Everybody loves a good graphic t-shirt. From your basic but goody “But first, Coffee” statement to your vintage styled Nirvana shirt to your own custom design, graphic T-shirts have a special place in everyone’s closet or dresser drawer. These stylish garments are such a staple for the modern American that it is easy to overlook the incredibly intricate process that is required in creating them. Screen printing is an art form that takes time to develop as a craft requiring a ton of attention to detail and a specific passion for process.
So What is a Screen Print Anyway?
Screen printing is the process of using thick layers of paint to create a specific design on your t-shirt. You can typically tell the difference between a screen printed shirt and a DTG (direct to garment) print because of the texture and appearance. A screen printed shirt should feel softer, where as the print from a DTG will be a little shinier and smooth feeling.
Designing the Print
Any good t-shirt company will have an abundance of graphic t’s with original and unique art, but one of the coolest parts of screen printing is getting to use your own awesome designs to make one for yourself. If you have an original design, a screen printer will be able to make a high resolution digital version of your artwork or logo for your shirt. From there, the design team will use their knowledge of fabric and color compatibility to choose the right ink to create your piece exactly how you imagined it.
Making the Screens
Next, your design has to be burned into either one or more screens, one being made for every color that will be included in your print. Each screen acts as a stencil, so when the screen is on the fabric and the ink is wiped across that stencil, you only have that color making that specific part of the design. Then the screens are switched along with the new color in order to add to your design.
Creating the right color for your design is a literal science that every artist is well acquainted with. The art team will work to develop the exact color that is needed for your design and print through a series of calculated mixing.
The Grand Finale
Your blank shirt will now be laid perfectly straight and flat with the help of a laser alignment tool. Then, the ink will be wiped across the screen that is pushed flat on the fabric. This will be done individually for each different color in a specific order to create your screen printed design. After your shirt is dried flat, a design technician will compare the now finished shirt to your original artwork to ensure that no mistakes were made and that the print looks exactly as it was planned.
At this point, your incredible custom screen printed t-shirt is ready to be worn and shown off to the world as you absorb the envy of spectators who will be in awe of your vibrant, fashionable, original artwork of a shirt.