From Press to Print; A Dummy's Guide to the Screen Printing Process

So, how does artwork go from paper to print? To kick off our technical blogging again, here is a general overview of the printing process. Comment below with anything you would like us to examine in detail!

To begin, we print our artwork onto film using black or red ink. We use these colours so the film is ready for the darkroom.

Next, we prepare the screen by putting liquid photogenic emulsion onto a blank screen - multiple times. We then pop this wet emulsion covered screen into the drying box for 30 minutes. Until the screen has been through the darkroom UV process, it should not be exposed to UV light, so we generally do this whole process within the darkroom.

Once the screen is dry, we then place the artwork onto the screen. This is done through a very technical method - specifically, sticky tape!

Placing our screen with the attached film against the glass of the darkroom, we use a simple domestic vacuum to make sure our artwork is pressed firmly against the glass. This is so no light can creep in around the edges.

We then 'turn on' the darkroom. Our UV light source in the darkroom hardens the emulsion - all except the emulsion that is hidden behind the black or red artwork ink.

Next, the washing bay! We wash off the unhardened emulsion which leaves us with the see-through artwork on the coloured screen. It goes out into the sun for half an hour to dry and finish the hardening process. Once dry, the screen is then checked over and any gaps in the hardened emulsion are are fixed up with block out (cheap nail polish works for this too).

Picking colours is often the hardest part! We have to mix inks to make the colours. We have 19 different colours of concentrated ink, and an incalculable number of ways to combine them. We mix the concentrated ink into print paste, to make our printers ink (which we also sell here!).

Once the colour is mixed and ready, we lay our fabric out on the printing tables or set up the screens on our T-shirt carousel.

The ink goes onto the back of the screen, opposite the fabric! We squeegee (yes that is a technical term) the ink across the screen and artwork. The ink sinks through the screen, onto the fabric.

Taking the screen off the fabric, we then scoop off the extra ink and wash the screen.

We air-dry the fabric, and then run it through our oven (heat setter). It sets the artwork onto the fabric by cooking it at 180 degrees Celsius for 3 minutes.

We hire out our heat setter to other screen printers, please contact us for more details.

Then we let the fabric sit for a day! After that, we send it off to the customer and tell them to run it through the washing machine and treat it like it will normally be treated. If they're happy, we're happy.

Voila! This is an overview of how the printing process works. Let us know what you would like Mark to explain in detail, and keep an eye out for our next blog in a fortnight.


- Nicola Joy -