Screen Printing Design

When getting t-shirts screen printed there are a lot of things to take in to consideration. What color shirt do you want? Based on the color of shirt what ink color would work with it. If I want multiple colors will that effect the price? Will the sizes also effect the price? And many more...

The first thing we always ask about is artwork. Artwork is anything that is going to be printed on the shirt. There are two main type of artwork Raster and Vector. There are two types of digital graphics files – vector and raster. Vector images are made of hundreds of thousands of tiny lines and curves (or paths) to create an image. Raster images are composed of pixels.

Here is an example of the two types of artwork.

As you can see a vector graphic will remain crisp and clear no matter how large or small you make it. Raster on the other hand will become blurry. Raster files are Gif, Jpeg, Tiff, PNG. These do not make good artwork. Vector files are .AI and .EPS. These files are what we normally need in order to separate out all the colors and shapes in your screen printed artwork.

If you do not have a vector version of your artwork, we do offer a vectorizing service.

If you have a one color logo that is simple a raster image may very well work. Here is an example of a simple design that is one color:

Now for a much more complex job, we would need vector artwork. When there are multiple colors we separate each color and print them one at a time onto the shirt.

The examples that follow show how we start with a full color design and then break it down. Each color then gets burned to a screen and then printed to the shirt.

​Now we start by identifying how many colors are in a design. In this case 4 colors. This design went onto the back of shirts for our local Disc Golf range.

Here you can see each color is separated out with registration marks in order to line all of them up once we start printing.

Once we have it at this stage we can then coat and burn screens. Our screens are simply a frame made of either wood or aluminum. Then we get a special very tight weave fabric stretched over it. They come in different mesh counts. The higher the mesh count, the more detail you can get. Normally we use a 110 screen for white, and a 156 for all colors. In order to coat the screens we use emulsion. This is a special polymer that cures under normal light. Since it cures in light, we coat then a darkened room using an emulsion spreader. Once they are coated front and back we store them in a dark room so they can dry. Once they are dry we load our positive onto our exposure unit. (A positive is an all black version of each color we are going to print. Where black shows, ink will flow onto the shirt. Where there is not black the emulsion will harden and resist the ink.)

Here are each of those steps.

We start with a clean screen (right) and coat and dry it (left):

Then we load our positive onto the exposure unit:

Once that is done we burn the screen for around 2 minutes. Once it comes out of the exposure unit we wash it out with a pressure washer leaving behind the nor hardened emulsion. The screen is now ready to print.

Once we print a full order it is time to wash out the screen and get it ready to coat it with emulsion.

We hope this give you a good idea of what goes into printing a t-shirt. In the next blog we will go into why color effects the price. Stay tuned.

Recent Posts