Andy Warhol is one of the 20th Century’s most famous artists and his portrait of Marilyn Monroe is one of the most iconic pieces in the entire history of art.
If you haven’t seen it, the piece (called “Marilyn Diptych”) consists of fifty images of the beloved movie star. Each image is a duplicate photo of Monroe with a slightly different color scheme. How did he do this? With a process called “silk screening”, more commonly referred to these days as “screen printing”.
Screen printing is a process for duplicating an image, slogan, or graphic onto a massive quantity of a variety of different objects. This technique is commonly used to create t-shirts and posters with cool designs on them, as well as other merchandise.
Are you ready to learn how to screen print? Let’s get started!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
How screen-printing works
Screen printing works by pouring ink through a mesh, so it transfers onto the printing medium, except for in the areas that are blocked off by a stencil.
To start, a synthetic screen is stretched over a wooden frame. Traditionally silk was used for this screen, but modern screen printing typically uses polyester. Once you’ve built your screen, you need to make a negative of the image or slogan you want to screenprint.
The negative is printed onto the polyester screen, and ink gets applied to the negative spaces, and then pressed against the paper or fabric you’re printing onto. Remove the screen, set the shirt or poster aside, and let it dry while you move on to the next one.
Screen printing screens
The screen gets stretched and secured over a wooden frame before it gets coated in a layer of emulsion, which prevents ink from pouring through it.
In Andy Warhol’s day, the screens were made from silk. Nowadays it’s customary to use polyester. All of this gives the screen a two-tone color. These colors don’t matter and won’t affect the outcome of the printing process, but they are usually green (the color of the emulsion liquid) and yellow (the color of the screen).
Screen printing ink; colors
Get ahold of some custom ink colors. Blend them until you have the exact shades and hues you want for your print. It is best to use thick, high-quality ink that lasts a long time. The thicker the ink, the better your design will look once it’s printed.
Screen printing press
The press is one of the most important pieces of equipment used in silk screen printing because this is where your shirt or poster gets the design printed onto it. It’s typically a device with several spinning metal arms that each has a space to hold a screen.
The shirt or poster is placed on a device that resembles an ironing board. Make sure you have your materials in exactly the right position. Some presses come with lasers to make this easier. Use the press to lower the screen onto the shirts and pour your custom blended ink mixture over the top of the screen.
Use a squeegee to move the ink around. The shirt or poster will soak up the ink and your design will start appearing. Depending on your design and color scheme, you might have to do a couple of printings.
When you’re done using the press, it’s time to put your shirts or posters in the dryer. This isn’t a typical clothes dryer, it’s a device specifically designed to dry screen prints as quickly as possible.
In industrial facilities, this is typically a conveyor belt system that is set up to a specific temperature. This ensures that the shirt dries in one go and the colors don’t bleed. There are also more economical versions of this device that are available for home use.
Screen printing equipment buying guide
Screen printing does require a lot of equipment, but luckily it can all be purchased off of Amazon.com. Here are some of the best purchases that you can make to get started on screen printing your own T-shirt designs today.
The basic items that you need to get started with screen printing are material to print designs on, screen printing ink, a screen-printing press, the actual screens, and a special dryer. Let’s look at some of the options available for these items on amazon.
Best screen-printing screens to buy
|1. Aluminum Frame Screens || ||Check Price|
|2. Aluminum Frame Screen Package || ||Check Price|
|3. Another package of pre-stretched screens with aluminum frames || ||Check Price|
|4. 21 Pieces Screen Printing Starter Kit || ||Check Price|
|5. Caydo 4 Pieces 4 Size Wood Frame Screens || ||Check Price|
|6. Caydo 6 Pieces Aluminum Frames for Silk Screen Printing || ||Check Price|
This is one of the most important pieces of equipment that you can buy for your screen printing setup. After all, how can you make screen-printed clothing when you don’t have any screens?
These screens are typically made out of polyester, and they get stretched across either a wooden or aluminum frame. Wooden frames tend to be slightly cheaper, but aluminum frames are usually slightly sturdier. Think about this tradeoff and which product you think is right for you.
