14 Jan Screen Printing Stoke On Trent And The UK
Screen printing creates printed lettering, logos and graphics that are very durable and long lasting. Not only that, but the cost of screen printing is very affordable, especially for large quantities of garments.
For over 20 years, Alpha Signs And Print has been providing garment screen printing services in Stoke On Trent for businesses, clubs, organisations and bands across the UK.
Here is our guide to screen printing T shirts, custom work clothing and garments and our in house process.
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What Is Screen Printing?
Screen printing is the process of creating an image on a mesh screen, which creates a stencil and then forcing ink through the mesh to print the graphics onto the chosen garment. The ink is then dried at high temperature to provide a long lasting vibrant print.
A separate screen is required for each colour and multiple screens can be used to apply different colours to build up a design. By using multiple screens it is possible to produce very detailed images.
There are two main ways to print coloured designs, the first being spot colour and the second being CMYK process.
Spot colour is where each individual colour is printed as a separate layer, so a design containing 8 colours would require 8 screens.
CMYK process only uses four colours, cyan, magenta, yellow and key ( black ) to create a full range of colours and tones. The inks are printed in an overlapped pattern so that they combine to create other colours and tones, similar to how an inkjet printer works.
This process is expensive due to the colour separation process required to make the screens and is usually reserved for photo type image screen prints.
The screens are mounted in a carousel and the garments are placed on fixed platens below. The screens are rotated on the carousel and lowered onto the garment as they pass over the platen. Ink is then pulled or pushed through the mesh with a squeegee to print the layer onto the garment.
When all the colour layers have been printed, the garment is removed from the platen and placed on a conveyor where it travels through a dryer in order to dry the ink.
What types of screen printing inks are there?
There are primarily two types of inks used in screen printing.
The first is plastisol ink. This is a plastic based ink that requires the use of solvents in various parts of the process.
The second are water based inks which are more environmentally friendly.
They both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Plastisol Inks
Can be used on a wide range of materials.
Very durable and long lasting
Do not dry in the screen when printing
Can use a finer screen mesh so can produce higher quality graphics
Disadvantages of Plastisol Inks
Can cause images to crack if not printed and dried correctly.
Are thicker to the touch as they sit on the outside of the fabric.
Advantages Of Water Based Inks
Can be disposed of safely and easily
Produce a very soft feel to the printed garment as the ink absorbs into the material
Disadvantages Of Water Based Inks
Cannot print as fine resolution as the ink dries in the screen if the mesh is too fine
Colours are not as vibrant
Have limited materials they can be applied to.
Specialist Screen Printing Inks
Specialist inks are available to create various effects and finishes. These inks are plastisol based.
The range of effects and textures include metallic inks, fluorescent inks, glitter inks, high gloss inks and puff inks that add variety and uniqueness to printed garments.
What garments can be screen printed?
It is not just a case of what garments can be screen printed, but also what those garments are made of. Cotton garments are best for screen printing as the material is absorbent and allows good adhesion and absorption for the inks.
Cotton garments or cotton blends are great for both water based and plastisol inks.
Other materials can be printed with plastisol inks as long as they are heat resistant as the inks are cured at high temperature.
Most work clothing, uniforms and general clothing items can be screen printed.
Our Screen Printing Process
Once a customer has supplied a design or we have created one for them, we start our screen printing process to produce their chosen printed garments.
1 Digitising The Design
In order to produce the screens, it is first necessary to separate the design colours and image onto separate layers within a software program.
If the garment being printed is dark in colour then a white layer must be printed first under the rest of the design and that layer will also be created at this point.
2 Printing The Stencil Film
Each separated layer is then printed in solid black onto a clear sheet of acetate using a digital printer. The sheet must be clear in order to allow light to pass through when making the screen.
3 Coating The Screen With Emulsion
Each screen is coated with an emulsion that is light reactive. This is done in a dark room to ensure no unwanted reaction to light takes place. Once coated, the screen is placed in a dryer to dry the emulsion.
4 Applying The Stencil
Once the screen is dry, it is removed from the dryer and the printed stencil is aligned onto the inside of the mesh and fixed in place. This is repeated for each screen in the design.
5 Exposing The Screen
With the stencils attached in place, the screens are now placed into an exposure unit. This unit exposes the screen to UV light that hardens the emulsion. The stencil blocks the light from the area where the ink needs to pass through.
This process requires precise timing in order to harden the emulsion correctly and not overexpose the screen which can result in part of the image area starting to harden and so making the screen unusable.
Once the screen is exposed, it is removed from the unit and the stencil is removed. The screen is then washed to remove the emulsion that was under the stencil and did not harden. This unexposed section is the area that will be printed. The screen is dried and is ready for printing.
6 Mounting And Aligning The Screen
Once the screens are developed and dried, they are taken to the screen printing carousel. Here they are mounted into carrier arms that rotate over platens that hold garments.
Each screen is precisely aligned so that every one aligns with the next. This allows each screen to be printed correctly and then rotated to the next platen in order to produce multiple prints.
