Screen printing is one of the most widely used substrate printing methods that is used by both amateur and professional printers. However, it is an extensive process that involves different materials and tools to produce a high-quality print on a substrate.
Unlike an embroidery job that uses only a single machine to create embroidery and custom patches, a screen printing job involves several machines and equipment to create a perfect print.
Being an upstart in this business, you need to know the important materials and tools that are required to perform a perfect screen printing. But if you don’t know the apparatus required for this job, let us help you with this list:
A film positive is the first thing you will need for printing an artwork on a substrate using the screen printing method. It will be your design on a film positive that you will put on the substrate using an ink. To create a design, you need to make as many film positives as the number of colors in the artwork.
Let’s say if your design has four colors red, green, blue and yellow then you have need four separate film positives for printing each of the color.
Just as people in the embroidery business has changed with time, screen printing has also evolved with time. Earlier people would do hand embroidery to make the design and custom embroidered patches on garment. Similarly, people today use screen frames rather than the traditional silk mesh cloth that was popular during the 18th century.
A screen frame holds the stencil to print a design on a substrate. Therefore, you need to choose the right screen frame to keep the design on the right location so that you can apply the ink on the right portions of the design.
Earlier, people would use wooden screen frames to do the job but today people use aluminum frame that is more durable and doesn’t warp during hot and cold weather.
In addition, you need to be particular about the size of the screen frame. As a general rule, you should go for a bigger frame than the screen. So in the event when you scale up the design, you don’t have to buy a bigger a bigger frame and waste your money.
A mesh is essential to print halftones on a substrate. Earlier the mesh was made from the silk fabric which also inspired the name “silk screen printing.” Today, polyester mesh is the most common mesh you will find in the market. A mesh needs to be tightened on the screen frame so that it can passes the ink onto the substrate.
The mesh count is another thing that you need to look into a mesh. It is a measure of the total number of strands in a mesh. The mesh count is an important factor in producing halftones on a substrate. The lower mesh count means the fewer number of strands which allow more ink to print on the substrate.
A lower mesh count is suitable for substrates that have a rough texture. So it becomes easier to produce a print on the textured substrate. Likewise, a higher mesh count is used to print intricate designs on smoother surfaces. A mesh count between 110 and 160 works for the majority of designs.
An emulsion is a liquid chemical that you apply on the screen to create the stencil of the design. You will need a squeegee to apply the emulsion on the substrate. You need to use proper stroking to evenly apply the emulsion coat on every part of the screen. The emulsion has to be thick to create a perfect stencil so that you can easily apply the ink on a substrate.
Once you have a screen in place, you need to secure its frame to avoid the ink slip through the sides. This will save you both time and money and you will not have to put extra efforts to reduce the ink consumption.
A flash dryer helps dry the ink before a substrate receives more stroking for a different color. This item is particularly important for printing on dark substrates that tend to bleed more than other types of substrates.
An exposure unit is required to cure the emulsion that you applied on the screen. To serve this purpose, you will need an exposure unit where you will expose it to the light. There are different sizes of exposure unit available in the market. You should buy one that matches the screen sizes you will use for printing.
A washout booth is the area where you rinse both sides of the screen to remove the emulsion and make it ready for the next printing job. A washout booth will include a garden hose that you can use to spray the water on the screen. You can even use an emulsion remover which helps quickly remove the liquid from the screen.
A belt dryer is another machine that you will need during screen printing process to give the last cure to a substrate. Belt dryers are available in different sizes but they all require higher temperature setting to cure a substrate.
A squeegee is an essential tool in screen printing to get a good coverage of ink. You can get a squeegee in a rubber blade with a metal handle or wooden.
A squeegee should be wide enough to cover the size of your design and narrow enough to not collide with the borders of screen frame so that the ink doesn’t smudge the frame. Make sure it is half an inch wider than the artwork so that the ink spreads evenly on every part of the design.
Just like a squeegee is needed to apply the ink on a substrate, a scoop coater is required to coat the emulsion on the screen. Use the right edges of a scoop coater to produce a thinner or thicker ink deposit.
The thinner edge is used for pretty much all the designs, while the thicker edge is used to produce more detailed and intricate prints. Keep the difference in mind while you coat the emulsion on the screen.
A spatula might be the smallest item on this list but it is equally important to create a clean design. A spatula is required to take out the ink from bucket and put it on the screen.
Once the job is done, you can use the spatula to put the remaining ink back in the bucket. With a spatula, you not only save the ink from smearing the design but also saves the remaining ink in the screen from going into waste bin.
These are the essential tools and materials you can use for a screen printing job. Add them into your list of items you are going to buy for the next printing job and you will be on your way to creating a superb design.