What is The Process of Screen Printing on Shirts

Home - Blog - What is The Process of Screen Printing on Shirts

Table of Contents

Screen printing, also known as silk screening, is a popular and versatile printing technique used to create vibrant, long-lasting designs on a variety of materials, including shirts. This method has been widely used for decades due to its ability to produce high-quality prints with a rich, durable finish. In this comprehensive guide, Dallasshirtprinting.com will explore the step-by-step process of screen printing on shirts, from design preparation to the final product.

Understanding Screen Printing

Screen printing involves transferring ink onto a shirt through a mesh screen that has been prepared with a stencil of the desired design. Each color in the design requires a separate screen, and the process is repeated for each layer of color. This method is perfect for crafting one-of-a-kind garments because of its long lifespan and vivid colors.

Step-by-Step Screen Printing Process

  1. Design Preparation

Creating the Artwork

  • Digital Design: Making or choosing a digital design is the first step. Graphic design software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop is commonly used to create high-resolution artwork. The design should be vector-based for scalability and clarity.
  • Color Separation: Since screen printing applies one color at a time, the design must be separated into individual color components. Each color layer will require its own screen. This separation is often done using graphic design software.
  1. Choosing the Screens and Inks

Selecting the Screens

  • Mesh Count: The mesh count of the screen determines the fineness of the print. Higher mesh counts are used for detailed designs and finer lines, while lower mesh counts are suitable for bold, solid areas of color. Common mesh counts range from 110 to 305.
  • Frame Material: Screens are typically made from aluminum or wood frames. Aluminum frames are more durable and provide better tension, while wood frames are more economical.

Choosing the Inks

  • Plastisol Ink: The most common ink used in screen printing, plastisol ink, is thick and sits on top of the fabric, providing vibrant colors and excellent durability.
  • Water-Based Ink: This ink is absorbed into the fabric, creating a softer feel. It is more eco-friendly but may not be as vibrant on dark fabrics.
  • Discharge Ink: Used to print on dark fabrics, discharge ink removes the shirt’s dye color and replaces it with the ink color, resulting in a soft print.
  1. Screen Preparation

Creating the Stencil

  • Coating the Screen: The screen is coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. This emulsion will harden when exposed to light, creating a stencil for the design.
  • Drying: After coating, the screen must be dried in a dark room to prevent premature exposure. This can be done using a drying cabinet or a dark, ventilated area.
  • Exposure: The coated screen is then placed on an exposure unit, with the design printed on a transparent film (acetate) laid on top. When exposed to UV light, the emulsion hardens except in areas blocked by the design, creating a stencil.
  • Washing Out: The screen is rinsed with water, washing away the unhardened emulsion, leaving behind a stencil of the design. The screen is then dried again.
  1. Setting Up the Printing Station

Aligning the Screens

  • Registration: Proper alignment, or registration, of the screens is crucial for multi-color designs. Each screen must be precisely aligned to ensure the colors layer correctly. Registration marks or systems are used to achieve accurate placement.

Setting Up the Printing Press

  • Manual vs. Automatic: Printing presses can be manual or automatic. Manual presses are hand-operated and suitable for smaller runs, while automatic presses are motorized and ideal for large production runs.
  • Pallets: The shirt is placed on a flat surface called a pallet, which holds the fabric in place during printing.
  1. Printing the Design

Applying the Ink

  • Flooding the Screen: Before printing, the screen is flooded with ink using a squeegee. This ensures the screen is evenly coated and ready for the print stroke.
  • Printing Stroke: The screen is lowered onto the shirt, and the squeegee is pulled across the screen, pressing the ink through the mesh and onto the fabric. This process is repeated for each color layer, allowing the ink to dry between applications.

Curing the Ink

  • Heat Setting: After printing, the ink must be cured to ensure it bonds with the fabric and becomes durable. This is typically done using a conveyor dryer, which heats the shirts to the appropriate temperature for the specific ink used (usually around 320°F for plastisol inks).
  • Quality Check: Each shirt is inspected for print quality, alignment, and any defects. Proper curing is essential to prevent the ink from cracking or fading over time.
  1. Finishing Touches

Additional Treatments

  • Heat Transfers: For added details or effects, heat transfers can be applied using a heat press.
  • Special Effects: Techniques such as puff ink, metallic ink, or glitter can be added for unique finishes.

Packaging and Distribution

  • Folding and Packaging: Shirts are folded and packaged according to the order specifications. Proper packaging helps prevent damage during shipping.
  • Distribution: The finished products are then shipped to customers or distributed to stores.

Advantages of Screen Printing

  • Durability: Screen printing creates long-lasting prints that can withstand repeated washing and wear without significant fading or cracking.
  • Vibrant Colors: The thick ink used in screen printing results in bright, vivid colors that stand out on various fabrics.
  • Cost-Effective for Large Orders: Screen printing becomes more economical as the order size increases, making it ideal for bulk production.

Disadvantages of Screen Printing

  • Setup Time and Cost: The initial setup for screen printing, including creating screens for each color, can be time-consuming and costly, making it less suitable for small orders or one-off designs.
  • Limited Detail for High Mesh Count: While screen printing can produce detailed designs, extremely fine details may be challenging to achieve compared to digital printing methods.

Applications of Screen Printing

Custom Apparel

  • T-Shirts and Hoodies: Screen printing is widely used for custom t-shirts, hoodies, and other apparel, providing durable and vibrant prints for fashion brands, promotional merchandise, and event apparel.

Corporate and Team Apparel

  • Uniforms and Team Gear: Companies and sports teams often use screen printing for uniforms, promotional items, and team gear due to its cost-effectiveness for large orders and the durability of the prints.

Event Merchandise

  • Concerts and Festivals: Screen printing is popular for producing merchandise for concerts, festivals, and other events, offering high-quality prints that fans can cherish.


Screen printing is a versatile and reliable method for creating custom designs on shirts and other apparel. By understanding the step-by-step process, from design preparation to finishing touches, you can appreciate the craftsmanship involved in producing high-quality, durable prints. Whether for small businesses, large corporations, or individual projects, screen printing remains a top choice for creating vibrant, lasting custom apparel.

Fahad Kdm

Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.

Powered By
100% Free SEO Tools - Tool Kits PRO