What is Screen Printing?

Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Screen printing (or silk screen printing) is a traditional method of applying patterns and designs onto fabric. In the digital world screen printing can produce fabrics with a depth that will set them apart from their digital counterparts and the ability to produce different effects using a variety of inks. It's a hand crafted process involving the steps below that takes time to bring to life;

1. Design Preparation - The first step is creating or preparing the design that will be printed onto the fabric. This design is typically digitised and separated into different colours or layers, depending on the complexity of the design. Creating the repeat for screen printing is an important part of the process as this method differs from digital production.

2. Screen Preparation - The screens have metal frames that are stretched with a fine mesh which is then coated with a photosensitive emulsion which is used to expose the design. Each colour in the design requires a separate screen which makes set up costs for screen printing greater than digital printing.

3. Printing Setup - The fabric is placed on a printing table or a flat surface, and the prepared screens are aligned in the correct position over the fabric. Ink is applied onto the screen corresponding to the first colour of the design. 

4. Printing Process: A squeegee is used to push the ink through the open areas of the screen onto the fabric beneath. The ink passes through the screen only where the design is present, creating a sharp and accurate print.

5. Multiple colours: If the design contains more than one colours the printing setup and printing processes are repeated.

6. Curing: After the printing process is complete, the fabric is typically run through a baker to cure the ink (process dependent). Curing ensures the ink bonds properly to the fabric making the print durable.

Textile screen printing offers several advantages, including vibrant and long-lasting colours, the ability to print on various types of fabrics, and the quality of a traditional hand produced technique. However, it may not be as suitable for very detailed, complex or high colour count designs compared where digital print may be a more suitable method of production.