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Screen Printing. A Beginners Guide to Screen Printing

Updated on September 4, 2019

Screen Printing

Image of a screen printer at work
Image of a screen printer at work | Source


Express your creative side and have fun with screen printing. The process is very easy and it requires basic tools. Customized your graphic designs on varied items like shirts, hats, bags and toys. Things you need are ink, squeegee, film, mesh and screen.

What is Screen Printing

Screen printing is when a printer uses a mesh and ink to print on silk, paper or cardboard. This method is different from lithography or etching because it does not require pressure print.

The process involves the use of a mesh to transfer ink on a substrate. Ink is applied through the movement of a squeegee in a forward then reverse stroke. One color is applied at a time, mesh cleaned and another stencil for next color.


The print form was recognized in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD).Popular in china, japan and other Asian countries the technique was introduced to Western Europe in 18th century.

Advancement in the technique is attributed to the trio of Edwards Owens, Charles Peter and Roy Beck. They revolutionized the technique through experiments in the development of photo-reactive chemicals.

Notable creative graphic designers who mastered the form are Sister Mary Corita Kent, Michel Caza, Andy Warhol.

Different Names

The technique is known by different names. We have screen printing, silkscreen printing, serigraphy or serigraphy printing.

  • screen printing
  • silkscreen printing
  • serigraphy
  • serigraphy printing

Difference between silkscreen printing and screen printing

You may ask the difference between silkscreen printing and screen printing. The two techniques are basically the same however silkscreen printing is an old technology. Silkscreen printing was limited to certain material however screen printing is more versatile.

Items printed

The technique used to print or transfer an image to different surfaces. You can screen print on clothes, toys, plastic, round objects like a football. Image is transferred to canvas, t-shirts, silk material, cotton, polyester.

  • Decals
  • Balloons
  • Product labels
  • Wedding cards
  • Textile
  • Fabrics
  • Display signs
  • toys
  • Canvas
  • T-Shirt
  • Polyester


Tools of the trade is the mesh, blocking stencil, printing ink. Others are transparency film, clean screen, photo emulsion, latex gloves and item.

  • Mesh
  • blocking stencil
  • printing in
  • transparency film
  • photo emulsion
  • latex gloves
  • item

Types of Garment Printing Inks

There are different types of garment printing inks. We have discharge inks, cracking, foil, flocking and expanding ink. Others are high density, sued, water-based, Phthalate, gloss. More include Nylobond, mirrored silver, plastisol, shimmer or metallic ink.

  • discharge inks
  • cracking
  • foil
  • flocking
  • expanding ink
  • high density
  • sued
  • water-based
  • Phthalate
  • Gloss
  • Nylobond
  • mirrored silver
  • plastisol
  • shimmer
  • metallic ink

Properties of different inks

Each ink type performs specific function or effects on the material. Caviar beads are small plastic beads perfect for solid block tactile surfaces. Expanding ink is used to create 3D design while cracking ink produces a cracked effect.

Discharge ink is used mainly on dark colored cotton to discharge dye. To create a shiny finish use gloss while plastisol offers a plasticized texture to the fabric. If you work with waterproof fabric the choice of ink is nylobond. A sparkle effect is achieved with shimmer additive, velvet touch possible with flocking ink.

How to Screen Print

The process is labor intensive and perfect for few items. It involves basic equipment such as ink, mesh, and squeegee. The first step is to sketch or create the design on a laptop.

Then exposed the image onto a stencil and placed into a frame. The frame is set on the item and the image is printed using a squeegee. A stencil can handle only one color therefore different color needs multiple stencils. To apply multiple colors each print is left to dry before applying the next color.

Stenciling method

A popular stenciling technique is the photo emulsion method. Create an image on a transparent overlay with a laptop. If you have artistic skills draw, photocopy or print the design. Use a film positive material to block ultra violet light.

Select the mesh, coat with emulsion and dry. Place overly on screen then expose to ultra violet light. Wash screen thoroughly to remove emulsion and retain negative stencil of the image on the mesh.

Commercial Printing

The mesh method is perfect for small jobs or home application. However commercial screen printing requires a more efficient method. There are two main methods used in commercial production based on type of material. We have the rotary screen printing machine and the screen printing press.

Rotary printing

This method is ideal for textile material, wrapping paper and wallpaper production. The machine uses a rotating roller, inbuilt squeegee, tube and ink.

Printing Press

There are three types of screen printing press. They perform the same task but based on functionality, efficiency and speed. We have the fully automatic, semi-automated and manual machines. They are used in the textile and garment industry for mass production.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 femi


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