What is screen printing?

How Screen Printing Works

Screen printing first appeared during the Song Dynasty of 960-1279AD and originally used screens made of silk. Modern silk screening uses screens made from polyester fabric stretched over a wood or aluminum frame. If ink were applied to this screen it would pass right thru the mesh fabric.


To prevent the ink from passing thru the fabric mesh a thin material (called emulsion) is applied to the fabric. This is similar to how you might waterproof a new pair of boots. The main difference is that the material screen printers use has a unique property that makes it sensitive to light. When fully exposed to light this material hardens and cannot be easily washed out.


If you were to coat a screen and place a mask over parts of it then expose it to a light source you could “burn” the shape of the mask (or film) into the screen. The area covered by the mask is easily washed out with water while the rest of the emulsion film adheres to the fabric mesh.



The film needed to create a screen is derived from the customers artwork. It is possible to one or more films from customer artwork each representing a color in the artwork. In production a screen is produced for each color in the design. The process for creating screens is complex and costly. You will find that we will charge for each screen needed to produce and for each application. In general, fewer colors in a design is easier and less costly to produce than one with several colors.

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Proofing and Separations

Modern graphics editing software allows artists to create artwork containing any number of colors and of any quality. As we learned screen printing is not well suited to producing designs with many colors. In order to be cost effective, you want to use between one and four colors in your design but no more than six. If you require a design with more colors it is often better to use Direct to Garment printing which can reproduce more colors.

With artwork that is optimized for screen printing we use software that separates each color from the artwork file and produce films that are burned on to a screen. At this point you have the option to have a real product sample printed or you can receive an electronic proof for approval.

Garments and Colors

Once you have screens burned, it does not matter what color ink is applied to them. If you have white shirts, you might want black ink printed while dark shirts might use white ink. Two different color inks cannot be used on the same screen, but the same artwork can be used to make each screen.

The screen does not care what type of garment they are printing on. You can mix and match styles without additional charges. Often times we will offer quantity discounts when you reach a set number of units. You can save money purchasing your fall sweatshirts along with your spring order of tshirts.

Buying Screen Printed Apparel

Screen printing is a complex process and it can be intimidating to buy over the internet. We have created a self service quotation page that makes the process much easier. You simply select your favorite style, pick a color, and number of items you wish to buy and our system gives you a single “all inclusive” price.