The Screen Printing Process

If you’re reading this blog, chances are, you’ve either ordered custom t-shirts before, or you’re planning on ordering them in the near future.  You call a company and explain what you want, and then probably approve a proof and pay.  Alternately, you order online and all those steps are automated.  Did you ever wonder what happens after you hang up the phone or close the web page?  Obviously, all of our orders are in various stages of production at any time, but here’s a quick rundown of our process isolated to your order:

  1. Once the order is finalized, the blank goods are ordered from one of our national distributors.
  2. Your artwork is separated into each of its colors by hand in software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.  Then film positives are printed in solid black on clear film which is used to make the screen.
  3. The screen is exactly what it sounds like.  A large square of mesh stretched over a frame.  The screens are prepped by being coated entirely with a light-sensitive liquid emulsion that dries to a solid coating.  The film with your design in black is used to block light that the screen is exposed to.
  4. Next, the exposed screen is sprayed with water which dissolves the area where the design was blocked out on the screen.  The rest of the coating, having been exposed to the light, is now a hardened barrier.
  5. At some point in this process, the blank t-shirts  for your order have arrived!  The order is pulled and counted and laid out on a cart ready to go to press.
  6. When your job is up, the screen is loaded up on the automatic screen press and the press operator makes sure that it is both centered and straight.  This is a critical step as all shirts in the job will be done with this same setup, and the screen doesn’t move again until the job is done.
  7. Ink is put on the screen and we’re ready to do a press check!
  8. The printer does one print, and the print is double checked for EVERYTHING.  We make sure the print is straight, centered, positioned correctly on the shirt.  We double check the print to make sure the color is accurate and that there are no anomalies in the design comparing it to the proof sheet.
  9. Each shirt is loaded onto the press by hand but goes around and is printed automatically.  As the completed shirts come around, they are pulled off and put into a belt dryer (think pizza oven, seriously!)  The dryer heats the print to its cure temperature and when it comes out the other end, it’s dry and ready for packing.
  10. The shirts are counted and folded and placed in boxes ready to ship.

I hope you enjoyed this small peek into our day.  Give us a call at 1-800-870-3959 if you have any questions.

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