All About Screen Printing
Screen printing is a popular way for graphics to be added onto t-shirts and you can actually do it from home. If you ever asked yourself the question “how does screen printing work?”, then I’ll explain below how to apply a graphic design onto a t-shirt in a very popular technique.
How Does Screen Printing Work?
The first step is to find a design you like and want on your shirt. Get yourself a screen, a squeegee, and some photo emulsion film. A company named Speedball makes a good emulsion kit. The photo emulsion comes in two parts. The sensitizer and some emulsion ink.
You need to start with the sensitizer by adding the water to make the sensitizer usable since it starts out hard. Once you have the sensitizer to a softer consistency, then you add it into the emulsion film.
Warning! Emulsion film is very sensitive to light. Stay out of direct sunlight when mixing emulsion or it will be ruined. It can last around 3 months with proper storage though.
Make sure you have an even consistency and then you are ready to apply your film to the silkscreen. Don’t apply too much. Then use your squeegee to flatten the emulsion film over the screen until you have a nice, smooth consistency.
Put a fan on this screen now and allow to dry in a dark area. Once the screen has dried you are ready to attach the design you found and printed out. (I will tell you how to make this design in a later post).
Once your screen printing screen is back on your table you want to work fast because this film is light sensitive. Put your image that is on the transparencies on backwards to your screen. Tape them down and put some commercial glass over the top of the whole thing.
A strong light source is now applied over it for about 30-45 minutes. The light exposes and hardens the emulsion everywhere except where your design was and you get an awesome outline of your design ready to be applied to cloth.
You need to wash the screen off with a power washer and a soft bristle brush. You want to do this gently though because you don’t want to scrub away something you’ll want. It just takes practice.
Once washed thoroughly, the shirt is laid out with the screen on top of it. Everything that is still green the ink your about to put on won’t pass through whereas in the white area it will.
Apply a generous amount of screen-print ink just above the design. You may want to have somebody hold the screen down while you use the squeegee again to press the ink down over the design. The result should now be a well-made graphic tee. After you get the design applied heat set your shirt by throwing it in the dryer for a few minutes.
Clean Off Your Screen
So, you got your shirt and it looks great. You now need to clean your silkscreen using some photo emulsion film remover which will make the film wash off after letting sit for a few minutes. If darker inks were applied, then there might be a stain left behind on your screen. No worries. If you got all the emulsion film removed you can still use your screen so wash thoroughly.
The Last Stitch
I want you to go try this out yourself. You can get graphics printed out onto transparencies at just about any office supply store. Let me know how your design turned out and if you have any questions don’t forget to comment