From White T-Shirt to Awesome T-Shirt: Screen Printing Edition

Hello In Stitches Family! Have you ever looked at a shirt and wondered how it got that great picture on it? No? Well, admittedly, that may be a cost of owning a screen printing business, but it really is quite interesting! Let me take you on a journey from white shirt to awesome shirt!

You come to us with an idea in your head and white t-shirt in a bag. (Well, we actually supply the t-shirt but you get the idea!) What happens next?

Step 1: Art

You give us your art or we create something for you based on your interview.

Step 2: Proof Approval

We send you a digital proof. You take a look at it and approve it.

***Remember! Always check the spelling on the proof!!!***

Step 3: RIP Software Application

No, we don’t mean Rest in Peace, this is the software that takes the design and rips it apart into different color groups. Each of the color groups goes on a different screen. Interestingly, because of the layering effect of the screen printing, sometimes there will be more than one screen with the same color.

*** Interesting Fact: If a design is being printed on a dark colored shirt (black, red, navy, etc), the first layer will be white which makes the other colors more vivid.***

Step 4: Producing Screens

This step actually has a few steps inside it!

  • Here is Mike printing the image film

  • Then we expose the coated screen with film (we use an exposure unit in this process.) This is a little like developing film in the old days before digital.
  • Then we wash the screen which rinses off the exposed part of the screen leaving a stencil of sorts for that color.

***Interesting Fact: Screen printing screens come in different mesh counts. The determining factor in choosing the mesh count is how detailed the picture needs to be. For a multi-color design, you may have several different screens with different mesh counts for sharper results.***

Step 5: Load and Register the Screens

The screen printing machine is quite large and has these arms that the screens are loaded into. Here’s Mike with a loaded screen, ready to go!

After loading the screens, they all need to be aligned (or registered) so that each screen print (or layer) lines up.

Step 6: Mixing or picking inks

Now it’s time to get just the right color to make your shirt pop! Depending on the fabric of the t-shirt you choose, different ink formulations are used. All the colors are based on the Pantone color chart.

Step 7: Printing Shirts

We load the shirts on a platen and then rotate them through the color sequence.

***Interesting Fact: Sometimes a color needs to be set after being screened to the garment. We call this flashing. We use a special unit that gives a quick blast of heat to set the ink before going to the next color.***

Step 8: Curing the Shirts

Most screen print inks are set with heat. We do this 2 ways. One way is to run it through our conveyor dryer or we can use a heat press. We choose which process we use by looking at the design and feel of the shirt.

***Pro Tip: We usually keep the finished screens for 30 days at our warehouse, then they are reclaimed to be used again. So you have about a month to add a few more t-shirts to your order, but after that, we have to start all over again!***

Step 9: DONE!!

We box it up and get it ready for delivery or pick up!

Want to see a shirt go from plain to awesome? I know you do!

So if you’re looking for screen printing near you, look no further than In Stitches Embroidery and Patch! We’ve got you covered! Let us know what you need screen printed today!

Have a great week!
Mike and Wendy
In Stitches Embroidery and Patch

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