Screenprinting has long been used in the textile industry to print beautiful designs on clothing, canvasses, posters, artwork, and much more. Nowadays, most people like wearing custom t-shirts; they could be for a noble cause, personal identity, or promoting a brand. Most of these designs actively worn by most people are produced using screenprinting.

What’s Screenprinting?

Screenprinting is a unique process where a stenciled design is pressed through ink, and transferred to a fabric or t-shirt using a mesh screen and a squeegee. Screenprinting is an art. You can even call it designing as it needs a considerable amount of effort from your designer. It involves multiple steps from creating, preparing the stencils, and eventually transferring the design onto the t-shirt. You can print the custom t-shirts in bulk from who are experts in making detailed custom designs to perfection.

Screenprinting Procedure

Create the design

The first step is to create and print onto a transparent acetate film, which will be used to create the stencil.

Prepare the screen

Next, your designer chooses a mesh screen based on the type of design you need to print, and depends on the material to be used and the fabric’s texture. Depending on the detail of your design, you’ll also need to know the mesh count. A mesh count usually measures the total number of fibers found in one square inch. Screens with low mesh count tend to allow more ink to pass through because they have wider openings. Printing on dark colors is also made easier with screens with a lower mesh count. The mesh screen is coated with a layer of light reactive emulsion that gets harder when exposed to light.

It’s good to note that water-based inks dry a bit faster on finer screens. You can add a retarder to your inks, extending the ink transferring process and your printing project.

Expose the emulsion

The sheet with the acetate and the design is then laid down onto the screen coated with emulsion. Then, the whole thing is exposed to very bright light. The bright light is used to make the emulsion harder so that the screen covered by design stays in liquid form. If the design has many colors, then a new screen is taken to apply the different ink layers. The printer lines up the different stencils for each color perfectly to ensure the final design comes out seamlessly for multicolored designs.

Washing off the emulsion and creating the stencil

After exposing the screen to bright light for some time, the areas of the screen covered by your design will turn hard. Any leftover emulsion that hasn’t hardened is then carefully rinsed off. This leaves an exact imprint of the design on the screen, which allows the ink to pass when printing.

The t-shirt is prepared for printing

Here’s when the screen is placed on the printing press equipment, and the t-shirt is placed flat on the board underneath the screen.

The ink is pressed through the screen and onto the shirt

The screen is lowered onto the shirt, then you add ink on top of the screen, and a squeegee is used to squeeze the colored ink through the mesh, creating the design.


Finally, the printed t-shirt is dried, and the ink is cured to create a smooth finish. Later, it’s washed to remove any extra unwanted residue and is dried, ready for dispatch.

The Different Types of Inks Used in Screenprinting

  • Plastisol inks are the most commonly used inks in screenprinting. This is because they are durable, and they provide adequate color capacity and a clean finish. The finish usually has a plastic feel to it. That’s why it’s called plastisol.
  • Water-based inks are usually used when you need to print dark-colored inks on lighter fabrics. They are also ideal for use on large-surface print jobs. Water-based inks are the second most commonly used inks, and they result in a much softer feel than plastisol. They are also more affordable than plastisol inks.
  • High-density inks give off good texture and depth to its printed design. It appears almost as braille because the finish is usually slightly raised by an eighth of an inch above the fabric’s surface, and is best used when working with a lower mesh count.
  • Nylobond is a special ink used when printing on waterproof or technical fabrics.
  • PV and phthalate-free inks are the newest arrivals in the market. They eliminate the use of the two toxic main ingredients in plastisol ink, without sacrificing the benefits of high-quality prints and a softer feel to the final product.

Inks for Design Artwork

If you’re looking to design unique artwork that stands out from the rest, consider combining any of the following Inks

Suede inks

It can be mixed in any plastisol ink to achieve the suede finish and a silky feel on your t-shirts. However, it would help if you didn’t overdo it and only apply less than half the suede percentage when using it.


In the dark ink achieves exactly what it promises – a glow in the dark design. It’s best for outfits that are worn when going out at night.

Glitter/shimmer inks

It is usually created by mixing in the gold or silver flakes with one of the regular inks from above. You can also combine any other colors; it’s not limited to only gold and silver.

Puff/expanding inks

It is added to plastisol inks, containing a foaming agent that reacts when heated and raises to form a 3D-like design. They are ideal for children’s clothes or logos and other apparel designs.

Metallic inks

It works the same as glitter, but the shiny and sparkling particles are smaller, and therefore, appear more unique.

Mirrored silver ink

It is usually a highly reflective solvent-based ink, similar to the reflector silver stripes you see on construction workers’ jackets that typically glow in the dark and reflect light.

Vintage effect inks

It is used to design a weathered look on garments.

Photochromic inks and UV glow inks

They change color when exposed to UV light. After applying the designs, the print usually appears off white, similar to the glow in the dark ink where you won’t see the colors until it’s exposed to UV light.

Gloss inks

It will create a shiny finish to the design. You start by layering a base to previously printed inks, and the results come out the same as laminated print.

Foil Ink

It is another special process you can use on your t-shirt finishes and design, where heat presses a sticker or a thin sheet of reflective material permanently onto the t-shirt. The foil doesn’t hold too much on its own, so it’s recommended to use an adhesive glue or plastisol ink as a base layer to ensure your design comes out better.

Discharge inks

It uses a zinc activator to activate the dye in the fabric to discharge from the original fabric color (for example, the green in a green t-shirt). It only works in 100% cotton materials and dark-colored fabrics. Discharge inks come in both normal and clear colors. Discharge inks are especially effective for working with distressed prints, and under basing dark materials that need multiple plastisol ink layers. It adds versatility to your design and also gives the product a soft feel.

Cracking ink

Intentionally peels and cracks on the surface of the design after drying. Regular inks aren’t supposed to crack after printing the design, but if it happens, it means the ink hasn’t cured completely.

Caviar beads

It is glue made out of tiny plastic beads printed in the form of the design. The best results are achieved if printed on solid block areas where you’ll notice the unique textured surface that appears after drying.

The Screens Used in Printing

Screenprinting can’t work without screens. A screen is usually made by stretching a piece of mesh over a wooden or aluminum frame, depending on the printing machine you’re using. Traditionally, the mesh is made out of silk, but they are now made out of synthetic polymer or nylon with recent advancements.

The size of the screen used depends on the project at hand. Large screens are used to create oversized prints on larger surfaces like sheets, blankets, or towels. If your image requires a large or more delicate degree of detail, then a small orifice is applied to the screen to help recreate the fabric’s design.


Screenprinting is a simple process and is available in both automated and manual versions. It’s practiced professionally by fashion designers, manufacturers, artists, etc. or as a hobby by anyone interested in the process or creating unique designs at home. It’s a popular method that gives out high-quality colors that last for long, even after several washes, and that’s why it’s preferred by designers and printers alike.

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