Learn How To Screen Print With Catspit Productions, LLC
Frequently Asked Questions
For definitions of terms used in the F.A.Q section, please refer to the YouTube Glossary.
How much money does screen printing equipment cost?
That depends on what kind of equipment you want to get. You can find start up packages for as little as $500 on the internet designed for the home printer. Bench presses can go for $1000 or less. For a few thousand dollars you could buy a professional press and an exposure unit and build other things you'll need. If you want a completely new professional shop set up it will run you between $15,000 and $50,000 depending on the type and brand of equipment you want. Automatic shirt presses can range from $30,000 to well over $100,000 for the press alone.
What can be printed with a standard manual rotary tee shirt press?
You can actually print a wide variety of items on your manual rotary tee shirt press. Flat substrates like clipboards, binders, notebooks, mouse pads, coasters, metal sheets, are easily printed on a tee shirt press. You can also print magnetic signs, business cards, stickers, corrugated signs or posters and any flat paper item that can fit on your pallet.
How much space is required for a screen printing shop?
This will depend on your equipment. Space requirements will be directly related to the size of the equipment you purchase. That means you can pretty much set up anywhere you want from a room in a house to the garage and finally a warehouse. Professional equipment will tend to need more space but that is not always the case. If you can decide what type of equipment you want, you should be able to get an understanding of how much space you'll need.
Do I need artistic skills with the computer or by hand?
Not necessarily but it would be a great advantage. You can easily learn enough about graphic software to create art and work with clip art. Clip art can be found for free on the internet and it can be purchased. You really don't need artistic skills; rather you need the ability to work with the computer and manipulate image files like vector art files. If you can work with a computer, you should be able to create artwork. More complex art and color separations for film may require in depth skills or experience.
Is screen printing difficult and dirty?
It can be both. But if you make an effort to work clean and use the right tool for the job, screen printing can be enjoyable while not becoming too messy. In the end it will come down to your work ethic. If you work dirty then it is likely to be dirty. And if you fail to learn what you need to do in order to make a successful print, it can also be very frustrating. It's not that it is very hard to screen print tee shirts; it's just super easy to mess them up and make misprints.
Where can I find books about how to screen print tee shirts?
There are several screen printing books available for purchase on the internet. They are not always easy to find and sold by different retailers. But now you can find a great collection of screenprinting books on the Bookstore page of the Catspit website. These books range from hobbyist, craft, and professional instructional materials.
Is the Yudu a good product to buy to print shirts commercially for a profit?
No. The Yudu is a home based system designed for the hobbyist. It is not well suited for printing multi color jobs or any high volume of tee shirts. Click here for a professional Yudu review.
Which process is "better"? Screen printing or heat transfers?
This really depends on what you are printing and how many you would like. For small jobs of 1 to 3 shirts, heat transfers are an economical and practical choice; especially if you want to reproduce a lot of colors. Some designs may not reproduce well by heat transfer. Screen printing requires a decent amount of set up and can be costly for small runs. Screen printing is the better of the two for color and print durability. If you are looking for 6 shirts or more of the same design, screen printing will be the better choice but most definitely will cost more.
Will heat transfers work on black shirts?
Yes. But you will have to purchase heat transfer paper specifically made for dark garments.There are many types of heat transfers for dark shirts but they tend to be very thick due to a white base layer made of a rubbery or cloth material.
How much do heat presses cost?
Heat presses can cost anywhere from $200 to over $1000 depending on the size, make and features you want on the press. We sell RiCOMA heat presses. They are a great value and balance function with quality nicely. You can check out the specs on the Equipment Sales page of the Catspit website.
Can screen printing reproduce tones and photographs?
Yes. The way screen printing reproduces tones is by way of small dots clustered together. This is known as a halftone. A halftone is the reprographic process that simulates continuous tone imagery through the use of dots, varying either in size or in spacing. This type of screen printing is often more costly than spot color printing. Reproducing a full color photo is known as four color process. This uses halftones of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black inks together to produce a full color print.
What type of "paint" is used in screen printing?
None. In screen printing ink is used to print which differs from paint. There are many different types of ink for screen printing. The type of ink used is determined by the product being printed. Plastisol ink is used for screen printing standard cotton or poly cotton blend garments.
How does the ink dry on the printed shirt?
It doesn't. The ink cures during a chemical reaction fueled by heat in an oven. Most commercial screen printers use a belt oven which either uses infrared panels or gas to heat the ink to about 330 degrees Fahrenheit.
How do you get the artwork onto the screen for printing?
