Different Types of Screen Printing

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Different Types of Screen Printing

Different Types of Screen Printing

And the tricks of the trade that you need to know


There comes a moment in all of our lives when we go out searching for custom designs. Retail stores can do little to create clothing that makes each of us feel unique. Of course, when entering the custom printing game, one must be aware of the many techniques available in today’s market. By far the most popular one today, and for good reason, has been screen printing. Understanding the different types of screen printing methods will help reiterate why that is the case.


So, what is it anyway?

Screen printing is a fairly simple and sophisticated technique that has gained traction over the years. A framework ensures that a unique stencil, following a woven mesh, lays over a fabric. Through the layering of ink and colors, a design begins to take form. To clarify some confusion from the get-go, there is also no difference between silk screening and screen printing. The former is an older method of the same process we see today.


It all starts with a mesh:

Mesh counts are everything when it comes to screen printing. The different types of screen printing mesh heavily depend on their vertical and horizontal overlaps, i.e. the mesh count. The higher the mesh count, the crisper the fabric. For more detailed artwork, investing in a higher mesh count is ideal for a cleaner, more defined print. After all, aren’t details everything?


The role of ink:

Ink on fabric is like paint on a canvas. This is why screen printing ink types play a huge role in the application, durability, and finish of a product. The best screen printing inks for t shirts, bags, or banners are as follows:


  • Plastisol Ink:
  1. The ink sits on top of the fabric.
  2. Thick consistency provides a very clear graphical finish.
  3. Colors are easy to make and do not lose their vibrancy over time.
  4. The application process allows breathing room for the layering of colors.
  5. Works well with most designs.


  • Water-based Ink:
  1. Ink seeps into the fibers of the fabric and is fairly easy to apply.
  2. The overall finish is semi-transparent.
  3. May require a longer time to dry.
  4. Replication is difficult.


  • Discharge Ink:
  1. The ink comes in both plastisol and water-based consistencies.
  2. Works by replacing the pigment of the fabric is being applied to with its own color.
  3. The application may require a bit of expertise, but its eco-friendly consistency makes it our personal favorite screen printing ink type.


What is screen printing emulsion?

Good screen printing involves a stencil, but to do it justice you must consider screen printing emulsions too. The emulsion is essentially the process in screen printing which uses photosensitivity to coat a screen. Where ink may use heat to dry, emulsion uses UV light to do much of the same. The three different types of screen printing emulsions to consider are:


  •  Diazo:

    This screen printing emulsion requires manual mixing and takes some time to cure. Their thick consistency results in excessive curing time and lower graphical detail. Perhaps not ideal for quick and detailed prints.


  • SBQ-based:

          With no mixing required, this emulsion is quick-drying and its thinner consistency is great for detailed prints. Multiple coats are also an option if needed. However, it is the costliest option available.


  •  Dual-core:

    This type is a combination of the previous two. They are slightly thicker than diazo and take a little more time drying than SQB-based. This is perhaps a great choice since it tends to be more affordable.


Where can I use screen printing and why?

Screen printing is popularly used on fabric but can also be used on wood, metal, plastic, as well as glass.

  • Can be efficiently used to repeat designs for bulk orders like team outfits or mass-produced products.
  • The layering that goes into the screening process carries a rich tactile quality to it, which adds a lovely dimension to your fabric or accessory.
  • The intensity of the color is also what makes it a great investment that results in little fade-out when compared to its digital printing counterparts.


Bonus: a comparison

We know you might still be wondering what the best t-shirt printing method is. Our go-to method depends on the customer’s needs. Here is a comparison between different methods.


Direct-to-garment vs screen printing:

DTG Screen Printing
Directly printed on fabric Broken down into layers
Smoother finish Visible pores and tactile finish
Only works best on cotton, other fabrics are faded Works well on any type of fabric, produces similar results
Pricey for large orders Cost-effective in bulk orders
Expensive investment and upkeep of printers Affordable equipment


Vinyl vs screen printing:

Vinyl Screen Printing
The machine used to cut pieces and apply heat in order to transfer Use of stencil, mesh, and ink layering to transfer graphic.
Ideal for limited orders Ideal for bulk orders
Will fade over time. Less likely to fade.
Fewer details can be ensured More details can be seen
Less setup time More setup time


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