Common Screen Printing Mistakes to Avoid
Screen printing is a popular form of making clothing that practically exploded since the 1960s. And why wouldn’t it be? People can choose imagery they want to wear, they are easy to produce, and are relatively cheap to buy in clothing or accessories. The process of screen printing, however, can be messy, complicated, and stress-inducing if you don’t know what you are doing. So, if you are just experimenting, or if you are making something for someone else, you need to keep these things in mind to avoid any major disasters during the creation process.
Choosing Something Complicated
When you are making your first screenprint, it is very tempting to pick out something that is complex and intricate. Many people think complex patterns attractive. After all, there is proof throughout history about patterns drawing in the human eye.
But the problem with a complicated design is that there is much less room for error. If you aren’t used to doing any sort of screen printing at all, chances are all your detailed lines will either bleed too much or not show up. Or it could come from a lack of familiarity with the equipment. If you are just starting out in Screen printing, just keep it simple and work your way to detail. Also, don’t be afraid to walk away from your design and look again with fresh eyes. You might find a flaw you missed or something you don’t like about it.
Using a Bad Source Image
If you are just as unfamiliar with how digital images workd, you must double check your image. Most of the time, when people are unfamiliar with digital images, they are unaware of stuff like resolution, noise, or file compression.
- Make sure before you use an image that the resolution is higher and without any chance of noise.
- Stick with a PNG instead of a JPEG
- Make sure the mesh count is adequate for the image you are trying to use.
If you don’t have the proper equipment or know how the properties of the equipment work, you are more likely to make a mistake or several. If you want to get your print right the first time, you need to make sure you have the right tools for the job you want.
- High-end equipment might not be needed if this is a one time experience or a hobby. However, if you are trying to do any sort of business, you need to have updated machinery if you don’t want to turn down any projects.
- Check and clean your equipment before and after every job. If you do right by your equipment, it will do right by you!
- Make sure to have a spot gun. This will help rectify any sudden stains or spots in the fabric at the end.
- Check your ink. If you use it straight out from the can, you might not have the right consistency off the bat.
Having the proper materials for screen printing is only half the battle. The other half is understanding the technique that is behind the process. I have always believed that a good artist can overcome the use of cheap materials with proper knowledge of how to use it.
- Make sure you test at least once or twice before the final print. It will help you troubleshoot if there is some sort of alignment or material issues. It also will give you the opportunity to experiment a little with different fabrics and the properties of the ink.
- Be sure not to overdo or underdo the base and pay attention to what temperature your base needs for proper curing
- Use a consistent 45-degree angle when applying ink to the screen. If you are not careful, you will apply too much or not enough ink.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who knows how to do screenprinting. Different people are better with different techniques and nobody knows how to do every design or trick. A second opinion or another fresh pair of eyes can help make the process go much smoother.
Thanks to DIYsilkscreenprinting.blogspot.com, there is a section dedicated to helping troubleshoot the more common errors that come with the territory of screen printing.
Here are a few things that might help you further.
1. Bad registration –
A. Screens can become loose in the bracket on the press if not tightened enough.
B. The platen might be moving if the screw is not tightened enough. Turn it as tight as you can. Be careful not to strip it.
C. The shirt might be moving if you don’t have enough adhesive on the platen.
2. Screen break down –
A. If the screen was underexposed, the emulsion can loosen and come off. We always “post-expose” the screen. Which means we either place it in the sun after it’s been washed out and dried or we expose it again in the exposure unit to set the emulsion.
B. The squeegee can wear through the emulsion on a long print run or on a screen that has been used a lot. If the worn spots are outside of the design area you can clean the screen, spread a thin coat of emulsion over the worn areas and expose it to repair the bare spots.
3. Too much ink while printing –
A. You may be using too much pressure. Don’t press down too hard on the squeegee and use even pressure all the way across the print.
B. You may have gotten too much ink into the mesh on the back flood. Be careful as you back flood and don’t press down too hard or go over it too many times. If your ink does get too heavy, pull a few prints on test sheets without back flooding to clear out the screen.
C. The ink may be too thinned out
D. You may have an old squeegee with edges that are rounded and need to be sharpened.
4. Too little ink is printing –
A. Use a coarser mesh.
B. Make more than one squeegee pass to print. We sometimes do as many as 3, but that is usually the most we need.
C. The screen may be getting clogged. We will rub the underside of the screen with a wet shop towel and then screen a test print or two to try to clear it out. We print on test print squares or misprinted t-shirts and use blank newsprint when test printing for posters and art prints. (Note: We have been told that spraying water mixed with a little bit of dish soap on the underside of the screen before you put any ink on it helps when you print. We mean to try this next time we print.)
D. Try printing on a soft base. We sometimes use a platen covered in neoprene fabric. Especially when we want to print over collars or seams (more on this topic later).