Screen printing is the printing on apparel that most everyone is familiar with. It works by creating the creation of large stencils (usually silk, hence “silk-screening”), and pushing ink through the gaps onto the fabric or material. Only one color can be used per screen, so each color in the image requires a separate screen. There are some really impressive machines that automate this process, but the basic technique is the same.
Screen printing has a wide variety of inks that can be used, including water-based inks and plastisols, as well as specialty inks such as thermochromic, metallic, and more! In this area, specialty machinery exists to automate the printing process and some of the professional grade machinery can include something like a 10-station (so 10 color-capable) machine.
- Perfect for large orders – if you need several hundred shirts, this is the way to do it. They generally get cheaper the more you print.
- Lots of ink types
- Longevity medium to high, depending on the ink
- Can be simple to get into – entry level single-screen or even 3 or 4 station machines are easy to find.
- Very difficult to master – the special techniques of color separation and getting height, color balance, and more require tons of time to master
- Minimum orders – since a screen needs to be made for each color used, it may not be worth it to print small numbers
- Fine details such as gradients are very difficult to do – photographs are mostly impossible