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screen printing process

Broken Arrow's Custom T-Shirt Screen Printing Process for adding Ink to Shirts

Screen Printing - Art

The Screen printing process is the procedure of pushing ink through a mesh screen with the design burnt into the mesh.  Ink is then pushed through the mesh onto t-shirts and other garments. Below we will take you through the steps we use to create custom screen printed apparel at Broken Arrow.

1. Designing the Art

It all starts with your ideas. Your idea is taken to our in house designers who make a computer generated version of that idea using Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop, incorporating the t-shirt color(s) and ink colors you have chosen for your order. Once the design has been completed it is posted to the Art Approval Directory.  Nothing is ever printed without the customer approval of the artwork.

2. Process the Art

Once you approve your design, it goes to our production artist, who take your design apart with a method called color seperation. Each color of the design will have its own screen. Before the production artist can take the design to the screen department they must print each color on a film positive. *Update*  We are using a new technique where we no longer have to use film positives.  We now print your color seperated design directly onto the mesh bypassing the need for the film positives.  This is just like printing on paper only with a much bigger printer.  This results in cleaner, crisper lines in the designs and less waste in our landfills.

3. Preparing the Screen(s)

Screen printing relys on well constructed screens. The film positives from the production artist go to the screen department, who prepares the screen by coating it with photosensitive emulsion. The color seperated positive is attached to the emulsion coated screens, and taken to be burned for t-shirt printing.  This process is done for each color of your design.

The screen is placed into a unit that exposes it to ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light burns the design into the mesh.  Water is then used to remove the excess emulsion to let ink come through the screen. This is very important to get the best screen printing results.

Silk Screen Printing

4. Screen Printing Your Custom T-Shirts

Screen printing finishes by transferring the ink through the screen onto the shirt. To begin this process, the press is loaded with the mesh screens. Ink colors are then poured onto the proper screens.

The screen printer then loads the t shirt making sure that it is even and sitting straight on the t-shirt plat. Once it is loaded properly the printer lowers the screen (or on the bigger presses, raises the shirts) and pulls the ink across the design with a rubber squeegee.

The t-shirt is then removed and placed on a belt that runs under a special dryer. This dryer will cure the ink at 320°F. At the end of the dryer, Quality Control inspects each garment to ensure the garment meets our high quality standards.  Hope you have enjoyed this explanation of the screen printing process.

Be sure and check out our other custom t-shirt decorating techniques. Digital Shirt Prints are great for high detail designs or low quantity shirt orders. All Over Prints inks the entire garment, and rhinestone embellishment is great for a more feminine look. Don't forget about embroidery where we sew your design onto your garments.
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