What is Screen Printing? Ultimate Guide to Screen Printing

Want to start a business but lack of financial capacity? Want to enjoy your favorite trip wearing a newly printed shirt? Screen printing can be a good solution to all of these.

But before you start with screen printing, you have to know, what is screen printing?

Without knowing about it you can’t start up with it.

You can do it yourself at home very easily with a little tool. More or less we all wear screen printed items but without knowing about it.

Don’t you ever think of how would be the print done on your favorite t-shirt? If you have such interest on it, you are on at the right track.

Let’s know more about it…

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is a process where a stenciled design is transferred to any object by using ink, mesh and squeegee. Generally screen printing is done onto paper and fabric but it can also be carried out onto wood, plastic, metal or glass by using special ink. Screen printing is also called “Serigraphy”.

Just create a stencil on a mesh and then push ink through it with squeegee on to the surface to be printed. Now a question peeps through your mind how to create a stencil?……..Well it can be created by………

  • Masking your desired area by tape or vinyl
  • Painting onto mesh using screen blocker
  • Using light-sensitive emulsion

Screen Printing Supplies

Supplies may vary depending on the method used for printing. But more or less the materials entitled below you will need:

  • Photo emulsion & sensitizer
  • Silk screen
  • Frame
  • Squeegee
  • A pitch black room
  • Silk screen ink
  • Wood-board or surface where to put the piece to be printed

Silk Screen Mesh

Silk screen is made of a metal or wooden frame with a fine mesh fabric. This mesh fabric is spun from silk but now polyester fabric can also be used for screen mesh.

It offers the same performance at a lower price. While choosing mesh, you need to be very careful because it runs a longer way to create your final result.

Mesh count is an important factor. Mesh count indicates how many threads are there per square inch of a mesh fabric. 80 mesh count indicates there are 80 threads per inch.

Finer mesh count has minimum opening and permit lower ink with a stroke but they can create a finer detailed image.

Consider first while choosing mesh

  • While using lower mesh count screen, expose your screen longer to properly set the emulsion
  • Water based inks dries faster on finer mesh so add a retarder with your water based ink to keep your job moving
  • In the below table I have mentioned that which mesh count is best suited for what purpose so that you can  take your own decision and have your dream result.

Mesh count


25 – 40

Ideal for glitter and shimmer inksContains particles that can’t pass finer mesh


Used for block number or letter for athletic jerseyHeavy ink deposition

80 – 86

Used in heat transfer or special ink

110 – 160

Ideal for under-base, bold or dark colorMost commonly usedProvides more detailed imageControlled deposition of ink

180 – 200

Great for detailed image with light ink on dark fabric

230 – 280

Light ink depositionPerfect for detailed imagePrint may not be very bright or vivid

7 Step by Step Guide to Screen Printing

Different methods are available for screen printing. But in all case it includes some common steps. Here, I will discuss about a method that uses photo emulsion.

Enjoy photographic illustration for better understanding….

Source: alphagraphics
Source: researchgate

Step-1: Creation of the ultimate design

  • Print the ultimate design onto an acetate film to create the stencil for further use.

Step-2: Preparation of screen

  • Choose a perfect screen according to the complexity of design and the fabric texture.
  • Coat the screen mesh with a light sensitive emulsion.

Step-3: Emulsion exposer to light

  • Place The ultimate design printed acetate sheet onto the coated screen mesh and exposed to bright light
  • The function of light is to harden the emulsion leaving the designed area.
  • The parts covered by design remains in liquid form.
  • For multi-color, separate screens are used. That means each screen is for each color.

Step-4: Stencil creation

  • After some exposer time, the emulsion of uncovered area becomes hard.
  • As the emulsion of the area covered by design remains in liquid form, rinse off this unharden emulsion.
  • Finally dry the screen and your stencil is prepared for printing.

Step-5: Preparation of the object for printing

  • Place the screen onto the printing press.
  • Laid down the piece you want to print.
  • Now we have different printing press option. We have to choose carefully as per our convenience.

Step-6: Pressing the ink

  • Lower down the screen and put the ink onto the screen.
  • By using a squeegee pull the ink full length of the screen.
  • This press permits the ink through the open passage of the screen and finally imprint the design onto the item.
  • For repeated use, you can remove the emulsion from the screen by washing it with special liquids.

Step-7: Finally drying

  • Finally put the item in a dryer to cure the ink.

This is how screen printing is carried out. I have put on a video so that you can understand what is screen printing? And how it is carried out.  Just take a glimpse over it to understand the whole process more precisely…………………….

Video Source: Standard Graphics

Make your DIY projects with screen printing

No matter you want to print your favorite shirt or start a t-shirt business of your own without spending tons of money for getting this work done by professional, you can easily do it.

Printing Press

Screen printing needs only some tools to do at home. But for commercial purpose some printers use press. It makes their task easier and time saving. Three types of presses are available:

  • Manual: Hand operated, labor intensive
  • Semi-automatic: Partially mechanized
  • Full automatic: Fully mechanized

For business purpose semi or full automatic presses are used most of the time.

Difference between Screen printing and Digital Printing

  • Digital printing uses a specialized printer to transfer the image directly onto the textile. Digital printer is used for this direct transformation. No stencil is needed rather multiple color can be printed at a time. This differs the digital printing from screen printing.
  • Screen printing requires little setup and multiple strokes are needed for multi-color. It is a stencil based printing. To know more about differences click here….

Is there any difference between Screen printing and Heat press?

  • Heat press is the latest innovation for printing textile. Printing is done by pressing designs onto the materials using a heat transfer machine. 40 to 80 PSI and around 400°F is used to transfer the design into the fabric. So, this process is completely different from screen printing.
  • Know more about screen printing and heat press, click here: 10 vital differences

To Wrap It Up!

This screen printing technique becomes more popular day by day. This is such a good option for printing industry.

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