Screen printing is a printing technique where a woven mesh which supports an ink-blocking stencil is used to transfer the desired design. Although this printing technique has gone through several changes because of the modernization of inks, tools, and methods used, the main process remains the same.

A Brief History of Screen Prints

screen printingThe earliest known records of screen printing are traced back to China’s Song dynasty, around 960-1279 CE. The Chinese had crude methods, and these same methods were later on refined by the Japanese. Printing using screens and ink had been known throughout a number of Asian countries before the westerners became aware of this printing technique. It had only been introduced to Europe in the late 1700s, but even then, it took a bit of time before this method became widely accepted.

Around 200 years later, Samuel Simon, an Englishman, patented what is now known as the screen printing technique. It was in 1907 when he had it patented, and originally, it had been intended for printing on wallpaper and finer materials such as silk and linen, which only the rich people can afford back then.

Screen Printing Today

Today, this printing technique can be done even by school aged children as long as they have the basic tools which include the silk screen, a squeegee, the special light activated emulsion, and the desired kind of printing ink. These materials can be found in craft stores and can be used to transfer designs on shirts and other fabrics. Even modern T-shirt printing businesses make use of screen prints to mass produce shirts with the same design!

Plastisol and Water-Based Inks

Water-based inks are more common and include the likes of poster ink, and inks which are also called as air dry inks. A lot of these inks are not a hundred percent water based, and don’t really air dry really quickly and will need some time to cure or set. These kinds of ink are easier to find in craft stores.

Plastisol inks are generally cheaper than water-based inks. These are usually thicker and a lot of commercial T-shirt manufacturers use this kind of ink. It may also be used at home but one of the most noticeable disadvantages is that it would require some heat or curing for it to set—this means more work compared to air dry or water-based inks.

Discharge inks can print much lighter colors on darker garments since they work to remove the dye from the garment itself. When compared to the abovementioned inks though, they leave a less graphic finish and the end colors are difficult to control.

With a variety of inks to choose from such as plastisol and water-based inks, coming up with great t-shirt designs can be fun and challenging at the same time. Have you ever tried silk screen printing at home? Share your experiences below!