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What is Screen Printing? How it Works

Screen printing is a popular method of transferring a design, text, or any image on different materials through a mesh screen.

Though widely used in textile, screen printing can be used for printing several materials, including garments, scarfs, banners, posters, wall hanging, or decoration pieces.

Screen printing is becoming widely popular as a great hobby, and you can earn some easy cash by creating customized objects and personal messages.

In this article, we will learn all about “What is Screen Printing”, how it works and several other related questions.

Let’s see what screen printing is for a start.

What is screen printing


Also known as Serigraphy or silk printing, the basic method of screen printing is the same; designs are transferred to the base material with the help of a mesh screen and a squeegee.

Ink is passed through the stencil and mesh screen, and it enters the fabric from the tiny spaces in mesh screen. The design is printed on the fabric underneath as ink permeates the fabric through the mesh screen.

The technique is used in so many industries and is popular for printing on shirts, garments, posters and banners.

It is also used for canvas painting in the artwork. Nowadays special inks have made it possible to screen print on different hard materials like metal, wood, or ceramics.

The design on the stencil can be used for transferring again and again, and that makes it ideal for printing in bulk.

Related: What Is The Definition Of Sublimation Printing?

What is a Mesh Screen?

what is mesh screen

One of the most important tool in understanding what is screen printing is the mesh screen.

Mesh Screen is the basic screen with spaces that are used for transferring designs. The right mesh screen is important for the quality of work and best results.

The screen used for printing has mesh counts. Choosing a screen with the right type of mesh count is important for the printing process.

Mesh count is the number of fibers that are in one square foot. Different mesh count fiber screens are available.

110-160 mesh count screens are mostly used in screen printing. Low mesh counts have large openings and are good for broader designs.

For fine lines and delicate designing small mesh counts screens are ideal.

Mesh screen has closely placed small holes through which the ink passes to the fabric. You can choose the screens with different mesh counts. Guidelines come with screens to help customers understand what this screen is good for.

The printed mesh is spread over a frame, and it must be under tension to work properly.

Related: What Is Heat Transfer Vinyl?

What is Stencil?


Stenciling is another technique that is used in screen printing.

It is a way of transferring the design on a surface. It has designing gaps through which ink passes to the printing surface.

Stencil can also be called a pattern, an intermediary object, or the image of design. It can be reused again and again for transferring the same design on a surface.

Stenciling is the most difficult part of screen-printing. For an accurate and detailed design, a perfect stencil is required.

What is a Squeegee?

What is Squeegee

It’s a rubber blade that is attached to a wooden frame. Squeegee is used to spread the ink over design and is pressed for pushing the ink through the mesh screen holes into the fabric for printing.

Is There a Special Ink for Screen Printing?

Though screen printing can make use of many inks for transferring the design, for best and long-lasting results special inks are recommended.

Both water-based and plastisol inks can be used for screen printing. Both have their utilities and can be chosen according to your fabric and design.

Related: Where Exactly Does Printer Ink Come From?

Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink is most widely used in screen printing due to its versatility, flexibility, and durability.

It looks puffy and gives a thicker coating that is flat on touch. It sits long on mesh screen without drying. It suits the softer designs and has a glossy flat finish.

Water Base Ink

Water base ink is excellent for fabrics like cotton and jersey. It soaks in the fabric and does not give a feel of anything sitting on it. With its softer feel, it usually requires a high count mesh screen.

Discharge Ink

This is another type of ink used in screen printing. It discolors the fabric from where it is placed and colors it with its pigments. It is best for fabric like cotton.

How Screen Printing Works

how to screen print


Now that we know what is screen printing, let us look at how it works.

Here is a step by step guide to screen printing.

  1. 1
    Creating design or you can select a ready to use design. Scale the design according to the measurement of the surface you want to print and print it on an acetate film that will be used for creating the stencil.
  2. 2
    Choose a mesh screen that suits your design and fabric.
  3. 3
    Coat the mesh screen with a light emulsion.
  4. 4
    Attach the acetate film with the design to the screen and let it expose to light.
  5. 5
    The emulsion will be hardened, clean the unhardened parts and make a neat screen by removing the excess hardened emulsion from the gaps.
  6. 6
    Dry the screen and do some touchups for printing neatly.
  7. 7
    Place the screen on the surface you want to print.
  8. 8
    The professional printers use automatic press machines, or you can do it manually at home.
  9. 9
    Pour the ink at the top of the screen and use a squeegee to spread the ink across the design and press it through the opening holes to pass the ink.
  10. 10
    If you are printing two or more colored print, you might need to add different layers of screens for each color.
  11. 11
    Once the design is transferred, the fabric goes through a special dryer for drying the ink and giving a smooth surface.


Screen printing is an interesting way of printing your customized designs on your things. It’s a great hobby, and you can create excellent banners or posters for your personal wall hangings.

You can create some wonderful designs for a friend and family. It will be a great surprise reflecting your love and concern.

Professionally screen printing can be used for creating customized designs with your personal touch in bulk.