Chat with us

Intro to Screen Printing

November 16, 2020

In this series on the process of screen printing, we are going to cover the needed actions required for you to print your own t-shirts.

Step one is producing a film positive, which is the completed art work required to make a screen from which to print your t-shirts. A film positive is a sheet of clear plastic or paper skin that has the artwork in black printed on it. It's extremely crucial that the black areas of your art work be opaque (not permitting light to travel through). Continue reading to find out the best software tools to use and  learn about the process of screen printing.

If your art work has been produced by hand you can send it out to a service business that can produce a film positive by utilizing a photographic process.Your finest choice for generating artwork is with a vector based graphics program such as Corel Draw or Adobe's Illustrator.

This type art will provide your lines the sharpest detail and make it easy to create your own film positive by printing your image out in black and white on to clear acetate or Mylar via a laser printer. These two options produce the best line quality offering you an extremely nontransparent image that will burn a crisp and clear screen image.

Other excellent software tools to use are:

  • Designhill T-Shirt Maker
  • Printiful
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • GraffixPro Studio
  • InkScape
  • GIMP
  • Placeit

Each of these software application tools use distinct methods to develop your t-shirts. A few of these tools are appropriate for beginners and some are suitable for professionals. These tools will simplify your life and help you design the very best t-shirts ever.

Another option, if your art work does not have a great deal of detail you can utilize an ink jet printer and output your image in black and white onto a special paper called preparing vellum. This type of paper permits light to penetrate through the white area of the paper and the light is blocked by the black ink area of the print which is what you want when you are making a screen using a photographic emulsion.

Types of Film Positives


Photographic Recreation

Highest quality, absolutely opaque blacks, precise line reproduction at any size with minimal to no loss of resolution. Required for developing screen prints of fine detail, half tones and 4 color process printing. The down side is the high cost. Not cost-effective for short production runs.

Laser Hard Copy to Clear Plastic Skin

Medium quality. opacity depends upon the quality of printer. Likewise limited by the optimum size of the printers output. Affordable cost per favorable once the preliminary cost of buying a printer has been covered. This is the method used by most t-shirt printing shops.

Inkjet Hard Copy to Drafting Skin or Clear Plastic Designed for Inkjet Printing

Least expensive quality but usable for art work of low to medium detail. Two precise copies of your artwork can be doubled up and taped together with transparent tape to produce an image with greater opacity. The least expensive technique but again restricted by the output size of the printer.

Hand Cut Stencil Using Rubylith

This is a two ply material. The base is a thick clear plastic abided by a soft red semi-transparent ply. Although you can see through the red material, it acts as if it were completely opaque and blocks light.The Ruby is placed over your artwork, dull side up, you're able to see through it and the outline of the art is cut with the point of an exacto knife cutting just through the soft red ply.

Then the waste location of the image or what would be the white location is pulled away from the clear backing and disposed of. This product is usually used to produce color separations.

The Most Standard of Film Positives

would be one in which you use precut black letters to a sheet of clear plastic.

The Steps Needed to Produce a One Color T-Shirt Print

Three things to think about when creating art for screen printing are, size, colors and detail. The finished art work will need to be the precise size as the completed print. Each color in the print will require a various screen and therefore a various film positive.

For our discussion here we are not going to go into great detail about multi-color printing but will be focusing on the steps needed to produce a one color t-shirt print. You must nevertheless know that for each color in a t-shirt print there is a separate screen.

If your image has an overview that will be printed in black or another dark color, any other colors in your image will be indexed to this overview and you will want them to overlap the outline slightly. This is called trapping and lets you create prints without any gaps in between colors along with making it simpler to register you colors throughout the printing process.

To align the art work for each screen color, artists use registration marks. These are cross hairs within a circle that are put in each of the four corners of the art so that each brand-new color separation can be put on the original summary and lined up or signed up to these marks.

These registration marks become a critical part of the art and are really burned into the screen in addition to the art work. They are then utilized to align each screen on the printing press so that all colors fall into the best location.

Start Slow

Because screen printing involves pushing ink through cloth onto an unsteady substrate, in our case a t-shirt, you are limited in the amount of information you can use in your art work. Specifically if you are simply starting and the kind of equipment you are using is restricted. There are some great photographic recreations done in t-shirt printing but this kind of 4 color procedure printing requires extremely advanced devices and know-how.

Start slow by creating a one color t-shirt without a lot of detail and slowly broaden your devices and understanding to do multi-color work. Do this and you will find that t-shirt printing can be fun and lucrative.