What is screen printing and what are the different types? Screen printing, also known as silk screening, is a technique used to apply images to materials that are printed on, such as t-shirts. The process is quite simple and has evolved significantly with the advancement of technology and equipment. This printing technique uses a woven mesh that is stretched over a frame to support an ink-blocking stencil. The stenciled area remains open while the non-stenciled area is filled with a non-porous material. The open areas of mesh transfer ink or other printable materials which can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate. Then a squeegee is pulled across the mesh to force the ink through the open area of the mesh onto the substrate, creating the image. This process is universal to all types of screen printing but there are various types of screen printing. Check them out below:

Plastisol – This is one of the most common types of ink used in screen printing. It is a plastic-based ink made for apparel. Although it is generally cheaper, it is the industry standard and useful for thick prints. The soft plastisol ink is laid directly onto the fabric, covering the shirt with a layer of the graphic. Plastisol ink prints are not as long lasting as its counterpart (water-based inks) and easily breaks down. You can tell by cracked, peeling, or flaking graphics on tees. The more machine wash and dryer usage the garment is exposed, the faster plastisol breaks down.

Water-based inks – offer more penetration of fabric than plastisol-based processes and are employed when a softer result is sought. This is a higher-end ink made for super soft shirts (commonly used in retail printing). Water-based inks tend to last as long as the garment does.

Discharge – is also a water-based ink but it is mixed with an activator and is used for printing on darker or colored garments. This ink lightens the fabric color while depositing pigment so the print color is visible. Discharge inks only work on 100% cotton fabrics and can still be rather unpredictable depending on the treatment and dye lot of the fabric.

Soft-hand Screen Printing – Soft-hand screen printing is probably the most requested type of screen printing these days and is only achievable with water-based or discharge inks. The word “hand” refers to how the print area feels. This type of printing is popular with vintage printing has a soft hand with a more distressed look. Nowadays, people’s tastes in screen printing are more advanced and refined. They prefer garments that are softer to the touch with a higher-end look and feel.

Choosing the right type of screen printing for your t-shirts depends on a variety of factors. Contact us at 303-292-3331 to see how we can make your screen printing experience the best. We provide the highest quality of screen printing and other promotional product services.