THE SCREEN PRINTING PROCESSYou know you are curious, see how we do what we do!
The First Step
The first step is to prepare the artwork. We use vector format to create and prep the design or logo for print.
If you have a logo or design and it is not in vector format, we can do that for you. There is a fee for prepping the design or logo as this process can take time to convert and make print ready.
Depending on how many colors there are in a logo or design, each color must be separated from the design, each color must have it's own screen.
After all the artwork is prepped and colors separated, it's time to print the different layers on film.
After making the logo or design print ready, it's time to print the layers on clear film or a "film positive".
Clear film is exactly what it sounds like, it is a transparent material that we print the images on. These layers must be printed with a solid black ink so no light can penetrate during the exposure process.
As stated earlier, each color must have it's own transparency so that we can print each color on the shirt separately.
We use what is called a rip software that is designed for screen printing. This program makes sure that the most amount of black ink is deposited on the film for the next step, exposure.
MAKING THE SCREENS
Screens are what we use to make the stencil. They are basically a frame with a mesh or "screen" material that is used to make the stencil.
Screens must be cleaned using a degreaser so the surface of the screen is clean and free of any leftover chemicals from a previous job.
We coat each side of the screen with an emulsion. Emulsion is light sensitive so it must be done in a dark environment such as a dark room.
After coating the screens, they must be allowed to cure, depending on shop conditions it could take up to two hours or more.
We know, it's a lot to read...We are not forcing you to read this, you can skip it but it will make us sad...
EXPOSING THE SCREEN
The exposure process consists of exposing the image onto the screen by using a exposure unit. The film is placed on the under side of the screen and taped in place.
We use 4 ultra violet bulbs to shine light onto the screen. The area that is exosed to light will harden so that no ink may pass through.
This process can take just seconds to several minutes depending on conditions. A timer is used to make sure there is no over exposure. If over under exposed, the stencil wash out completely and we will have to start over.
Now we are ready to place the screen in our backlit washout booth to begin the next step.
CREATING OUR STENCIL
The screen is placed in our washout booth and low pressure water is used to wet both sides of the screen. This softens the emulsion where the solid black image was placed.
The water is allowed to sit for thirty seconds to one minute. This makes the emulsion water soluble, so the image will rinse out easily.
When enough time has gone by, it's time to use high pressure water to rinse out our stencil. Once that is finished the screen is set aside to dry.
After drying, the screen is then placed on our printing press.
TIME TO PRINT
The Final Step
When the washing out process is done, the screens must dry before putting them on the shirt press.
Once they are dry, we set the screen on the machine. We align them to the center of our pallet so that each print will land on the center of the shirt.
For multi colord designs, each screen must be aligned so that there are no gaps or overlapping, we call this the registration process.
Now we are ready to print the shirts. After applying the ink to the shirt, it is cured by heating the ink to 320 degrees so that it will bind with the fabric.