What is Screen Printing?

African American Young Man wearing a screen printed t-shirt

Everyday screen printing involves making a “screen” for each color of imprint in a design. A screen is a device whereby mesh fabric is stretched across a frame and secured to it. The technician applies emulsion to the screen, and a graphic image or design is then placed on the screen either with a transparent medium with opaque graphics on the film (or a milky white substrate called Vellum)or imaged onto the screen via a digital process that directly applies ink onto the screen’s emulsion surface. The imaging process will permit only the design elements to be washed out of the screen. After the screen is dried and sometimes touched up to eliminate imperfections, a screen printing press is positioned onto another device to hold it in place during the printing process. In this technology, ink is forced with a squeegee through the screen’s mesh onto whatever’s underneath it- a T-shirt, a jacket, a sign or banner, pressure-sensitive label stock, etc.

Screen Printing on Safety Gear

How much does a Screen Printing Press Cost?

A textile screen printing shop with new equipment will run between $25,000 and $50,000 for essential manual equipment (a press, an infrared dryer, an exposure unit for imaging screens), start-up supplies, and hardware. Used equipment is also available. A new automatic press will run anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000.

Is it challenging to learn Screen Printing?

The learning curve of textile screen printing will take a few days of training, practice, and hands-on experience to gain an essential ability to screen print on a manual press, one without motors, robotic arms, or any high-efficiency add-ons. Leaming how to operate an automatic press will take a few additional days to learn. But achieving¬†command¬†of the subtle nuances and myriad variables that ensue with mastering the process will take months. And as some highly-skilled screen printing technicians will attest, it can take perhaps years when it comes to able to see a highly complex job and quickly evaluate it as “a piece of cake.”

This Blog is Dedicated to our good friend Mark Venit

This blog comes from the works of industry consultant Mark Venit. Mark was a consultant for Northwest Custom Apparel for 20 years. We will miss you, Mark. 
Jim and Erik Mickelson