Screen Printing

From armed forces to art form; everything you need to know about the world’s most reliable print method.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQ’s

What is screen printing?

Traditional silk screen printing, or serigraphy, is a method of transferring an image onto a substrate using a mesh stencil. When printing t shirts we use a stencil that’s made from a fine mesh, stretched over a rectangular frame. Parts of this mesh are then blocked out to form a stencil, and that stencil is placed directly onto a t shirt. Next, ink is pressed through the mesh onto a t shirt. The parts that aren’t blocked will seep ink onto the fabric and form the print.

Imagine for a second that the mesh stencil is a flour sifter, and you’ve glued over some of the holes in the sifter, so that flour only comes out of certain holes, this is exactly the same principle for traditional silk screen printing.

Each stencil can typically only hold 1 color of ink, so if you have a colorful design you’ll need a separate stencil for each color in your design, and this is printed consecutively one after the other. This printing method is currently used commercially to print fabric, garments, glass and also superfine computer components like circuit boards. It can also be used to print artisan ceramics, paper, bottles and many other things too.

So, where does the ‘tradition’ come from?

Officially, screen printing began in China around 900AD as a way of transferring art onto fabric, though some sources claim to have evidence of screen printing as far back as 200AD. The name silk screen printing came about because the mesh stencils were originally made of silk or hair. These days the mesh is made from a polymer such as nylon. In the 18th century traditional silk screen printing was introduced to the west and it slowly gained popularity because it made it much easier to recreate images. This peaked as the main form of printing during World War 2 through to the 1960s when all posters were screenprinted from iconic war propaganda to the art style of Andy Warhol. Warhol’s efforts showed the world how versatile it was as an artform and from there it was only a short time until printing onto t shirts became popular worldwide.

When was the printing press invented?

The printing press was first seen between 206 BC – 220 CE in China during the Han dynasty. The oldest known text to be printed is the Diamond Sutra  which was printed in 868 CE using the block printing method. This method of printing spread worldwide before the invention of the modern printing press which was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany in 1440. The first book to be printed on the printing press was a Bible.

What kinds of tshirt orders suit traditional silk screen printing?

Designs with flat colors like logos suit traditional silk screen printing, but in saying that, designs with rich gradients, sketches or photographic elements can still be replicated, but may need additional screens which adds to the cost. The benefits of screen printing are that you can get really vibrant colors and you have many options for ink types which in turn gives you many options for how you want your printed t shirt to look. The best part of traditional silk screen printing is that getting a premium print result is surprisingly affordable too. It’s economical and very cost effective for orders of 12 tshirts or more.

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