What Is Screen Printing?

Screen printing, also known as silkscreen or serigraphy, is a versatile printing technique that utilises a stencil to transfer a design onto a surface. It's a popular choice for creating bold, vibrant prints on a variety of materials, from swimming caps to electronics and glassware.

Here's a breakdown of the key steps involved:

1. Design Preparation:

The process begins with creating the artwork for your design. This can be done digitally or with traditional methods like drawing or illustration. The final design is then transferred onto a transparency film.

2. Screen Preparation:

A mesh screen, typically made of nylon or polyester, is coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. This emulsion hardens when exposed to light. The transparency film with the design is placed on the coated screen, and the entire unit is exposed to light. The light hardens the emulsion in the areas not covered by the design, essentially creating a stencil on the mesh. The unhardened emulsion is then washed away, leaving behind open areas that will allow ink to pass through during printing.

3. Printing:

The prepared screen is secured onto a printing press. The substrate (t-shirt, poster, etc.) is positioned beneath the screen. Ink is applied to the top of the screen, and a squeegee, a rubber blade mounted on a frame, is drawn across the screen. The squeegee pressure forces ink through the open areas of the stencil, replicating the design onto the substrate. This process is repeated for each colour in the design, using separate screens for each colour.

4. Curing and Cleaning:

Once printed, the ink needs to be cured or dried according to its specific properties. This might involve heat treatment or air drying. Finally, the screen is cleaned to remove residual ink and emulsion, preparing it for reuse with a new design.