Screen Printing 101

Screen Printing Tools and Equipment

A wide range of materials is needed to create eye-catching screen-printed shirts. These are some of the different screen printing tools that are commonly used:

Film Positives

Reference: Squeegee _ Ink

Film Positives

The most extraordinary screen printing results come from dark, opaque film positives from screen printing. The film positive must be black enough to obstruct the light from your exposure device throughout the screen exposure procedure. The stencils for each layer or screen are created by placing these on the mesh screens.

Mesh Screen

Reference: EXILE Technologies

Mesh Screen

Screen printing makes use of a variety of sizes to achieve different results. The finer the threads and holes in the screen, the greater the mesh count. How intricate your image is and how thick the ink you use depends on the mesh size. A 110-mesh screen, for example, has 110 threads spanning each square inch of the screen. A lower mesh screen won't hold up to images with much fine detail.

Color Separation

Color Separation

Before a design can be screen-printed on a T-shirt or other item of clothing, it must be broken down into its individual colors. Color separation is the process of taking each color apart. For screen printing, color separation is the process that basically gives you a different image for each color in the design.

Other staple items include:

  • A table with hinges
  • Stencil equipment
  • Registration plastic
  • Water-based screen-printing inks
  • Paper
  • A strong hose for cleaning

Know your inks

Reference: Beta Chemical

Know Your Inks

Screen printing is one of the most popular methods of making awesome t-shirt design. It is a technique preferred by both businesses and individuals.

You must choose the suitable ink if you intend to screen print. Which ink is best for you will be determined by your budget, the type of fabric you intend to print on, and the result looks you want to achieve.

Here are some things to think about when choosing the right ink for you.

Plastisol Ink

Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink is a type of ink that is often used for screen printing. It is versatile and long-lasting, making it perfect for printing on custom t-shirts. It is a thick ink that is also easy to mix. It also works well for different kinds of screen printing, which is a plus. Plastisol ink has a high density, and its viscosity makes it perfect for softer prints, which is why most professional t-shirt printers prefer it. The consistency of plastisol ink also helps make opaque prints, giving better coverage and helpful when printing on dark clothes.

Puff Ink

Reference: Manzo Press Studio

Puff Ink

People are constantly on the lookout for new methods to personalize their clothing. Customers looking for something unique may find that puff ink screen printing is the ideal solution. Art and color aren't the only things you can incorporate into a T-shirt design; you can also add depth. On the other hand, Puff Ink adds depth to clothing that is ideal for special effects.

What exactly is Puff Ink?

Puff ink is an additive for plastisol inks, not ink itself. The puff additive raises or expands the three-dimensional appearance of screen printing artwork when mixed with plastisol. The ink becomes "puffy" during the heating process and rises in height.

Details VS Screen Printing

In screen-printing, the colors in the design are printed one at a time, with a short break in between. It gives the colors just enough time to move around a little bit before they settle. As a designer, this means that if the lines are too fine, details could be lost, and colors could spread out.

The main reason ink spreads is because the mesh screen used to push the ink through is either too loose or tight. If the mesh isn't tight enough, the ink can get through in bigger chunks, which makes the ink spread out more. The easiest way to fix this would be to cut back on the fine details in places where they aren't needed.

If you choose screen printing, there are limits to what you can make. On the other hand, screen printing only lets you use nine colors and is only suitable for a few types of designs. So, screen printing isn't the best way to go if you've made an intricate design.

Making the stencils needed for detailed designs takes too much time, money, and work, so companies only use them for large orders. If not, the time spent on each job would mean that small orders would cost them money.

Solution: Take out any minor details that aren't needed, keep small design elements from touching other colors, and use a tighter mesh screen when printing. Colors in the design are produced individually with a short interval between each color using the screen-printing process, giving the colors just enough time to disperse before settling. As a designer, this means that details may be lost if the grain is too fine, leading colors to spread.

Friendly Fabrics For Screen Printing

Not all fabrics are screen-printable. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each primary material allows you to choose which is best for screen-printing designs.


Cotton is a popular clothing fabric that absorbs colors well for screen printing—affordable, heat- and static-resistant. Cotton shrinks and wrinkles readily. They dry slowly and absorb moisture poorly.


Silk is perfect for screen printing. Compared to other materials, there is less possibility of an uneven design. Silk doesn't absorb colors well so screen-printed silk designs will look muted or pastel. Moreover, Silk is pricey and fades over time, despite being stain-resistant.


Wool is thick and absorbs color nicely. Screen printing ink (either plastisol or water-based) can be challenging to soak into wool evenly. Wool feels resistant to moisture and heat. Water-based inks have fabric restrictions, a shelf life, and reduced color accuracy.

Polyester and nylon

Polyester and nylon are synthetic textiles. Many garment manufacturers blend natural and synthetic fibers to overcome their disadvantages. T-shirts and sweatshirts made from synthetic and natural fabrics are suitable for screen printing because they absorb colors well, last long, are shrink-resistant and are comfortable.

Fabrics to Avoid for Screen Printing

Although screen printing may be used to print designs on practically any fabric, there are a few you should stay away from if you're a newbie. Avoid screen printing images on clothing produced from 100 percent synthetic blends, such as the following:

  • Polyester: Textiles made of polyester have a poor ability to absorb the color.
  • Spandex and Lycra: While spandex and Lycra are flexible, lightweight, and resistant to sweat, they are also heat sensitive and tend to stick to the body.
  • Novelty fabrics: Novelty materials (such as faux fur) aren't good candidates for screen printing because of their rough texture.

For example, avoid acrylic, rayon, and acetate, all synthetic textiles. Fabrics of this type are often heat-sensitive and prone to shrinkage. If you're new to screen printing and aren't sure what kind of fabric to use, talk to an expert who has done it before.


No matter what kind of ink you use or whether you use a manual or automatic press, the type of fabric you choose to print on can make the difference between a good design and a bad one. Screen printing is a great way to create designs that last, and it's also very cheap for big orders, so it's a great choice if you need to print many designs on clothes for an event like a party or fundraiser.