Printing and graphic design techniques have evolved over hundreds of years. Now, we’re in the era of using modern techniques to create the necessary art. One printing technique that has made a long way is screen printing also called silk printing or silk screen printing. It is the process of running ink through a mesh screen to create a printing design. It is one of the best ways to create customized prints of clothes, products, posters, canvases, and other artwork.
The process of Screen Printing
The entire process consists of a stenciled mesh screen which creates an impression when ink is pressed over it. A technique called ink blocking is used to create an impression on a surface. Specialized inks are used to imprint designs on surfaces made of wool, plastic, metal, paper, and even glass.
A woven mesh is woven, and a stencil is created, which outlines the design on the required print. A squeegee is used to press ink on the mesh, imprinted on the surface beneath, within seconds. However, the process of creating a stencil can vary depending on the material used. Some of these techniques include:
- Using vinyl or masking tape to cover the desired area
- Using screen blocking elements like glue or lacquer
- Using light-sensitive emulsions is similar to developing photographs.
Step 1: Design creation
The desired print is created manually or using computer graphics and then printed out on a transparent acetate sheet. This sheet is used to create the stencil.
Step 2: Screen Preparation
Depending on the complexity of the design and the texture of the material beneath (product), the material for the mesh screen is chosen. The mesh is then run through a light-sensitive emulsion to harden under the light.
Step 3: Emulsion exposure
The acetate sheet comprising the desired design is placed on the emulsion-coated screen, and the entire setup is exposed to bright light. On exposure, the emulsion hardens, leaving the design-covered area to remain in liquid form. If the product demands multicolors, the process is repeated on different stencils and placed perfectly to ensure a seamless finish.
Step 4: Stencil creation
Once the entire step up is hardened on exposure to light, the design part of the step up remains in liquid form, leaving a clear imprint of the design. This creates the necessary stencil design.
Step 5: Printing
The stencil is placed on the printing press, and the item is placed underneath the screen. The stencil is then pressed against the surafce, either manually or through an automated rotary carousel printer.
Step 6: Inking
Ink is then dropped onto the stencil using a squeegee to pull the ink along the entire screen, imprinting the design on the item. Next, the printing board is raised for multiple prints on the item, and the garment underneath is moved. This process is repeated until the desired print is imprinted on the product.
Where is screen printing used?
It is popular in the graphic world to print T-shirts in bulk, balloons, merchandise or customized bags, clothes, etc.