Silk screen printing originated in China in 8th century and has since become one of the most popular fine arts and commercial printing technique in the world. It is a multistage process. In it a stencil of the design is made and incorporated into a silk or polymer mesh screen. This screen is then used after pretreatment to apply varying inks to the fabric to achieve the desired final result.
Preparing a screen for a printing process is the most arduous task in this method. After the stencil is made in the negative image of the required design, an emulsion is applied across the screen. This emulsion is treated with a specific chemical that allows it to harden when exposed to light. Only the stenciled area remains permeable because an exposure unit burns away the emulsion there. Following this treatment, pallet tape is applied at the screen’s printing surface to make sure no ink leaks occur.
Continuing with the prepress process, the screen and frame are aligned and held together by an aggressive tape, such as a PVC one. After that any remaining pinholes in the emulsion are filled.
Once the frame is secure and there is no chance of ink leaking from unwanted portions, a reservoir of ink is poured behind the screen. Using a squeegee, the operator pulls down ink from this reservoir and drags it along the backside of the screen. The process is repeated several times while using different colors of ink in order to get the requisite final outlook. The shirt is then left to dry.
Silk screen printing is very cost-effective when printing a repeating design on a large amount of shirts. However, for smaller number of printed shirts or for when a lot of colors are required, it is not recommended as the screen making process becomes cost prohibitive.
Additionally, it is a manual task and thus may require additional process time compared to other printing methods.
Silk screen printing is recommended for making simple designs, like numbers, letters and checkered patterns among others. It results in clear, vibrant impressions that are both eye-catchy and durable. Unlike many other printing techniques it can also be extended to curved surfaces like those of hats and mugs