Screen Printing: What It Is and How It's Used

Screen printing is a popular technique for many products. But what is it exactly, and which products are made with the artistic process? From t-shirts to electronic devices, we’ll go over what screen printing is and how it’s used.

What Is Screen Printing?

Put simply, screen printing is the careful process of creating a pre-determined printed design by pressing layers of ink through a stencil on a mesh screen. This process is only used on flat items and is a great option for custom products and artwork. The process is also sometimes referred to as silk screening. Depending on the product being made, the type of ink may vary.

Surfaces Used To Print On

Screen printing is used on an array of surfaces. Generally, if it’s flat, you can print on it. The most common surfaces include fabric, tile, wood, metal, plastic, canvas, and glass.

Because of the process’s versatility, screen printing is used to print labels and designs on products from diverse industries. Some products that feature a silkscreened design include apparel, home linens, and electrical components, such as printed circuit boards.

Equipment Used in the Process

In order to create a screen-printed product, workers and artists must have the right tools. These tools include:

  • Mesh screen: A cost-effective solution primarily used by beginners.
  • Screen-printing press: A professional option that allows for quick production of large batches. Presses are available in manual, semi-automatic, and automatic options.
  • Ink: There are different types of inks, pigments, and paints whose use depends on the product in question.
  • Silkscreen: A mesh fabric screen, often made from polyester, stretched over a metal or wood frame. The mesh’s thickness and thread count vary depending on the print’s texture and detail.
  • Squeegee: An important aspect of the screen printing process, the squeegee pushes the ink, pigment, or paint through the screen and onto the product’s surface.
  • Washing station: Where workers and artists remove the ink, pigment, or paint after each use. Some use a sink and powerful hose, while others dip screens in tubs of cleaning fluids or acid.

Why Screen Printing Is So Popular

This technique is so popular because of its ability to produce a clean design quickly and easily. Since the screens are reusable, screen printing allows for the same product to be created numerous times. Ink can be applied in one layer for a simple design, or many colors and patterns can be layered for a more complex design.

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