There are two ways of creating a custom t-shirt: digital and screen printing. Unlike digital printing, which relies upon computers and printers to create custom t-shirts
, screen printing is a manual process that’s labor-intensive and takes a bit more time.
So why opt for a screen-printed t-shirt?
There are several advantages to screen printing. Due to the nature of the process, it tends to work best with only one or two colors. While digital printing requires the ink to soak into the t-shirt, screen printing uses a much thicker ink that lays on top of the shirt and has a much softer feel to it when touched.
Screen printing is also a more affordable way of ordering large quantities of t-shirts. The only downside is that it can take a few extra days to create the order. We’re going to share with you the process of how screen-printed shirts are created so you can get a better appreciation for that super cool custom t-shirt that you just ordered!
What is Screen Printing?
Also known as silk screening, screen printing is a manual process of creating a custom t-shirt. It uses a silk-screen that’s placed over the t-shirt. Brightly colored ink is then dragged across the t-shirt to create the design.
It requires a fair amount of skill to perform, and results are best when performed by a professional t-shirt company such as SportDecals.com
. We not only have the experience and know-how, but specialized equipment that enables us to turn out a huge batch of custom t-shirts that will look amazing.
So, let’s jump right into the process of how to screen print a custom t-shirt!
Once you’ve submitted your design and are happy with how the mock-up looks, it’s time for our artisans to get to work. The screen is the primary tool that we use to create custom silk-screened t-shirts. It looks much like a screen door on a house does; however, the one we use is much higher quality and has much smaller holes.
The screen is secured in a wooden frame and then covered in a layer of emulsion, which prevents ink from coming through it. We then prepare the screen, so a reverse negative of your design appears on it. The screen itself is a yellow color, but that won’t have any effect upon the design.
After the screen has been created and your design transferred onto it, we do a few internal things to get everything ready for printing. This is why the process takes much longer than a digitally printed t-shirt. Everything has to be done by hand.
Color Mixing Process
Here is where your t-shirts start to come to life. We use special inks and mix them together until we’ve created the exact colors that you want on your t-shirts. Our inks are super high-quality and are intended to last a very long time. They’re also very thick, which means that the design will visually “pop” in terms of color and thickness. After we’re done mixing and matching in our color laboratory, it’s time to start the silk-screening process.
We use a large metal tool called a press to create your order. It weighs several hundred pounds, and it’s in the shape of a circle. There are 12 “arms” that have a flat area where we place the wooden silk-screen. It’s sort of a one-person assembly line, where after one shirt is created, the wheel is turned, and the next blank t-shirt receives the same silk-screen treatment.
Before we begin, we stretch a blank t-shirt over a flat device that resembles an ironing board. We use lasers to help us align the shirts so that the design is located in the same position—no matter if you order 10 or 10,000 t-shirts.
Once we’re ready to get started, we then lower the screens onto each t-shirt. We then pour the custom ink onto it and use a 2-foot long rubber squeegee (same concept as the ones you see at the gas station) and quickly move the ink from one end of the shirt to the other.
As the ink is moving over the screen, the area of the design will soak up the ink. If your custom t-shirts require more than one color, we may have to take each shirt and perform the same process a second or third time.
The final result is a custom t-shirt
that looks amazing!
The Drying Process
After we’ve applied the ink, we then place the shirt (along with the wet ink) onto a conveyor-type of device that runs it under a heat source. This instantly dries the ink and causes it to set into the t-shirt permanently. At the very end of the production line stands our eagle-eyed inspector. This person looks at every single shirt and ensures that it looks exactly like the mock-up that we sent you before.
If there’s even the slightest thing off, the inspector hits the bright red “REJECT!” button, and red lights flash as alarm bells start to sound while they pull the shirt out of the order and tell our production crew to make one more.
Once your order is complete, we box everything up with care and send it to our shipping department, who carefully packages everything up and coordinates the pickup with the shipping company of your choice.
Order Your Custom Silk-Screened T-Shirts
Silk screening works best for team names, t-shirts with text, and company logos. The ink is raised and has a really high-quality look and feel to it. If you’re ready to have some fantastic looking custom t-shirts created, give us a call. At SportDecals.com
, we offer a vast selection of custom shirts and hoodies, and we can even help you with the design process!