Arguably, screen printing has lately become the talk of the town because of its pleasingly tactile print quality and versatility.
Also known as silk screen printing, it is used in fine art pieces, graphic tees, and other garments – for a good reason! Compared to digital printing, screen printing produces brighter and more vibrant colors and is cost-efficient and long-lasting.
However, one downside of this otherwise excellent creative medium is that it is slightly costlier than other printing techniques if done in small quantities. A good quality screen printing machine alone will cost more than 50% of the total cost. This means you’ll have to screen print surfaces or objects carefully.
So, if anyone ‘s wondering whether it’s the right medium to kickstart their artistic career, then this guide is for them. Today, we’ll walk you through the positives and negatives of the screen printing process that every artist must know before using it to create canvases, posters, garment designs, or artwork.
Without further ado, let’s dive straight into the deets!
Screen Printing Process: A Brief History
Though widely used in the 21st Century, screen printing originated in ancient times, more than 1,000 years ago.
Most historians believe that it emerged in China during the Song Dynasty. To create silk screen prints, block stencils and finely woven mesh were used to transfer detailed designs onto fabrics.
Eventually, it made its way to other Asian countries but entered Western Europe during the 18th Century.
In the Pop Movement of the 1960s, this printing technique became a staple, and the credit goes to a famous artist Andy Warhol who produced vivid repetitive images. A few of his notable screen printing works include Campbell’s Soup and the portrait of Marilyn Monroe.
But recently, it’s one of the widely used methods for garment printing by merging historical techniques with digital design.
What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Screen Printing?
Table of Contents
- Screen Printing Process: A Brief History
- What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Screen Printing?
- How Do You Do Silk Screening?
- Advantages And Disadvantages Of Screen Printing Frequently Asked Questions ?
- Advantages And Disadvantages Of Screen Printing Final Words
Despite originating 1,100 years ago, screen printing is one of the most popularly used art mediums by artists, amateurs, and DIYers. From artwork and canvases to clothing, it’s used in various industries across the globe because it produces higher quality and bright colored prints, irrespective of dark or light-colored fabrics.
Simply put, the benefits of the screen printing process are aplenty and can generate huge revenue for artists. Of course, it may be challenging in the beginning, but it is a very rewarding field that gives screen printers a platform to express their thoughts and ideas artistically.
Having said that, we’ve put together a list of both the advantages and disadvantages of screen printing. So, let’s dive right in!
Advantages Of Screen Printing Process
1. Creates Unique And Vibrant Images
Compared to digital prints, screen printing produces unique and stunning images because the inks used in the process come with a slightly higher thickness than others. Out of all the inks on the market, plastisol ink has been used by artists for decades because of its user-friendliness and ability to stand out against all backgrounds.
One reason why screen printing is widely used by artists, business owners, and amateurs is that they produce high-fidelity results with bright colors. Not only that, but it also prints clean and sharp lines with intricate details that are hard to replicate with other techniques.
2. Compatible With A Plethora Of Objects And Surfaces
What’s particularly remarkable about screen printing is that it’s one of the most versatile print techniques that artists can try. Of course, most business owners use it to print on t-shirts, but it can be used on a plethora of other objects and surfaces.
More often than not, brands use it to print on packaging boxes to enhance their aesthetics using water-based ink, a press, a squeegee, and an exposed screen.
Want to add a rustic or crafted feel to your wood? Then screen printing is the best bet for both fine and rough grain wood. While the former will require a high mesh count, you’ll have to use a lower one for the latter.
Other than packaging boxes and wood, tote bags are also compatible with screen printing, so you can print on them without any second thoughts. Of course, the mesh count you go for depends on the texture of the bag, so make sure you take this into consideration before starting the project.
What’s even better is that you can make your custom towels by screen printing and make money by selling them online. Moreover, printing artwork on them is easy, and can be done using a heat press and screen printed transfers.
Besides, you can use sports products, balloons, signage, decals and stickers, displays, merchandise, and other surfaces.
Over and above that, you can experiment with colors and use as many as you want on the print material. You are free to create prints of any design you want, which is the icing on the cake!
3. Simple, Straightforward, And Hassle-Free Printing
Unlike other printing methods, screen printing is by far the simplest and the most straightforward technique to create prints on various surfaces. Irrespective of whether you create artwork manually or automatically, you’ll be able to pull off the task in a breeze.
4. Suitable For Bulk Printing
If you want to produce the same design in large volumes on various fabrics, paper, canvas, or other surfaces, then screen printing will perfectly fit the bill.
When it comes to silk screen printing, colors are applied one by one on separate screens, which is why it’s convenient for bulk orders. On top of that, it can take up to 32 inches of print size, unlike other print techniques, which is impressive.
5. Cost-Effective Printing Option
Those who are distributors or sellers of printed t-shirts or bags should resort to screen printing to create prints on them. That’s because once the screens are laid with colors, you can print images or designs on any surface you want and in high volumes.
To be more precise, the more surfaces you print, the lower the unit cost. So, undeniably, it is a cost-effective option for business owners as they can print large volumes of shirts without spending a fortune.
Contrary to other printing methods, screen printing makes use of thick layers of ink that provides better coverage. As a result, the prints that are produced are highly durable as they are resistant to friction and daily wear and tear.
In addition to that, you can use certain additives and coatings to make the printed graphics so that they can withstand washing, scratches, moisture, UV light, and chemicals. Hence, your t-shirt, tote bags, balloons, and other things won’t fade and will be safe for use outdoors, irrespective of the weather.
However, keep in mind that it’s important to apply thick coatings of ink, or your prints will be of poor quality and will get damaged quickly. Also, make sure you use high-quality materials because they offer excellent resistance to frequent washing and daily wear and tear.