Aluminum Frame Screens
This is a package of two high-quality, pre-stretched aluminum screens that are perfect for your next screen-printing project. The outer dimensions are 20 inches by 24 inches and the inner dimensions are 17.2 inches by 21.2 inches.
You can ensure long-term use of these screens by repeatedly re-stretching them. They have already been sandblasted with solvent-resistant glue.
Aluminum Frame Screen Package
This is a smaller size option for a great aluminum screen printing screen. The aluminum frame and ability to continuously re-stretch the screen ensures the item’s longevity. It’s easier to clean and is less likely to be damaged than wooden frames.
These frames are 9 x 14 inches and made of 160 white mesh.
Another package of pre-stretched screens with aluminum frames
This package of two high-quality, pre-stretched aluminum screens is like other products by GoldUpUSAInc, except these screens are made out of 160 white mesh, rather than the 230 yellow mesh used on some of their other screens.
Like with other products, these screens can be re-stretched multiple times. This lets you use them over and over again.
21 Pieces Screen Printing Starter Kit, Angela; Alex 10″ x 14″ Wood Silk Screen Printing Frame White Mesh Screen Printing Squeegees Inkjet Transparency Film and Mask Tape
This is a starter kit that includes screen printing screens that use wooden frames. These are slightly less durable than aluminum frames, but this is still a good purchase. At the end of the day a wooden frame is just as good as an aluminum one, and this package comes with several accessories that you’ll need for screen printing.
In addition to the screens themselves, this package also includes two different types of squeegees. This kit also has several items that you need to make a stencil, including masking tape and transparency film.
Caydo 4 Pieces 4 Size Wood Frame Screens
This pack of screen-printing screens includes four screens in different sizes. This lets you work with a range of different materials and graphic sizes. You can decide which screen to use based on the size of the graphic you want to print, without having to worry about the image being too big or small.
These 160 white mesh screens come in four different sizes
* 10 x 14 inches
* 8.2 x 12.2 inches
* 6.7 x 10.6 inches
* 5.1 x 9 inches
Caydo 6 Pieces Aluminum Frames for Silk Screen Printing
These screen-printing screens are securely attached to their aluminum screens, but they are still easy to clean. Wash the screen, put it aside to dry. Once it finishes, you’re ready to start screen printing again.
* 160 White mesh screens
* 20 inches by 24 inches
Best screen-printing ink to buy
|1. Speedball Fabric Ink to use for Screen Printing || ||Check Price|
|2. Rapid Cure Plastisol Ink for Screen Printing Low || ||Check Price|
|3. Rapid Cure Standard Plastisol Ink Kit for Screen Printing Low Temp Cure 6 || ||Check Price|
|4. Ecotex Water-Based Standard Ink Kit for Screen Printing 6 || ||Check Price|
|5. Speedball Fabric Screen Printing Ink Starter Set || ||Check Price|
You have to have some good screen-printing ink in order to successfully screen print any material. Depending on the design and color scheme that you want, you might have to mix these inks together to blend them into a new color. These are some of the best choices available on Amazon for screen printing.
Speedball Fabric Ink to use for Screen Printing, 8-Ounce, White
Speedball has a reputation for making some of the best screen-printing ink on the market. This brand is known for being easy to work with and it’s a staple amongst beginning screen printers and art teachers alike. The vibrant colors of these inks look great on a variety of different fabrics, plus items such as paper and cardboard.
In addition to beginner packs with a variety of different basic colors in small bottles, Speedball also sells larger bottles of each individual color.
If you are serious about doing a lot of screen printing, either as a hobby or a business, it’s a good idea to go ahead and buy a large bottle of each color. You’re going to need all of this ink.
Rapid Cure Plastisol Ink for Screen Printing Low-Temperature Fast Curing Ink by Screen Print Direct Black, Pint – 16 oz.
Another great company to buy screen printing ink from is Rapid Cure. This is one of the most energy-efficient brands for screen printing supplies on the market.
Rapid Cure ink dries at temperatures as low as 270 degrees Fahrenheit. This prevents the shirts from shrinking under the heat, burning, keeps your energy bill low, and prevents colors from bleeding into each other.
