Here at The Printory, we love everything about screen printing. We love the whole, messy, magnificent process. But we realized that, even though screen printing is everywhere, not many people actually know what goes into it.
Let me tell you, screen printing is a blast.
At its core, screen printing is putting ink images on cloth by using a silk screen (a silk mesh stretched over a wooden or metal frame), photo emulsion goop, and light. It’s like a combination of painting and polaroids.
The photo emulsion is mixed in a tube like hair dye until it turns from dark blue to pale green. Once it’s changed color like a mood ring, it gets spread on both sides of the silk screen with a foam squeegee, making sure the screen is completely covered with the stuff, and dried in a dark room.
The logo is printed onto a sheet of transparency paper in the blackest black ink available and the printed transparency is taped onto the screen. According to Bob Clagett from iliketomakestuff.com, the best way to make sure your graphic doesn’t shift is to lay a piece of glass over it as well.
A bright light is then shined on it for thirty to forty-five minutes. Sunlight works sometimes, but only if it’s a seriously sunny day.
Now comes the finesse. The t-shirt (or whatever object is getting the logo) is laid flat on a table and the silk screen is laid down on the fabric. A color of ink is chosen and a generous blob of it is plopped onto the screen above the logo. Then, with a squeegee, the ink is spread down over the logo in a single, confident but gentle stroke.
The silk screen is removed and the ink is left to dry, The fabric is pressed or ironed to set the design, and voila! A new, one-of-a-kind shirt is born! One of a kind, that is, unless you want to make more. That’s the great thing about silk screens: they are 100% reusable.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the screen printing process. We have a few machines at The Printory now to help us out, but at the root, it’s still just us, elbow-deep in silk screens, creating art with ink and fabric.