Whether you are a starting a new screen printing business, or silk screening at home, there can be an overwhelming amount of information out there on the internet about how to screen printing. All screen printers have to get their start somewhere.
Various opinions on how to print t-shirts and what screen printing machines are the best might feel overwhelming. To get the perfect garment print, do not rely solely on beginner’s luck. We have put together 6 beginner tips will help prevent common screen printing problems. Remember, the best piece of screen printing advice is to test for yourself. If possible, do not test a new technique on a customer’s order.
Aim for Opacity with Film Positives
“Opacity” refers to the opaqueness of the black inkjet ink part of the design on the film positive. The film positives are the copy of the original art, and the screen is a copy of the film. You want your film to be as opaque as possible, in order to prevent light from passing through and preserve design details. If your film positive is not dark and dense enough, you will have problems washing out your screen post-exposure.
Apply Adequate Amount of Screen Printing Emulsion
Emulsion is photosensitive liquid that coats a screen printing frame. You want to keep two things in mind when coating a screen with emulsion. First, you should use enough emulsion to prevent plastisol ink from going outside of the design image area. There should be a distinct edge of emulsion where the design is located. Second, make sure there is enough emulsion on the screen in order to prevent pinholes. The technical term for measuring the amount of emulsion on a screen is emulsion over mesh (EOM). Having a high EOM allows for more ink to be put down with fewer print strokes. Dry screens that have been coated with emulsion horizontally, ink side (squeegee side) up. Learn more about the screen making cycle here
Stock a Few Different Kinds of Plastisol Ink
Screen printing on different materials means having a variety of plastisol ink. Many beginner screen printers try to get by with only one ink, but this limits the quality of your prints you produce. You should stock a few different kinds of screen printing ink to print on different materials. T-shirts made out of cotton, polyester, and nylon react to inks differently. Don’t just assume that one white ink will be sufficient for every design on every fabric. Using the wrong white ink could cause problems such as bleeding, ghost images and dye migration.
Additive Options for Plastisol Ink
Begin thinking about additives that will increase the options you can offer to your customers. For example, dulling additive, or paste, will make a glossy ink matte. Puff additive will make images more interesting by creating texture and dimension. Nylon catalyst adheres ink to nylon materials. Thinner DT is one of the most important plastisol ink additives you can have. Watch this video to see why.
Apply the Right Squeegee
Just as you need many kinds of inks, you will benefit from purchasing several different types of squeegees. Identifying the right type of squeegee will allow you to effectively and efficiently deposit ink with each print stroke. Squeegees are measured by their hardness levels (called durometer) and should be chosen based upon the size of the print. Generally speaking, you want your squeegee to be 2 - 3 inches wider than your image area. The average screen print is 12 inches wide, so a 14 to 16 inch squeegee is a good choice. The durometer can vary but a 70 durometer squeegee is a good “go to” choice.
Don’t only rely on random internet forums and videos for answers. While some of these resources can be helpful, there is a lot of misinformation out there too. Communicating with the manufacturer directly allows you to find tailored solutions quickly and effectively. Lawson offers 24/7/365 service, online and by phone. We are always ready to help! You can send Lawson a message, a photo, or a video, and we will work with you to solve your particular screen printing problem.