All About Screen Printing

How Screen Printing Works

Screen printing first appeared during the Song Dynasty of 960-1279AD and originally used screens made of silk. Modern silk screening uses screens made from polyester fabric stretched over a wood or aluminum frame. If ink were applied to this screen it would pass right thru the mesh fabric.
To prevent the ink from passing thru the fabric mesh a thin material (called emulsion) is applied to the fabric. This is similar to how you might waterproof a new pair of boots. The main difference is that the material screen printers use has a unique property that makes it sensitive to light. When fully exposed to light this material hardens and cannot be easily washed out.
If you were to coat a screen and place a mask over parts of it then expose it to a light source you could "burn" the shape of the mask (or film) into the screen. The area covered by the mask is easily washed out with water while the rest of the emulsion film adheres to the fabric mesh.


The film needed to create a screen is derived from the customers artwork. Films are created each matching a main color in the design. On darker garments a film is also created for the background color. In production these films are burned onto a screen that will be used to transfer ink to the article. The process for creating screens requires many steps and is time consuming. You will find that screen printers charge for each screen they need to produce for a job. In general, fewer colors in a design is easier and less costly to produce than one with several colors.

Proofing and Separations

Modern graphics editing software allows artists to create artwork containing any number of colors and of any quality. As we learned screen printing is not well suited to producing designs with many colors. In order to be cost effective, you want to use between one and four colors in your design but no more than six. If you require a design with more colors it is often better to use Direct to Garment printing which can reproduce more colors.

With artwork that is optimized for screen printing we use software that separates each color from the artwork file and produce films that are burned on to a screen. At this point you have the option to have a real product sample printed or you can receive an electronic proof for approval. You also have the option to have a real product sample printed if you feel this is needed.

Garments and Colors

Once you have screens burned, it does not matter what color ink is applied to them. If you have white shirts, you might want black ink printed while dark shirts might use white ink. Two different color inks cannot be used on the same screen, but the same artwork can be used to make each screen.

The screen does not care what type of garment they are printing on. You can mix and match styles without additional charges. Often times printers offer quantity discounts when you reach a set number of units. You can save money purchasing your fall sweatshirts along with your spring order of tshirts.

Buying Screen Printed Apparel

Screen printing is a complex process and it can be intimidating to buy over the internet. We have created a self service quotation page that makes the process much easier. You simply select your favorite style, pick a color, and number of items you wish to buy and our system gives you a single "all inclusive" price. At Corporate Casuals all screen printed items ship for free!

If you have questions that are not answered in this article or on our FAQ page, feel free to contact one of our customer service representatives at 866-369-5935.

Screen Printing Demonstration

The following video clip shows a two color job being processed on our manual press: