Screen Printing Clothing & Accessories
If you have a t-shirt with a design on the front, it was probably screen printed.
Also known as silk screening, this is the most popular and lowest cost way to print custom designs on apparel & accessories – especially for higher quantities. In fact, some customers print tens of thousands of t-shirts. Even when getting into the hundreds, prices for screen printing a design can get so low that for many of our products, the coupon codes you can grab from our site make the screen printing free.
Popular products for screen printing designs are t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, canvas tote bags, and drawstring backpacks. Textured fabrics such as ribbed tank tops, knit beanies, and fleece pullovers generally don’t work well with screen printing. Any nylon products such as windbreakers can only have 1 color designs. Other items that aren’t suitable include visors, 6 panel hats, and anything made of clear materials. Don’t worry though, our website is setup so that screen printing is only offered as an option for products that would work well.
Screen printing transmits ink through a fine mesh screen (hence the name) onto the clothing or accessory. The screen has holes for the ink to pass through to create the image. The ink is applied with a squeegee that presses the ink through the screen.
A critical step of the screen printing process is to separate your artwork file into layers – one layer per color – because your design will be printed one color at a time. Don’t worry though, doing that work on your art file is part of our service and included in the price.
Printing the colors one at a time creates a variety of challenges that our team has mastered such as registration and flashing. Registration is locking in the t-shirt (or other item) so that when the next color is printed, all the color layers are lined up and your design doesn’t look like one of those offset red and blue 3D posters popular in the ‘80s. Flashing is a sub-process that heats and dries the ink before the next color ink is applied.
There's all sorts of other special techniques we employ to get you the perfect printed garment (or accessory). It’s too much to bore you with here, but a couple examples are that we use special ink for synthetic fabrics such as polyester (used in popular wicking, dri-fit golf shirts), and under bases for non-white garments so that your colors are true. If you have technical questions along these lines, just ask us.
The downsides of screen printing are that you can only print up to 7 colors, and you can't accurately reproduce some types of images such as photos. Digital printing can be a good alternative for those sorts of decoration projects.
If you have any concerns or need help with your image or art file, we do that! Read about our free design help.