The Screen Printing Process 101

What is Screen Printing?

The technique of screen printing t-shirts is often referred to as a form of art due to its meticulous nature. The reason is that each colour has to be individually applied to the printing surface. This technique involves using a stencil (or ‘’screen” as most of the industry specialists call it) that applies one single colour at a time. If the design uses more colours, then more stencils will be created to apply the other colours. You might be unfamiliar with the actual term, but at some point in your life, you must have worn a t-shirt or a hoodie that was done using the screen printing process. The screen printing technique often carries the name of “silk screen printing” or if you prefer a more technical name then use “serigraphy” which is the same thing.

The History of Screen Printing

Assumed to be one of the oldest technique present to date, the screen printing method has an ambiguous birthplace. The common assumption sheds light on this matter and informs us that screen printing dates back to the ancient empire of China where it later spread all over the territories of Asia, the first place to reach being Japan. Then it further continued to spread all the way to India and Egypt. It was’t until the early days of the XVIII century that screen printing was introduced to Europe but it remained hard to perform. That was until our ancient grandfathers were able to import the silk mesh which made it easier to utilise this process.

It makes perfect sense to assume that screen printing was popular with garnishing fabrics, walls and other objects, but it soon developed into an art used by the advertising people as well. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century when screen-printing became more available to people. You might have heard of the glorious PopArt movement coined by Andy Warhol – he would be one of the first to try it out in his famous art. 

Advancements in technology were already being planned out by 60s. And that was thanks to a guy named Michael Vasilantone and his wife, who together had a textile company. Looking for new ways to improve his processes and his entrepreneurial success- Michael had a spark of genius and he invented a dual rotatory printing press which greatly allowed them to make huge improvements on their timing. Screen printing just became quicker and more efficient thanks to them. You’d be surprised to find out that this machine is still being used in today’s industry. 

The Technical Side 

Like any other printing technique, one always starts out with the artwork which will represent the starting point for how the entire process should continue. In screen printing, the printer will be required to pay a lot of precision to how each layer of colours is placed on the top of the other (depending of course on how many colours your design has). And for each layer, the printer will also need to take care of all the extra technical details which are prepared in different software, such as Adobe Illustrator, or Corel Draw. 

 A rule of thumb is that whenever you decide to get something printed with the screen printing technique, you will want to favour vectors over pixels. And if you’re wondering why that’s down to the amazing capability of vectors to be enlarged without losing the quality. The vectors are based on precise mathematical shapes which allow the user who manipulates them to resize the shape without ending up with a mushy artwork. So.. Vectors are your friends in this battle. 

 And the last thing you might want to take into account: when saving the final design, some of the compatible formats you need to remember are png, psd, jpeg, tiff and bmp. Oh, and don’t forget to save that file with a 300 d.p.i quality. You don’t want to risk having a design that looks as if it’s been done in the 80’s. (Nothing wrong with the 80’s if that’s what you’re after!)

Leave a Reply