Screen printing is a classic, high-precision printing technology utilised by numerous merchants and manufacturers the world over to create attractively patterned designs.
For almost a century, screen printing has been used in the commercial sector to print pictures and designs on garments and accessories. Sometimes referred to as serigraphy or silk-screen printing, screen printing is also valuable in the creative industry, helping artists bring innovative creations to life. Many types of printing technologies have emerged over the last centuries. Still, screen printing is regarded as the lifeblood of many large-scale printing processes.
What is Screen Printing and How Does it Work?
According to popular belief, screen printing may have begun in China between 960 and 1279 AD, in India in the 4th century, or about 3000 BC in ancient Egypt. However, silk mesh did not become popular in Europe until the 18th century, when it became simpler to import from the East.
What are the various processes involved in screen printing?
Screen printing may be done in a variety of ways, but the fundamental method stays the same. To get the desired outcome, the screen printing process involves the following steps:
1. Development of a design
The design to be printed on the cloth is first printed on a transparent acetate film, which will be used to make the stencil, or screen.
2. Setting up the screen
As its name suggests, the design is printed on a screen, so the next step is setting up the screen. Note that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach. So, selecting the correct mesh screen requires considering the intricacy of the pattern to be printed and the material to be printed on.
After selecting the mesh screen, it is covered with a coating of light-reactive emulsion.
3. The emulsion is exposed.
Next, the pattern is carefully put on the emulsion-coated mesh screen by the clear acetate film. The light-reactive emulsion hardens and develops when this is exposed to strong light. Any section of the screen covered by the pattern will stay in liquid form; therefore, this is critical in generating the design impression.
This process gets more complex when there are several colours in the design since distinct screens must be utilised for each colour. Furthermore, because each stencil must be painstakingly developed per colour and then perfectly matched up to guarantee the finished design is an exact match to the original, the high precision procedure necessitates highly trained printers.
4. Designing the stencil
Before the emulsion hardens on any regions not covered by the pattern, the screen must be exposed to light for a certain length of time. Then, any emulsion left in liquid form will be carefully washed away to leave a clean impression of the pattern on the screen.
The screen will be gently dried after only solidified emulsion remains. The printer will then make any required changes manually to ensure the imprint is as exact as possible. This means that the printer now has a finished stencil that can be utilised for printing.
5. Printing preparation
The next step involves setting flat on the printing press the silk to be printed (utilising an automated rotating carousel printer). Then, the screen is carefully placed on top, ready to print.
This is the point at which the printed design begins to come to life! Above the silk piece, the screen is lowered onto the printing board. A heavy coating of the chosen colour ink is placed on the top of the screen. Then, using a squeegee, which is a rubber blade connected to a long metal handle, the ink is dragged over the whole length of the screen to cover the stencil completely.
This works by pressing ink through the open sections of the stencil and transferring it to the silk beneath, leaving an ink pattern in the desired design. If different goods are to be made, this may be done as many times as required with the same stencil.
When the order is complete and the stencil is no longer needed, the screen will be cleaned with a specific solution to remove the solidified emulsion, allowing the mesh to be reused to create fresh stencils.
7. Finishing and quality assurance
Finally, the ink is dried by running the silk through a special drier, resulting in a smooth, colourfast finish. The finished product will be properly tested and washed to eliminate any traces of emulsion residue and verify it is fit for usage.
Who can benefit from screen printing?
Screen printing is perfect for individuals who want to print on darker-coloured materials. It’s a flexible procedure that lets you print on a variety of surfaces like wood, glass, metal, paper, cloth, and plastic. Because a stencil may be used several times in a row here, screen printing is an excellent printing method for individuals or businesses looking to create marketing products in bulk.