Blog, Industry Tips, Marketing, Promotional Products, T-Shirts

Designing of a Screen-Printed T-shirt


Designs meant to be screen printed are generated on a computer using specialised software. Because screen printing is a technique that requires colours to be placed on one layer each, designers need to work with programs that allow them to separate them. Vectors are generally preferred since they are easy to manipulate and unlike pixels, can be stretched many times over its original size without losing quality. Illustrator and Corel Draw are probably the most popular tools for this task, but depending on how it is used Photoshop can also be valid.

design-screen-printingThe price of Colour

Because the technique doesn’t allow for more than one colour to be applied at the same time, a different screen must be created for each tone. For this reason, the less colourful a design is, then the cheaper it will be to produce. As a result this method tends to work better when placing larger orders. Another factor one must take into account when working with screen printing is the colour of the garment that will be printed on.

How to print onto black or dark T-shirts

It is the same process, with the only difference being that an extra layer of white ink has to be placed as a base before the final design can be printed. If this step is overlooked then the dark fabric will “consume” the design making it look pale. Keep in mind that some amateur or inexperienced printers don’t know this so always make sure you clarify the point with your account manager before going into production.


Even though they share some basic components, inks for screen printing are different from those of other processes. The most notable thing about them is that they are thicker and more viscous than other inks.

distressed logo

Specialty Inks

Sometimes standard inks aren’t enough and speciality inks are required to take a look to the next level. These are some of the different kinds of speciality inks out there:

  • High density inks that give depth and texture, literally — the finish is slightly raised by about one eighth of an inch above the fabric
  • Glow in the dark inks achieve exactly what it promises – a glow in the dark finish
  • Puff inks are another way to achieve a raised design which is ideal for children wear
  • Suede inks can be used to achieve a suede-feel effect on a garment
  • Vintage effect inks designed to achieve a weathered look
  • Metallic inks give shine and a touch of sparkle


Not to be confused with metallic inks, foil works as a sort of “sticker” if you will, that gets pasted permanently onto the fabric. When working with intricate designs, it is usually combined with inks as foil alone can’t achieve great detail. Although it does come in most standard colours, not just gold and silver. So if you want a metallic purple print on your sweatshirts, it can be done.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

Related Posts