Screen Printing Equipment, Supplies and What It All Means
September 1, 2010
If some of the things I’ve talked about in the screen printing process are still alien to you, relax, here’s more information to get you up to speed. If you think I’ve left something out, please let me know and I’ll add it in.
When you walk into a screen printing supplies shop, just tell them what kind of medium you’re planning to print on. You say “fabric” or specifically, “t-shirts”. In general, t-shirt printers will advice a mesh count between 110 to 160 (US standard) for EU, UK or Asia this is between 1100 to 1750. Think of it as pixels on your computer monitor. The higher the count, the finer the detail is.
Why don’t l just get 240 then? I know, detail is good, but unless you’re printing posters or onto a hard and smooth surface, you’ll want mesh holes big enough for paint to go through as you apply pressure on with a squeegee. Too small a hole and you won’t get that full print you want.
There are two types, metal (aluminum) and wooden. Both have their pros and cons. Metal frames are pricier, but will last. Wooden frames are economical but will warp (after washing it multiple times) after a while, this will leave an uneven print. However, there are excellent quality wooden frames. My advice is to start off with a wooden frame – before buying, make sure to lay it on a flat surface and test the evenness. Get those with box joints, mortise, or tenon jointed.
There are three types of squeegee blades, the most commonly used are the flat heads a.k.a rectangular tips, the ball nose, and then there are the pointers a.k.a V-Shapes. In my personal opinion, flat heads are great for paper and large textile printing, but if you’re printing t shirts, I’d go for the pointers. Using pointers also cut out the risk of pushing excess paint, while making it easy to maintain the proper 35 – 45-degree angel from start to finish.
Like I already mentioned, water based and plastisol have their place. There are literally hundreds of brands out there, all with different specifications and ingredients. As a tip, ask the salesperson for a sample print of the ink. This way you can gauge if that’s the type of ink you’re looking for.
Good shops will custom mix a color (according to the Pantone Color Chart) for a fee. Bad shops won’t even have that option.
This is the most important component of screen printing. This photo/light sensitive liquid hardens up when exposed to UV rays, and becomes water resistant. The fuss about this is whether or not to get it separate (sensitizer + emulsion) or premixed a.k.a instant ones. I’ve tried both, they work the same and the cost is negligible between the two if you’re starting out.
Emulsion Scoop Coater
In general, get a scoop coater that is at least an inch shorter in length than your screen. This way, you would only coat 6 inches of that 7 or 8 inch screen of yours.
Reclaimer a.k.a Emulsion Remover
Once the job is done, you’ll need to strip the stencil off and start fresh. Like emulsions, they come premixed. Companies that manufacture emulsion usually manufacture reclaimers too, so just go ahead with the favorite.