The Right Kind of Screen Printing: How It is Made to Work


The screen printing is a printing technique used mainly in the fields of textile and graphics.

A little history

It was in the era of ancient China, during the Song dynasty, between the 10th and the 13th century that screen printing was born. It then spread to neighboring countries, such as Japan. While legend has it that the frame is, at first, made from woven women’s hair, the frame is actually formed from a piece of silk stretched over a wooden frame evenly.

It was years later, in 1910, that modern screen printing took shape thanks to the first uses of photosensitive emulsion on the one hand; and because of a strong Chinese emigration to the United States on the other hand. The 60s will mark a major turning point for screen printing which will take center stage thanks to its use for artistic purposes notably by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. At the end of the 70s, silkscreen printing will be everywhere: on posters, clothes, vinyl sleeves. Today it remains a widespread technique in the arts, textiles and graphics. Using the best supplies for screen printing is essential there.

In practice

Technically, screen printing is done in three stages:

Preparing the frame

The pattern or visual to be printed is attached to the frame: a nylon or polyester net stretched over a wooden or metal frame. Fixing is done by photographic emulsion: it is the exposure of the screen, a very delicate step due to the sensitivity of the emulsion to light. This is why this step is done most of the time in the dark or in red light as in photographic laboratories.

The artwork, a drawing printed in black on a transparent layer, will then be fixed to the screen, and then both exposed to light for just a few minutes in an exposure machine. Coming into contact with the light, the emulsion will solidify, except in the opaque (black) areas of the layer.

This part will be removed with water, and will constitute the positive zone of the drawing. This attachment will block the nylon mesh so that the ink only flows through the “positive” areas of the design.

The impression

The frame is then positioned on the support textile or other and held using weights. The ink or paste is spread evenly using a doctor blade, in order to penetrate the screen of the frame and attach to the support.

The press release

The frame is then removed, revealing the visual printed on the support. The support is then hot pressed at around 190 ° C for 60 seconds, depending on the supports and inks used, the purpose of which is to fix the print to the support.

Screen printing with a flat frame is not a very suitable process for large prints because of the time required; except in the case of rotary frame printing which is faster. The more color a pattern or visual has, the more time the process will take: one frame per color is needed, and therefore, a drying time between each color. However, the process has the advantage of being suitable for a wide range of supports, which makes it possible to open up its field of application over vast horizons. Finally, it is a technique that allows you to vary the types of inks (mother- of- pearl, starch, matte, gel, etc.), which offers panels of textures and aspects with which to create endlessly.