Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials which can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate. A roller or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink past the threads of the woven mesh in the open areas.
Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of silk or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface. It is also known as silkscreen, serigraphy, and serigraph printing.
Graphic screenprinting is widely used today to create many mass or large batch produced graphics, such as posters or display stands. Full color prints can be created by printing in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black ('K'). Screenprinting is often preferred over other processes such as dye sublimation or inkjet printing because of its low cost and ability to print on many types of media.
- Caviar beads - A glue is printed in the shape of the design, to which small plastic beads are then applied – works well with solid block areas creating an interesting tactile surface.
- Cracking ink - The ink produces a cracked surface after drying.
Discharge inks - Used to print lighter colours onto dark background fabrics, they work by removing the dye in the garment – this means they leave a much softer texture. They are less graphic in nature than plastisol inks, and exact colours are difficult to control, but especially good for distressed prints and underbasing on dark garments that are to be printed with additional layers of plastisol.
Expanding ink (puff) - An additive to plastisol inks which raises the print off the garment, creating a 3D feel.
Flocking - Consists of a glue printed onto the fabric and then foil or flock (or other special effect) material is applied for a mirror finish or a velvet touch.
Four colour process or "CMYK" - Artwork is created and then separated into four colours (CMYK) which combine to create the full spectrum of colours needed for photographic prints. This means a large number of colours can be simulated using only 4 screens, reducing costs, time, and set-up. The inks are required to blend and are more translucent, meaning a compromise with vibrancy of colour. (for dark color apparel, "SIMULATED PROCESS")
4 colour uses CMYK transparent inks, they are usually at angles to give rosettes, works well on white shirts, less good on darks. Simulated process uses opaque spot coloured inks, picking colours from your design to give a reproduction. There may be anything up to 16 colours, more usually about 8. There are software packages that will do separations automatically or you can do it with Photoshop manually.
Glitter/Shimmer - Metallic flakes are suspended in the ink base to create this sparkle effect. Usually available in gold or silver but can be mixed to make most colours.
Gloss - A clear base laid over previously printed inks to create a shiny finish.
Metallic - Similar to glitter, but smaller particles suspended in the ink. A glue is printed onto the fabric, then nanoscale fibers applied on it.
Mirrored silver - A highly reflective, solvent based ink.
Nylobond - A special ink additive for printing onto technical or waterproof fabrics.
Plastisol - The most common ink used in commercial garment decoration. Good colour opacity onto dark garments and clear graphic detail with, as the name suggests, a more plasticized texture. This print can be made softer with special additives or heavier by adding extra layers of ink. Plastisol inks require heat (approx. 150°C (300°F) for many inks) to cure the print.
PVC and Phthalate Free - Relatively new breed of ink and printing with the benefits of plastisol but without the two main toxic components. Has a soft texture.
Suede Ink - Suede is a milky coloured additive that is added to plastisol. With suede additive you can make any colour of plastisol have a suede feel. It is actually a puff blowing agent that does not bubble as much as regular puff ink. The directions vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally up to 50% suede can be added to normal plastisol.
Water-Based inks - These penetrate the fabric more than the plastisol inks and create a much softer feel. Ideal for printing darker inks onto lighter coloured garments. Also useful for larger area prints where texture is important. Some inks require heat or an added catalyst to make the print permanent.