Rapid Cure ink dries best when you use it on clothing. For the best results, you should use this ink to print your designs on cotton-polyester blend clothing.
Rapid Cure Standard Plastisol Ink Kit for Screen Printing Low Temp Cure 6 – 8oz Ink Bottles by Screen Print Direct
A lot of people love using Rapid Cure ink for their screen printing projects, but you might not love screen printing enough to invest in large bottles of individual ink colors. You might be starting out with a new hobby and you want a “starter kit” so to speak.
If this describes you, then this kit from Rapid Cure is the perfect option. You get all of the Rapid Cure quality of the individual bottles, while saving money on a whole pack of colors.
Ecotex Water-Based Standard Ink Kit for Screen Printing 6 – 8oz Ink Bottles by Screen Print Direct
Maybe you want to buy a pack of multiple ink colors, but you want to try something other than clothing? Check out this package from Ecotex. This is a water-based ink source that is ready to use out of the can, or as a discharge ink.
This ink works wonderfully on all sorts of materials that other ink brands struggle on. This ink works well on fabrics of course, but it also works like a charm on items such as paper and wood. Check it out!
Speedball Fabric Screen Printing Ink Starter Set
Speedball is one of the most beloved screen-printing ink brands for a reason. This ink works on the widest range of fabrics of all the brands on this list. This ink works great on virtually any sort of fabric you could want to print onto, including cotton, polyester, blended clothing, linen, rayon, and synthetic fabrics.
Speedball ink also works wonderfully on non-fabric items, such as paper and cardboard. You can print nearly any sort of merchandise or accessories you want with this stuff.
Best screen-printing press to buy
|1. Personal Screen Printing Machine by Vevor || ||Check Price|
|2. SHZOND Screen Printing Press 4 Color 1 Station Silk Screen Printing Machine || ||Check Price|
|3. Desktop screen printing press by INTSUPERMAI || ||Check Price|
Of course, you can’t forget about the actual screen-printing press itself. Trying to screenprint without a press is like trying to drive a car without a steering wheel. Industrial screen-printing presses are fancy machines with up to a dozen moving arms to hold up to a dozen screens.
You probably don’t need all of that if you’re screen printing as a hobby or for a home business. Instead, you’re better off looking at some of these smaller-scale versions of the press.
Personal Screen Printing Machine by Vevor 17.7×21.7Inch Screen Printing Press
Screen printing presses in industrial shops are a lot of things: fancy, expensive, and overkill. As cool as it might be to have a screen-printing press that has twelve arms, you likely don’t need that many.
Especially if you’re just starting out screen printing, you want to keep things simple and economical. What you need is a screen-printing press that’s fairly easy to use in your home, office, or studio.
This simple screen-printing press from Vevor is perfect for these purposes. This press has a sturdy metal structure that will withstand wear and tear. It also uses an economical, space-saving design that you can use right on your desktop.
This screen-printing press is also easy to assemble. All the tools and parts that you need to get started are included in the package, which means that you can get the press assembled quickly and easily.
Despite its compact size, this screen-printing press also has a large printing surface. The printing area measures 21.7 inches by 17.7 inches.
This screen-printing press is the perfect item for you to print your designs onto a variety of different materials. This press works well with clothing (T-shirts work especially well), cloth, different types of paper and metal, wood, tile, glass, circuit boards, copybooks, plastic, and leather.
If you can fit it on the printing surface, you can almost surely print your designs on it with this machine.
SHZOND Screen Printing Press 4 Color 1 Station Silk Screen Printing Machine
The SHZOND Screen Printing Press 4 Color 1 Station Silk Screen Printing Machine is an economical and relatively portable version of the screen printing machines that are used in industrial facilities. This device allows you to screen print up to four different colors at one station.
You can move the screen clamp around, and adjust it to fit the size of your screen. The screen itself rests on a removable pallet that can be rotated in any direction, whether it be forward, backward, up, or down.
This screen-printing press is meant to be used to print designs onto all sorts of materials, including fabric, metal, paper, plastic, circuit board, wood, and copybook. This is perfect for small businesses and an individual home printing shops.
