Screen Printing Process

A lot happens between taking an order for screen printing and packing up your merch to ship out! Below are just some of the important steps needed for some high quality screen printing.

Art Submission Review

There’s a lot of important factors when determining if a piece of art will print well. These standards are based on years of screen printing and art experience. JSR will review your art and give recommendations and suggestions  for prepping the art for best print quality.

Art Proofing

Once we’ve got print-ready art we’re ready to move forward, we’ll set up an proof or mock up, showing the art design on your selected garment style and color. This proof should spell out the imprint size specs and list the colors we’re gonna use. The mock-up is really just an estimate for sizing and location of your art, so let us know if you’ve got any questions or concerns.

Sepping your Art (Color Separations and Film)

For each color in your art design, we create a film that then becomes an individual screen. Each screen is loaded onto a press with the called for ink color. The process our artists use for breaking down the art into each individual color component is called ‘color separation‘ or ‘seps‘. Once your artwork has been “sepped” , we create a film positive for every color.

Pre-Press Discussion

Because of the technical demands of screen printed art, dealing with art processing has been a major factor in the direction screen printing technology has gone. If  your job involves a high level of difficulty, our artists will get together with our production coordinators and discuss specifics of the design, deal with any potential press issues and devise plan for the best printing job possible with the first set up. Nobody likes having to pull a job thats already set up on press.

Burning Screens (Screen Exposure)

Exposing screens is commonly referred to as “burning screens”, and  is the how we create a screen print stencil from the artwork image that’s on the film. A stretched screen is coated with a photo-reactive emulsion and then dried. The film is then attached to the emulsion coated screen and then exposed to a high intensity light for a certain length of time. Once the screen is exposed, it is then is cleaned with water to remove any extra emulsion from the art image area.

Screen Preparation for Production

Once the screen has dried from the wash out, we prep it for the production run. We apply a gooey liquid that dries solid, called block-out, to the emulsion areas outside of the design. This prevents the occurrence of pin-holes (tiny holes in the stencil that allow unwanted dots on a shirt) and helps stabilize the stencil for the entire production run. The edges of the screen are taped off to prevent other ink leakage and allow easier clean-up.

Mixing Ink For T-ShirtInk Mixing

At the same time film is getting printed and screens are being prepared, our ink department is gathering the necessary ink and setting it up for our screen press operators. Because plastisol ink doesn’t dry up, we’re able to keep pantone color mixes prepped and ready to go. Should we run out of a certain pms color, we can mix up a new batch is mixed up using concentrated pigments.  If you’ve ever bought paint at a home depot, you’ll have an idea how this process works. Pigment concentrate is measured out by grams using specific formulas,  and is then mixed with a base paint to create the Pantone ink colors used for screen printing.

Press Set Up

There’s a lot more involved with press set up than placing a shirt on a board. Our press ops have to take into consideration the amount of off-contact, the squeegee speed, squeegee angle, durometer and several other technical aspects of screen printing. Once we’ve done the initial set up for your design, we record the specs so any following orders have a much faster set up time. As we all know, time is money.

What kind of art is good for screen printing?

Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are the two most popular software programs used when creating or preparing graphics for screen printing. Look below for our art submission guidelines.

We can also scan drawings, already printed tees or other flat images you bring in depending on the design and desired print quality.

ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR

Vector based graphic images – shapes created using paths and formulas instead of pixels
All your fonts should be converted to outlines
You should embed any linked files, but also provide the supporting file separately just in case.
Illustrator creates complex vector images that may still end up being separated in Photoshop.

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP

Raster images – created using actual pixels instead of paths. Can look ‘blocky’ or ‘pixelated’
Best for complex graphics or photographs.
Images should created at a minimum of 150 dpi (dots per inch) at actual print size
Making web images larger (up-sampling) does not make a good graphic for screen printing.

T-Shirt Color SeparationsCOLOR SEPARATION

Screen print art is split up based on it’s color components when prepping for press set up. Art separation (color separation) is the process we use to turn digital art into the screens used for printing. With the many levels of complexity in the art we receive, there is a large time variance in the process of art conversion. We’ve broken them up into four different groups. Send us your art for an assessment of complexity and potential separation issues.

 

ONE COLOR

No color separations are needed for one color print job. The film and screens are basically identical to the art that we get.

SPOT COLOR

Spot color separation jobs are usually 100% vector files and no more than three or four colors. Choosing pantone colors is simple and straightforward and the number of colors easy to count.

SPOT COLOR WITH HALFTONE

Spot color with halftone separations are a little more difficult than basic spot color. While these designs are simple, the halftone shading or gradients add a level of complexity.

COMPLEX SPOT COLOR

Complex spot color jobs are ones typically created in Illustrator as vector files, but have gradients, layers, embedded assets, transparency and/or other effects. The difficulty level can vary within this category.

FOUR COLOR PROCESS

Four color process prints specially formulated inks in the colors of cyan, magenta, yellow & black to simulate how a regular ink jet printer would print. The inks are transparent, so this process can only be used when printing on white or, in certain cases, light garments. While possible, we typically don’t use four color printing. We’ve found spot colors result in a more desirable finished product.

SIMULATED PROCESS

Simulated process is the screen print color separation solution for printing very complex or photographic images, or rich colored graphics on colored garments. This process usually requires 8-11 screen colors and uses print techniques such as wet-on-wet printing to blend different spot colors into shades or other colors. Can be time consuming and complex.