How does screen printing onto apparel work

Whether you are trying to build brand loyalty or grow your customer base, promotional advertising can be an effective tool that helps your business stand out from the crowd. One of the most popular techniques used to create branded apparel, hats, and accessories is printing. Screen-printing is a process by which mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate and create a multicolored image or design. But how does screen-printing work? As simple as it may sound, screen-printing is a very complex process that involves cutting-edge equipment and plenty of expertise. In this guide, we explore the art form behind screen-printing, so you have the tools needed to make an informed marketing decision.

How Does Screen-Printing Work?

  1. The vision: Every screen-printing project starts with a particular idea or design. Part of what makes what we do such a delight is collaborating with talented creatives and helping them turn their visions into realities. With a digital prototype of the design at the ready, artists will hand-select ink colors, observe how they interact with different substrates, and provide a precise preview of what the product will look like once printed.
  2. The screen: Once the design is finalized and approved, it is sent to the screen room in order to create a stencil. Before that can happen, the mesh screen is covered in a layer of photosensitive emulsion that eventually becomes the solid base of the stencil that doesn’t let any ink pass through the screen. The design is then burned onto the emulsified screen using computer-to-screen exposure or some other UV light source.
  3. The colors: With the stencil complete, it is finally time to find the perfect combination of colors for the garment’s design. There are a wide variety of techniques used to reproduce artwork: spot color, halftone, grayscale, duotone, and four-color process printing. Depending on the stencil’s substrate, artists and ink specialists may use fixatives to darken the final printed image. The selected inks are then loaded into the press and prepared for printing.
  4. The press: A press operator will align the screen(s) and load the garment using a laser alignment tool to ensure consistency. Once the garment has passed through all of the screens, another press operator will unload it and leave it to dry in what’s known as a belt oven, curing the freshly printed ink.

MSP Design Group’s production facilities house automatic presses, manual presses, and cutting-edge printing machines, allowing us to produce more than one million shirts per year for a wide variety of clients. If you would like to learn more about our facilities or screen-printing process, please contact us today for additional information.