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Tools That Every Screen Printer Should Have



March 22, 2023

Jun 23, 2024

Tools That Every Screen Printer Should Have

While there are many styles and approaches to screen printing, you’ll need a handful of basic tools to produce a variety of designs. Screen-printing is a technique by which designs are reproduced by transferring ink through a stenciled, mesh screen onto a substrate. The technique is also sometimes referred to as silkscreen printing or serigraphy. To fill the open areas of the stencil, you move a squeegee (or blade) across the screen and then use a reverse stroke so that the ink wets the substrate along a line of contact. If producing a multi-colored design or image, color must print one at a time, requiring several screens, one per color, so that the colors don’t bleed together and become muddied. If producing a single-color design, only one screen is necessary.

First introduced in its earliest forms during the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD) in China, screen-printing was adapted by other Asian countries, like Japan. The printing press, invented in 1440, furthered rudimentary screen-printing techniques through the use of movable type and screens. Screen-printing became more popular in Western Europe during the 18th century once silk mesh became more readily available, as well as affordable in light of the Silk trade. Andy Warhol then popularized modern screen-printing during the 20th century beginning with his 1962 “Marilyn Diptych,” an iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe. Other artists further expanded the role of screen-printing in popular culture and art, such as Michel Caza, Sister Mary Corita Kent, Roy Lichenstein, and Arthur Okamura, among many others. The underground punk movement of the 1970s and early 1980s then brought screen-printing on a wider scale to t-shirts.

Screen-printing might seem straightforward, but it requires a lot of practice and technical knowledge to produce the best results. Like any form of art, screen-printing takes a while to learn how to use specific tools. Though screen-printing tools vary based on budget and space available in which to work, here are a few essential items needed to start:

                                                                                     Blank silkscreen with a 110-mesh count

Silkscreens come in a variety of sizes and mesh counts. However, screens with a 110 to 160 mesh count have proven to be the most versatile. Screens generally come in two sizes – 20×24 inches OD and 23×31 inches OD. For heavy coverage on dark fabrics, puff, metallic, solid under base prints, some shimmer inks, and for certain transfer printing, make sure to use a 110 mesh count, which is particularly good for high opacity inks on dark textiles.

                                                                                                     Screen-printing squeegee

One of the most fundamental tools to screen-printing, you use a squeegee by pulling it across the silkscreen in order to evenly distribute your chosen ink. While there are automated machines that can do this, many companies use manual ink presses because it better helps control quality and is much faster for small batches.

Squeegees are chosen based on the inks being used, the mesh count, and the final design. They also come in different durometers, most commonly 60, 70, and 80. A 60 durometer squeegee blade is considered softer, which tends to print more ink than harder ones, such as the 80 durometer squeegee. A 60 durometer squeegee is best for printing white ink, or any high opacity color ink, on dark fabrics. A 70 durometer squeegee is the most commonly used and is especially good for printing on white or light-colored fabrics. An 80 durometer squeegee is the hardest of the three and should be used in combination with higher mesh counts, fine details, or halftones.

                                                                                                                   Photo emulsion

Photosensitive emulsions are used when creating a stencil. Essentially, you spread a thin layer of light-sensitive emulsion across the screen and then let it dry in the dark. Then, you take a blackened image on a translucent surface, such as tracing paper, place the image against the screen, and expose the screen to light. This will harden the emulsion wherever the light hits it; however, the design, or blackened areas, should block the light. The blocked areas won’t harden and, after exposed, you can wash them out with water. This technique lets you heighten the accuracy of designs, allowing you to mass-produce them more easily.

                                                                                                                       Plastisol ink

Plastisol ink, the most commonly used ink in commercial screen-printing, offers good color opacity on darker fabrics. This type of ink produces clearer details and a plasticized texture. You can also add specific additives to plastisol ink to make it softer or add several layers of it to make the final ink product heavier. To cure the screen-printed design, plastisol ink requires heat (approximately 150 °C (300 °F).

                                                                                                            Transparency paper

Transparency paper simply refers to a thin sheet of translucent, flexible material onto which you can draw designs or images, and then transfer them onto a screen coated with photo emulsion by exposure to light. To create a design with transparency paper, convert your design into a black and white image. Images that are already in black in white or those with gray scales will not work as well. You can also use Adobe or some other photo software to edit your design, which you can transfer onto paper later.

                                                                                                       Aluminum scoop coater

A scoop coater helps to directly apply liquid emulsions. It’s a trough-like tool that coats the screen with a smooth layer of emulsion onto your screen. You grab the scoop coater with both hands and place the sharp edge roughly an inch above the bottom of the inside of the screen frame.

                                                                                                          Screen printing press

There are different types of screen-printing pressed ranging from 1-color presses to 4-color presses. Single color print can use jiffy hinges, while multi-color presses make use of several screens.

Consider these insights on how to choose the right tools for your screen-printing project from Clothing Shop Online!

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