The method of screen printing (silk screening) is an effective method of printing graphic designs on a t-shirt.
Screen printing is very popular due to it being cost-effective and straightforward to produce printed t-shirts in large quantities. The technique requires using thick inks to sit on top of the shirt rather than soaking it into the shirt.
When using thicker inks, it’s better to use simple designs with only one or two ink colours. This method is ideal for a company brand or logo. Once printed, the thick ink has a pleasant, soft touch and can look bold and eye-catching for a long time after it has been printed.
Mixing the chemicals and ink to the correct Pantone colour is the most complicated part of screen printing; however, it should be a straightforward procedure once it’s time to print.
First, a mesh is stretched tightly over a frame (this would have been initially made from silk, however, today, they are made from polyester).
The printers then create a negative stencil for each colour digitally created using specialist software. The stencils are then exposed onto a screen. The screens are set onto the screen printing machine. Ink is then applied to the screen. The squeegee forces the ink through the exposed mesh in the screen to create the image onto the garment. The ink is then dried at 165 degrees Celcius to cure the ink and make it wash proof.
The most common reason for using screen printing is its cost-effectiveness, durability, and the vivid colours it produces, even on darker fabrics.
It’s also popular due to the ease with which it can be reproduced on several occasions. This is thanks to the stencil, which can be reused again and again once created.
With T-shirts printed on vinyl, the vinyl starts to crack after a few washes. Screen-printed shirts are a lot more durable; although the colours fade after a few washes, the image will last the garment's lifetime.
Creating a gradient involves transitioning from one colour into another, passing through a mass of shades in between. The gradual shift should look smooth.
Creating a gradient with screen printing; however, it’s complicated and much easier to work with singular, block colours.