When manufacturing products, it’s not enough to simply create the parts and shape the materials that make up your offering. You also need to be able to decorate those items and apply color and images to help your customers make more sense of them. Furthermore, you need to give them your unique branding. This presents a number of challenges for designers and manufacturers. They often need to find ways to print onto unusual materials, or in three-dimensions (see pad printing) which makes ‘simple’ printing using a laser or inkjet printer impossible.
Advantages of Screen Printing T-Shirts
There are many methods designers can use to get around these challenges though. One of the most popular options when it comes to printing onto fabrics is silk screening. It is also known as screen printing, which allows printing onto a number of softer materials including fabrics like t-shirts. If you are wearing a t-shirt with a logo on it right now, then there’s a chance that that image was put there using silk screening (unless it was transferred on).
So, what is silk screening? How does it work and how can it help you with your product design? Read on to find out.
What is Silk Screening?
Silk screening is a printing method used by many manufacturers. Here, a woven mesh is used in order to support an ink-blocking stencil. This allows ink to be ‘pressed through’ the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto the chosen substrate (substrate meaning the object in question).
To begin this process, you start with a large wooden square frame that should be roughly the size of the surface you are printing onto. This would once upon a time have had a piece of silk stretched across it. But these days, we tend to use polyester instead which creates the titular ‘screen’. On top of this screen, you then place a thin sheet of plastic which provides the ‘stencil’ for ink to pass through. Sometimes this stencil will be created using a scalpel but usually it will be made using a liquid plastic that can be ‘cut’ through with light.
Next, the substrate is placed onto a flat board so that the screen can be pressed against it. From here you will then coat the screen with ink using a sponge or another applicator, which will transfer much of that ink onto the target surface. This can also be automated for bulk manufacturing and accomplished using machines. While silk screening has been around for thousands of years, possibly as early as 500AD(!), it has only become suitable for reproduction relatively recently.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Silk Screen Printing
The silk or polyester in silk screening serves to prevent the ink from blotting or bleeding out of the edges of your design. That said, there are still limitations with regards to the resolution. Of course this system means that your design will initially be in only one color. Multi-colored images require you to repeat this process multiple times with different stencils for different parts.
There are many other stenciling techniques that can be used for printing onto fabric. A completely different alternative uses transfers that are bonded to the fabric with high temperatures. Because these images can be printed using more precise techniques, this allows for far more detailed images that won’t have as many imperfections.
At the same time though, transfers also have their own problems as they make the material feel somewhat rigid. In addition, they can crack and peel after multiple washes. For more simple designs and logos, silk screening is a more desirable option. It will result in longer lasting and higher quality end products.
Of course silk screening is also limited in its use. It’s relatively slow compared to ‘regular’ printing. If you have the option of using a printer, then you would never really choose silk screening instead. That said, unlike intaglio or relief, silk screening allows multiple prints to be created from a single application of ink which makes it fairly fast and cost effective – though after a while stencils can become warped and uneven and thus need replacing. If you have a simple logo you want to apply to a fabric surface, then silk screening might just be one option to consider.
Retro Shirtz Custom Bulk T-Shirts Printing near Regency inside Westroads Mall in Omaha
At Retro Shirtz we understand the importance of logo design. So we provide free graphic design, including free logo design with all standard custom shirt orders.
Our free graphic design services include:
- suggesting and implementing fonts
- changing the colors and layout of the fonts, and our team’s excellent skills at creating custom image assets.