7 Applying The Ink
Now that the carousel is set up and ready to go, we can start printing. Each screen is loaded with its own colour of ink and the ink is drawn lightly over the image to flood the screen.
The first screen is lowered onto the garment and the ink is pressed through the mesh to force it onto the garment below. This may require several strokes of the squeegee to provide the correct amount of ink and finish.
The screen is then lifted and the next one rotes into place. The process is repeated until all the colours have been printed.
8 Drying The Ink
Once the design is fully printed, the garment is carefully removed from the platen and placed into a dryer where the ink is dried at high temperature for a set time. The garment is then removed and ready for our customer.
After reading the process that is required to produce screen prints, it is obvious that it is a very labour intensive operation.
Actually printing each shirt only takes a minute or two, but the process that takes place beforehand is long and laborious. After each job, each screen must be stripped and cleaned of its emulsion and design which is also a time consuming process.
For these reasons, screen set up time is one of the biggest individual costs.
We charge for the set up of each individual screen, as is the common method of pricing screen printing.
The actual price of printing garments is quantity dependent as once the screens have been made, printing the actual garments is quite an efficient process, if still quite manual, even with an automatic carousel.
If you need to reduce printing costs, try to limit the amount of colours used. This will reduce the number of screens needed
For a FREE QUOTE and advice on your UK garment screen printing requirements
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Benefits Of Screen Printing T Shirts And Garments
Once the initial screen setups have been completed and the carousel is loaded with the required screens, the actual printing of the garments is quick.
Large Order Value
The more you need the cheaper it gets per unit. After the initial setup costs, the actual printing costs are low per unit and discounts can be applied to large orders at various quantity breakpoints
Specialist inks can render various effects, providing very unique prints that stand out and get noticed.
Screen printing provides the opportunity to print on virtually any garment. The material the garment is made of will define the ink types available for use.
Correctly printed garments will have great durability during use. Thy will not fade, crack or degrade under normal circumstances.
Screen printing can provide extremely high quality graphics if the printer knows his trade well. It all starts with the preparation, from the digitising of the image to the screen creation and then finally, the ability of the printer applying the ink.
Tips For A Great Screen Printed Graphic
Bright, bold designs usually work best as they stand out from the garment.
Easily defined designs make better graphics. Sharp edges and clear colour differences provide better screen prints.
Don’t use very fine details, especially if your printed design or logo is small.
Screen printing relies on mesh to provide the printable area for the graphic, This mesh has a count which refers to the number of holes per inch. This is a limiting factor in how small a detail can be printed.
You should also consider that material is not like paper, it has a weave that does not provide a perfectly flat, solid surface. It has thousands of small holes and ridges and these affect the quality of the print and the definition of the printed details.
While great quality prints can be achieved with screen printing using fine mesh counts, the extra time and costs associated with providing photo-like prints should be considered when producing designs.
Supplying An Image For Printing
You have the graphic you want printing, that’s great. If not we can help with designing whatever image you need.
Before you send the graphic to us, it ideally needs to comply with the following –
Raster Graphics ( Non vector based )
Ideally PNG files. These have transparent backgrounds and mean we can retain nice clean edges on the design when the colours are separated in the software.
We can work with JPG files but make sure the image is clearly defined from the background.
PNG and JPG files need to be a minimum of 300 ppi resolution at the required printed size. Anything lower just doesn’t provide the quality we need to make the screens.
Please note that screen printing uses a CMYK colour set which is limited in colour range compared to RGB and the image will have to be converted to CMYK for printing. This results in a closest match for the colours present.
Vector images in PDF, Adobe Illustrator or EPS format.
Ideally using CMYK colours. Please note which colour set you are using if possible ( pantone swap etc )
Please specify print size and ideally supply image at correct size
Separating colours onto different layers can be a very time consuming process and can bump up the setup price. If you can provide images with colours correctly separated into individual layers, it will help with costs. This is easily done with vector files if you have a good program such as Adobe Illustrator.
Garment Screen Printing From Alpha Signs And Print
We are a long established sign and print company in Stoke On Trent that have been supplying services to our customers across the UK for over 22 years.
Our client base covers small and large businesses, national brands, charities, clubs, bands, fashion brands and lots more.
We provide services locally in Stoke On Trent but our client base is nationwide through the UK, from Cornwall, London and the southern counties up through the midlands in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, continuing north through Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.
With such a diverse client set and years of experience, you can rest assured that we can provide the ideal, cost effective screen printing service for your T-shirts and garments, workwear and company clothing, regardles of your location, quantity or other requirements
With no specific minimum order we can supply a wide selection of garments from our online catalogue and screen print them with your design, usually within a 5 – 7 working day period. Large orders may take longer to complete. If you require an order at short notice on a quick turnaround, we always do our best to accomodate your situation.
Why not get in touch with us today and find out how WE can help YOU with your UK screen printing requirements.
For a FREE QUOTE and advice
Call us now