Screen Printing Services

Creating high quality custom t-shirts and apparel since 2003.

Expert Screen Printing Services

DesignAShirt has been screen printing high-quality custom apparel online since 2003, with our local roots going back to 1985. With nearly 40 years of perfecting our printing process, we are always adopting the latest efficient and environmentally friendly methods. No matter where you are located, you can depend on us as a reliable screen printing company. Our commitment to quality craftsmanship, responsive service, and lightning-fast turnaround times ensures that you receive high-quality custom apparel quickly and hassle-free. Trust us to bring your custom apparel ideas to life and deliver beyond your expectations.

What Is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is a process of printing a design onto a material such as fabric or paper. The design is transferred onto a fine mesh screen, with areas that are not meant to be printed being blocked out. The ink is then pushed through the open areas of the mesh screen onto the material below, creating the design. While silk was traditionally used for the mesh screen, today synthetic materials like polyester are more commonly used. This allows for the screen to be re-used multiple times, making the process more efficient and cost-effective. In order to screen print custom t-shirts, our expert artists turn your artwork into one or more screens through a process called screen burning. 

What Is Screen Burning?

Screen burning is a critical step in the screen printing process. Screens are chosen based on their mesh count, which determines how much ink can pass through the screen. To create the screen, a photosensitive emulsion is coated onto the mesh, which is then imprinted with a light-sensitive ink. The screen is then exposed to a light source that "burns" the emulsion away in the areas where the design will be printed. The screen is then washed to remove any remaining emulsion, leaving behind a stencil of the design. Each color in the design is burned onto a separate screen, which are then layered to create the final image. The screen burning process can be seen in more detail below.

What Is The Process For Screen Printing Custom T-Shirts?

Screen printing is a time-tested process that has received many modern updates when it comes to apparel. The process below can be repeated for multiple colors in the design, with each color requiring a separate screen and printing pass. Once all colors have been printed and cured, the finished product is inspected one final time before being packaged and shipped to the customer. Here are the basic steps to t-shirt screen printing.

  1. Screen Burning: The first step in screen printing is screen burning. A mesh screen is coated with a light-sensitive emulsion and then exposed to a light source with a film positive of the design on top of the emulsion-coated screen. The light hardens the emulsion in the exposed areas, creating a stencil on the screen. 
  2. Washing: After the screen has been exposed to the light, it's washed with water to remove the unhardened emulsion, leaving behind an open area on the screen where ink can pass through to create the design. 
  3. Setting Up and Aligning: The screen is then set up on the printing press, and the garment to be printed is placed on the press. The screen and the garment are aligned precisely to ensure the design is printed in the correct location. 
  4. Ink Application: A measured amount of ink is placed onto the screen, and a squeegee is used to spread the ink across the screen, forcing it through the open areas of the stencil and onto the garment below. The squeegee is then moved back to its original position, and any excess ink is returned to the ink supply. 
  5. Curing: Once the ink has been applied, the garment moves through a conveyor dryer, which cures the ink and ensures it adheres to the fabric. The temperature and time required for curing depend on the type of ink used and the material being printed on. 
  6. Quality Control: After the curing process is complete, the garment is inspected to ensure the design is crisp, clear, and correctly aligned. Any garments that don't meet our quality standards are either reprinted or rejected. 

While the process for screen printing may be relatively consistent, there are a few specialty forms of screen printing we offer inluding spot color process, halftones and 4 color process.

Spot Color Printing Process 

Spot color screen printing involves creating stencils for each color in a design and then using a squeegee to press ink through the stencils and onto the garment. This technique is ideal for printing solid colors and creating vibrant designs with precise color matching. It differs from CMYK printing, which uses a four-color process to create full-color designs by layering different shades of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. Unlike CMYK printing, spot color printing uses pre-mixed inks to create specific colors, which can result in more accurate color reproduction. 

Halftone Printing Process 

Halftone screen printing is a technique used to create the illusion of shading and gradients in a design by using dots of varying sizes. This is achieved by breaking down the design into a series of dots, with the size and density of the dots varying to create different shades and tones. To create the halftone, a screen with a halftone stencil is used, and the ink is pushed through the stencil with a squeegee. The result is a print that appears as if it has been shaded with different tones, even though it is created with only one ink color. This technique can be used on a wide range of apparel items, from t-shirts to hoodies, and is ideal for creating intricate, detailed designs with shading and depth. 

4-Color Printing Process 

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) process screen printing is a technique used to create full-color designs by layering different shades of these four colors. Each color is printed using a separate stencil, with the ink pushed through the stencil and onto the garment using a squeegee. The layers of ink combine to create a full-color design. This technique is ideal for designs that require many colors and shades, and can be used on a wide range of apparel items. However, on darker apparel items, a base coat of white ink may need to be applied first to ensure that the colors stand out against the fabric. The base coat acts as a primer, allowing the colors to appear more vibrant and true to their original tone. 

Screen Printing Inks 

Selecting appropriate screen printing inks is crucial to the final appearance of a printed item. Inks come in various types, including water-based, plastisol, discharge, and specialty inks, each with different qualities. PMS color matching is used to ensure that the colors in the final printed item match the intended colors of the original design. Ink colors can affect the overall impression of the printed item, with bright, bold colors conveying a more energetic or playful vibe. At DesignAShirt, our artists are experts at choosing the best colors for your design and matching them to the most accurate Pantone colors available. By being selective with your inks, you can create depth, texture, and focal areas in your design. Below is a list of unique screen printing inks that can be used to take your design to the next level. In addition to these examples, we also offer:

  • Glitter Ink - Contains glitter for a sparkly look, often combined with a clear gel.
  • Glow-In-The-Dark Ink - Almost clear, light-activated ink that glows in the dark.
  • Clear Gel Ink - A thick glossy coating that can be used in combination with others.
  • Shimmer Ink - Creates a unique reflective, iridescent shine.

Please note that while we strive to provide the best possible customization options for your apparel, there are certain limitations and considerations that we want to make you aware of. Kindly review the following disclaimer regarding minimum quantities, additional charges, and shirt material compatibility with special ink processes:

Minimum Quantities and Additional Charges: Some customization processes may require minimum quantities due to the equipment needed to achieve certain print outcomes. Additionally, these special decoration types may have an additional cost per item or overall setup cost. Our customer service team will provide you with all the necessary information and options available to meet your specific needs.

Shirt Material Compatibility: Please be aware that certain special ink processes may not be compatible with all shirt materials. While we offer a wide range of high-quality fabrics for customization, it is essential to consider the compatibility of the chosen material with the specific ink process. Our website or customer support team will provide guidance on the compatible materials for each customization option.

Placing A Screen Print Order

You can place an order for custom screen printed t-shirts and apparel using our online Design Studio. If you prefer to pick your product first, you can browse hundreds of products by viewing our customizable Products collection. If you need help with your design or logo, our T-Shirt Concierge® service offers free expert design on any order. To submit your free art request, click the button below to get started.