With this screen printing machine, you can use four different colors at one station.
- 21.7” by 17.7” plate size
- 1.8” maximum screen thickness
- 42.6 total pounds
Desktop screen printing press by INTSUPERMAI
This is a smaller, even more personal version of the screen-printing machine. This is the best screen-printing press that you can buy for basic, at-home screen printing. The machine can be adjusted to accommodate any screen and it works great on materials such as t-shirts, pillows, bags, and fabric.
* One color at a time
* 30 degree tiltable pallet that you can adjust
Best dryers for screen-printing to buy
|1. Flash dryer by VEVOR || ||Check Price|
|2. SCHZOND Flash Dryer || ||Check Price|
Flash dryer by VEVOR
There’s no use investing in inks, screens, and screen-printing presses if you don’t have a way to efficiently dry your screen printing projects. That’s why you need to get a special dryer, and there’s no better option than the VEVOR Flash Dryer.
The VEVOR Flash Dryer is known to have one of the most reliable performances of any screen-printing dryer on the market. This is thanks to its advanced spraying and its classic steel structure.
This flash dryer also has a large drying area, measuring 18 inches by 18 inches. This means that this product is ideal for screen printing projects with large surfaces that need to be dried. The heating tubes in the machine are wrapped in stainless steel wire mesh, which makes them more energy efficient.
The large drying surface of this flash dryer also allows more room for dissipation vents. This allows the flash dryer to heat evenly at 400 degrees Celsius, which lets you quickly and efficiently dry your printing jobs.
* 18 inches by 18 inches
* Electrical control box
* Adjustable stand
SCHZOND Flash Dryer
This is a more portable version of the screen-printing dryer, and you can use it in your home. Unlike the industrial use dryers, this one does not work on a conveyor belt system. This has an 18 inch by 18-inch flash drying table.
There is also a temperature display and adjustable stand. This device includes wheels, a heating grid opening, and a standard 110 volt plug so that you don’t have to worry about any special wiring.
You can adjust the height anywhere between 30 inches and 48 inches, and the temperature is over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it can quickly and easily dry your ink for silk screen printing.
Miscellaneous screen-printing equipment
|1. INTBUYING 110V UV Exposure Unit Equipment || ||Check Price|
|2. Dual Edge Aluminum Emulsion Scoop Coater || ||Check Price|
|3. 3 Piece Screen Printing Squeegee Kit in 3 Sizes by Caydo || ||Check Price|
|4. Worown 13.7 Inch Aluminum Handle Screen Printing Squeegee || ||Check Price|
In addition to the basic supplies listed above, there are some other items that will be helpful to you on your screen-printing journey.
INTBUYING 110V UV Exposure Unit Equipment for Silk Screen Printing Simple Type Stencil Ink-Jet Making Plate Light
This is a simple and affordable light table system that you can use to help you design the stencils that you need to screen print your designs. This UV exposure unit is sturdy enough to use for your screen-printing work, and it has lights that can be adjusted as needed.
Dual Edge Aluminum Emulsion Scoop Coater for Silk Screen Printing Coating Tool (5 Inch)
The screen-printing process requires you to apply emulsion liquid to your screen before you can actually start printing. This emulsion scoop coater is just the tool that you need in order to apply an even, steady coat of emulsion fluid onto your screen-printing screen.
3 Piece Screen Printing Squeegee Kit in 3 Sizes by Caydo
A good set of squeegees is a vital part of your screen-printing equipment list. You will need these to disperse ink and emulsion fluid around on the screen-printing screen. This package includes three squeegees of different sizes, all of them made with wood handles and rubber blades.
* 75 Durometer wooden scraper for scraping ink on screen-printed fabric
* 3 different sizes 5.9 inches, 9.4 inches, and 13.7 inches
Worown 13.7 Inch Aluminum Handle Screen Printing Squeegee, 75 Durometer Ink Scraper
Maybe you don’t like the texture of wooden squeegees. You still need squeegees for your screen printing projects, so check out this aluminum-handled squeegee from Worown. This might be exactly the product that you need.
Related Reading: How To Make Screen Print Transfers