Disadvantages Of Screen Printing
Though the prints are produced in a few minutes, the set-up involved in screen printing is more time-consuming than digital printing or other heat transfer techniques.
First and foremost, you’ll have to design your pattern in CDR or AI format on the computer and output them on screen printing films. Then, you need to transfer them from the films to fine-mesh screens and proceed ahead to print them on any surface you want.
However, make sure you use a new mesh screen for every color that you’ll be using for printing the patterns.
2. Limited Color Range
While t-shirts don’t require a great variety of colors, you’ll have to use lots of colors to produce other artworks. And in that case, screen printing won’t be the right medium for you.
Though it combines the spot tones with a high degree of precision, attaining explicit shades or inclination is challenging.
Over and above that, nearly all suppliers offer a limited range of colors to their customers, which further makes it challenging for them to produce the prints they wish to. And if you use too many colors for creating prints, then you’ll have to shell out extra cash, which makes it expensive.
All in all, we’d say that screen printing is excellent for projects that do not require plenty of colors.
3. Costly In Small Volumes
If you intend to produce prints in small quantities, then it probably isn’t the right printing medium for you. That’s because the screen printing technique will cost you thousands of dollars if you have to print a couple of different patterns.
Not only that, but some printers also limit the printing capacity, which is no doubt frustrating. That’s why we suggest you weigh your needs and costs before starting the project.
4. Requires A Variety Of Tools
We’d be honest – the screen printing process requires a variety of tools and equipment, only then will you be able to pull off the task in a breeze.
Before starting the project, you’ll have to stack up emulsion fluids, inks (heat-dried ink, metallic inks, and many more), and meshes. That is to say, if you wish to produce prints with various colors, then it will likely cost more than a design with one color.
This is mainly because you’ll have to buy separate screens for different colors that you’ll be using to create prints. Also, note that screens aren’t long-lasting and can get warped or damaged during the process.
5. Not Environment-Friendly
Believe it or not, screen printing is toxic, dirty, and not environmentally sustainable, which may be a bummer for some people.
The base of the plastisol ink that is used to create prints is made of two ingredients – liquid plasticizer and polyvinyl chloride. Most people aren’t aware that these two components are harmful both to human health and the environment.
Furthermore, large volumes of water are required for screen printing to clear the screens and blend inks.
How Do You Do Silk Screening?
When it comes to silk screen printing, you can either create handmade prints or use a machine to produce your artwork. Irrespective of whichever method you opt for, the process of creating prints is more or less the same.
Here’s how you can create your artwork through the silk screening process.
Step 1: Create Your Design
Of course, the first thing that you’ll have to do is create your design and print it onto a translucent acetate film.
Step 2: Choose The Screens And Prepare Them
After the pattern is ready, you’ll have to choose the screen and the mesh count depending upon the design you wish to print.
For printing finer details, a higher mesh count will be the best bet because it retains a fair coating of ink. Alternatively, low mesh screens have wider openings which allow the inks to flow better than the former.
After selecting the mesh screen, you’ll have to apply a light-reactive emulsion layer on top of it. Diazo, SBQ-based, and dual-core emulsions – are the three most common emulsions used for screen printing, so you can choose anyone for your project.
Step 3: Hardening The Emulsion
When you’re done coating the mesh screen, it’s time to place a transparent acetate film over it and put it under a bright light to develop and harden the emulsion. However, keep in mind that using separate screens for different colors is an absolute necessity.
Step 4: Stencil Creation
The exposed part of the screen gets hardened by being exposed to bright light while the remaining parts are washed away, leaving a distinct impression on it. After that, the screen is dried, and the necessary touch-ups are made by the printer to ensure that the imprint is as close to the original pattern as possible.
Step 5: Start Printing
Now that your stencil is ready, it’s time to place the printing board and the screen over it for printing. Lower it towards the printing board, add the colored ink atop the screen and use a squeegee to spread the ink evenly.
The ink penetrates through the exposed areas of the stencil and passes on to the underlying silk, thereby printing the pattern on the surface. After the designs are transferred, and your artwork is ready, you can reuse the mesh for another project by removing the emulsion.
Step 6: Curing And Finishing
After everything’s done, don’t forget to use a dryer to cure the surface or the object, creating a smooth and even design. Another reason you must heat-cure the surface is because it makes your design resistant, which means it won’t fade away quickly.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Screen Printing Frequently Asked Questions ?
What Are The Materials Used For Silk Screen Printing?
For making screens, you should have a staple gun, wood glue, swiss voile or any synthetic fabric, two-centimeter thick wood, along with screws and a power drill. Meanwhile, squeegee, push pins, newspaper, emulsion, and sensitizer are needed for preparing the screens.
Which Surfaces Are Compatible With Silk Screen Printing?
Since it’s a versatile medium, you can try it on a variety of surfaces, such as cotton and polyester fabrics, notebooks, hoodies, posters, keychains, mouse pads, and more.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Screen Printing Final Words
Long-lasting and cost-efficient, screen printing is no wonder one of the most widely used creative mediums by artists, business owners, and enthusiasts alike.
What’s more, it’s highly versatile as it can be used on a plethora of objects and surfaces, including t-shirts, glasses, and canvases. Of course, it’s slightly time consuming, but it’s an excellent option for printing in large quantities, which is why it’s worth a try.
With that, we’ve reached the end of our guide on the topic. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed curating it for you. Before we call curtains for the day, here’s a last piece of advice – make sure you invest in premium-quality inks and surfaces to yield better results.
Please check out our previous comparison articles to get a wider angle on screen printing techniques. First one is screen print vs sublimation and the other is screen print vs vinyl.
And that’s it for today. Till we meet again!