Artwork is transferred to the screen using a photographic process. A light sensitive liquid chemical is applied to the screen; it becomes most light sensitive when dry. A film positive is created from artwork and the emulsion coated screen is exposed to light with the film to produce a stencil.
Can sunlight be used to expose emulsion coated screens?
Yes. Although the sun can be used to expose screens, it is not recommended. Because the sun is actually lower in UV output than light sources made to expose emulsion, using the sun can be problematic. Light sources like the sun can literally cook the emulsion with heat alone causing it to solidify. That means your exposure source has to output a good amount of UV in order to expose your screens within a reasonable time. The less UV your light source outputs, the longer your exposure times will be.
Can the screen be reused with a new design after printing shirts with it?
Yes. This part of the process is done when we need to reuse the screen for another job. The chemical needed is called "reclaimer" or stencil remover. After you have finished printing a job, clean the screen of any ink and all tape. Put it in the washout booth and spray both sides of the screen with the stencil remover. Let stand for a minute or so and begin to rinse with a pressure washer. You shouldn't need a ton of pressure but it is a good idea to have a halfway decent one. Make sure to follow the directions for your specific stencil remover.
Can over head transparencies from the copy store be used as film positives?
Yes. Over head transparencies seem to shrink little but are not good enough to use alone. If you double them up, they can often be dense enough to be used as a film positive. You may also have to touch them up with a black sharpie.
Does the squeegee really affect print results?
Yes. This is one of those topics that veteran screen printers may be divided over. Some printers believe that squeegee durometer does not affect ink coverage or opacity. It may not be as important as having the squeegee blade sharp but there are physical properties of squeegee durometers that can affect your print. In general a softer squeegee will transfer less force and tend to leave the ink on top of the fabric rather than pushing it into the knit. Harder squeegees will transfer more of your force to the ink pushing it into the knit much more.
What is PhotoEZ and does it work?
PhotoEZ is a home based screen printing product. It's a product that eliminates the need for much screen printing equipment and allows you to print at home but it is not well suited for printing shirts commercially. http://ezscreenprint.com/
Is there a good online store to purchase screen printing supplies?
I am having trouble burning a stencil on 110 mesh. Why?
There are several factors that can affect the results of burning stencils on 110 mesh. You must have all of these issues in check otherwise your screen making will be difficult. 110 mesh is not the default mesh for textile screen printing. You need to choose the mesh appropriately for your printing application. 1 - First check to see that you are working with 100% opaque film. If your film is not opaque then you will not be able to expose the emulsion as long as is needed to cure it properly. Underexposing screens to compensate for poor film positives will give you great trouble especially when trying to get detail out on a 110 mesh count.
2 - Make sure your screen is well prepped to receive the emulsion. You must degrease and abrade the mesh when it is new. If you do not do this, the emulsion will have trouble adhering to the mesh especially in small detailed areas. This is true for any mesh count.
3 - Using a very diffused or scattering light source may also create some issues with making stencils. Stray light bouncing everywhere can expose the emulsion in places you don't want it to be exposed. Make sure to reduce the bouncing of the light by painting the inside of your exposure unit black or dark in color. This will reduce stray bouncing and allow only the light from the light source to be the exposing point.
4 - For getting detail out on any mesh a point light source will work best. That is to say that multiple bulb fluorescent exposure units do not work as well as single bulb Halide units. This goes back to the light scattering issue. The more controlled your exposure source is the better detail you will get on any given screen.
5 - 110 mesh is almost always white and white mesh can have a problem known as Halation. This is light scatter caused by light passing through the clear film base on its way to the emulsion. This can be minimized by making sure your film positive comes in contact with the emulsion on the same side that the image was applied to the clear film base. White mesh also causes a certain amount of light to bounce off the mesh itself and creates diffusing in your exposure. This will reduce sharpness as well as the ability to render detail on any white mesh.
6 - Make sure your water from the garden hose is not too warm. It is best to work with cold water when washing out screens and make sure not to overwork the screen in the washout booth. This will supersaturate the emulsion and cause it to wrinkle, shrink, bubble, peel, and ultimately fall off. You must use the proper exposure time to cure the emulsion in order to give you the most amount of time in the washout booth. Under exposures will be problematic in the washout booth.
7 - Finally, you must know when to move up to a higher mesh count. Some designs with a lot of detail or dot will just never work on a 110. You will need to move to a 230 mesh or higher in order to obtain good results with fine detail. If you have line art that contains lines of 1 point or less, I would suggest using 205 to 230 mesh to start and see how that works for you. 110 mesh is far to open for the small pieces of emulsion to span gaps and render fine detail.