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Screen printing

Screen printing is where your design or logo is applied to your garment by pushing ink through very small holes in a mesh (screen).

For every colour to be printed, a separate screen is needed and on coloured shirts, a white base coat has to be printed as well.

Each colour is then printed separately onto the garment.

This explains why it is more expensive to print a multi coloured design.

Screen printing gives great results with a lasting and durable print.

The process is costly to set up andis only really effective when you need 30 + items.

On large runs over 1000, then screen printing is unbeatable in  terms of price and quality.

The screen printing process takes a little while, and is not an instant process like digital printing.

To prepare the artwork and then the screens for printing can take several hours depending on the design.

Carefully setting up the printing machine and making sure the print is correct  takes on average 20 - 30 minutes per colour in our experience.

Then inks need to be mixed in many cases where specific pantone colours are required, and then  of course they have to be printed.

Although our machinery can print 600 shirts an hour, realistically with our quality controls this usually works out more like 300 - 450 shirts per hour.

Shirts once printed are placed on a conveyor dryer and the ink is cured. What this means is that your print will not wash off and remain on your garment.

So of you have ever had a garment where the ink can be scratched off or it comes off when washing, then your printer did not dry (cure) the shirt properly.

Screen printing, despite all the technological advances and automation is still a very labour intense process and requires a high degree of skill through out.

But the end result is worth it.
Video on screen printing.

The video about screen printing is somewhat light hearted, but it does show the process in its simplest form.

We fortunately are a little more advanced than that using automatic machinery that can produce up to 600 T-Shirts an hour.

Shirt Printing Machine
A little bit of History
Historians are a bit fuzzy on exactly when the screen printing process first appeared, but they tend to believe that it was somewhere after man began to walk upright and the 4th Century BC thanks to some colourfully printed textile artefacts found in India. And if that's not quite the right frame of reference, then screen printing can definitely be pegged to the time period around 300 AD because of the discovery of ancient screen-printed garments found in Egyptian tombs as well as Pre-Colombian cloth discovered in Peru and Mexico.

History also proudly records the fact that between the period of 960-1280 AD, Japanese artisans created rice paper stencils called "ties" that they would force ink through to make colourful designs.

Not to be outdone by the Japanese, early Polynesian Island natives were creating stencils out of banana leaves and forcing vegetable dye through them so they could print intricate and colourful designs on "tapa" or bark cloth. Hmmm, could that be the origin of the word tapestry?

British artists soon found that traditional ties were too thick and cumbersome to create intricate designs, so they began experimenting with pieces of silk. They hit the jackpot with that little experiment and the tradition of silkscreen printing was born.

In fact, today's silkscreen printing industry owes a huge debt of gratitude to a fine Englishman named Samuel Simon who received the first patent for the silk-screening process back in 1900. Yes, not only did the sun never set on British soil back in those days, but we Brits had the power to change the colour of the sun at will thanks to silkscreen printing. We still do.

People around the world quickly realized the potential of silkscreen printing and an entire industry of travelling silkscreen instructors was born. Thanks to these dedicate teachers, there is nowhere in the world today where a silkscreen press cannot be found.

American Pop icon and artist Andy Warhol is credited with bringing silk screening into the "hip" world when he took an existing B&W picture of the legendary screen goddess Marilyn Monroe and spiced it up by adding colourful highlights to her face, tinting her hair blue and an ugly brownish-yellow, and making her earrings pink. The rest, as they say, is history.

Despite its ancient origins, silkscreen printing is still widely used today. Because the process does not require printing under pressure, unlike traditional printing press methods, silkscreen printing is the perfect process for printing on a variety of materials including textiles, ceramics, metal, wood, paper, glass, and plastic.

Today the term "silkscreen" is a bit of a misnomer because many printers have switched to more durable manmade materials like plastic and metal.

The silkscreen process is widely used in the advertising speciality industry where millions upon millions of corporate giveaways are cranked out every year.

Of course, silkscreen printing has made the T-Shirt industry what it is today, but that's another British success story.