All About Screenprinting

What is screenprinting?

Screenprinting, also known as silkscreening, is the best way to permanently print your artwork onto T-shirts, hats, and other apparel. See samples of some our best screenprinting work here.

How does it work?

Let's use a one-color red logo as an example.

Create the screen: First we coat a screen mesh with a light-sensitive material called emulsion. Next, we create a template of your artwork in reverse - where all the red areas are clear, all the empty/white areas are solid (so no light will shine through. We place this template on top of the screen mesh, and expose it to light. Light will expose the emulsion where the template was transparent. Exposed emulsion changes and becomes water-soluable. We then spray the screen with high pressure water, which knocks out all the exposed emulsion. We're ready to print.

Print the shirt: We place your shirt on one of our presses, and align the screen on top of it. We place ink (in this case, red) on the screen, and activate the press, which pushes ink through the holes in the screen mesh and onto the shirt.

Dry the shirt: We send the printed shirts through our heated dryer to set the ink. Then we carefully examine each shirt to make sure there were no errors. If you should ever discover an error on one of your shirts, just bring it back and we'll replace it.

For multiple colors of printing, we make a seperate screen for each color, but the process is very similar.

How long does it last?

We guarantee our screenprinting for the life of the garment.

What's the difference between spot color and process?

A spot color is a single color of ink, which will result in one color on your shirt. So, to print an American flag on a black T-shirt, you'll need three spot colors: red, white, and blue. For a white shirt, you can use just two: red and blue. But what if your design looks very photographic? For example let's say you want a picture of David Hasselhoff on your shirt...with flesh tones, hair, eyes, the ocean crashing behind him, this would be an impossibly complex spot color job. In this case you'd want to use 4-color process. What we do is mix four semi-transparent inks, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK (CMYK) to create virtually every color you can see.

Spot colors usually appear brighter and, in general, most designs look best using a few well chose spot colors. Process color is not as vibrant as spot color, and is less likely to look ideal on fabric. But for a very photographic-type design, process color is the only realistic option. For examples of spot color vs. procss color printing, look at some samples of our work.

Where on the garment should my artwork go, and how big?

We recommend avoiding artwork that is meant to print from seam to seam -after all, no one will be able to read it. For example, look at the shirt you're wearing now. If you put a finger from each hand onto your stomach at the point where the shirt front starts to become the sides, you'll see that the distance between your fingers is only about half the distance from seam to seam. One hint is to put on a garment similar to the one you're trying to make, and measure the size for an appropriate design that way.

Artwork can go in any number of places, but it looks best in only a few. For T-shirts, a front design looks good either large in the center, or small in the upper left corner (on the area that would be the pocket if it were a pocket T). On the back, people usually only use large designs. If you're unsure where to put your design, just give us a call and we can help you out.

What does all of this cost?

Well, that depends. First, we have to charge you for the raw garment - T-shirt, hat, etc. Odd styles and sizes (like XXXL) often cost a little more. We add to that any art costs, in case you provide us a non-process-ready design. Finally, we'll add the cost of screens - we generally use one screen per ink color per design, but this can vary for complex jobs.