printing is the right method for your next project? Contact us today to find out.