The Process Of Screen Printing A T-Shirt

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Are you interested in making some custom t-shirts through a local screen printing shop, but curious about how the process works? Here is an overview of the process involved in printing a custom image onto a t-shirt. 

Design Prep

The first step is to create the design that will be printed onto the shirts, which can be done by using any type of design software. Some thought will need to be put into how many colors you want to use. A very simple one-color design will be cheaper to screen print than one that uses multiple colors that require multiple applications of ink.

Screen Prep

Each color of the final image will be printed on a transparent film, which is then transferred to a screen using emulsion. A bright light is shined on the film, and anywhere that the image is not present will create a hardened emulsion on the screen. This emulsion does not allow ink to pass through the screen and only comes through the empty areas where the image is present. The process essentially creates a stencil on the screen with incredible accuracy. 

Ink Prep

The ink that is used for screen printing is going to be thicker than normal ink. This is due to the ink being mixed with a special solvent that makes the link thinner, which helps it pass through the holes in the screen with ease. Since the screen has tiny holes, a thick ink would not leave a consistent color on the shirt that the design is being printed on.


The shirt is placed on a flat surface with the screen placed on top of it. Ink is then poured onto the screen, and a squeegee is used to push the thin ink through it. The ink will then need to dry on the shirt, which is done by curing it with heat so that the ink hardens. The printing process is repeated with a different screen for each additional color that is used, with the screen carefully being set on top of the shirt to align with the first color that was printed. 


The final screen-printed shirt will be inspected for imperfections in the screen print. These can happen if the screens were not properly aligned between color applications, creating an image that does not look as intended. If there is excess ink on the shirt, it can be removed to create a clean image that looks professional. 

To learn more about polyester long-sleeve t-shirt screen printing, contact a service provider in your area.