Screen-printing is the act of printing onto a substrate through a mesh screen. We all get that, right? Right. How it’s done is the part most of us don’t know. Simply put, we forcibly cram plastic ink through a screen mesh left open by tiny dots from the emulsion onto a shirt that’s not entirely flat. (Sweet, I got to use the word “cram”!)
So, what in the world does that mean? It means there are a lot of things that affect the final print of your art. Pretty much, in the simplest of terms it means this – no matter how good your art is, it is going to lose a little bit of its luster on a tee shirt. If it’s bad to begin with, it’s going to lose a lot!
Don’t get too frightened! We can do some amazing things but the nuances of screen-printing in and of itself simply don’t allow for us to keep anyone’s artwork, regardless of how fantastic it is, looking just as good as it does on your monitor or printed through a high-end photographic printer.
The process is a long and tedious one. It begins in the hands of the artist creating the piece to be printed. Good art = good printing. Clean lines, nice gradations, great contrast…these things look amazing on a tee and help us in reproducing your artwork in order to get there.
The art has to be output to film (or direct to screen in our case), each of the colors separated from one another to be printed individually. The screens are then exposed (“burnt”) to cure the emulsion. They are then washed out with a highly pressurized blast of water to get rid of the emulsion that was covered by the film. Getting tricky yet?
The next step requires the screens to dry, then after some final prep they are mounted onto a machine. At this point, inks are laid in each individual screen and the colors are all registered to print exactly where they need to be printed.
I know this sounds unimportant but here’s where the good artwork comes into play. EVERYTHING down this line of steps is affected, either positively or negatively, by the quality of the artwork. Essentially, properly prepared artwork will keep the majority of its attributes throughout the process and degrade very little. Bad artwork simply won’t and will degrade much more during each stage of the process, ultimately winding up at the end of it the line looking like, well, I’ll let you finish that sentence.
Essentially, the entire process starts with the art. The better the art, the better the final product. It’s like trying to build your house out of bricks or straw. Which one would you want when the big bad wolf came a knockin’?