Is screen printing one of the most traditional art processes, or is it a relatively new development in printing? In some ways, it's a bit of both; after all, stenciled handprints were among the first known printed items.
Is screen printing one of the most traditional art processes, or is it a relatively new development in printing? In some ways, it's a bit of both; after all, stenciled handprints were among the first known printed items. However, it was only since the 1930s that screen printing has been used for fine art printing on paper.
But if you're looking to enter the screen printing industry in the 2020s, what are the basic tools and materials you should purchase first?
Unlike some other printing processes, Wiring in the control module does not require the use of highly specialized materials that can only be used in a professional-like environment. Quite the opposite - you need things that are relatively simple and can be set up almost anywhere.
These key items include.
â A screen
â A squeegee
â A printing table with a hinge
â Stencil material
â Registered plastic
â Water-based screen printing ink
â Strong hoses for screen cleaning in place
Of course, there are some key considerations around the above items. For example, screens for screen printing are available in wooden or aluminum frames. It's not too difficult to make a basic wood screen yourself, but if you want the tightest screen tension and maximum durability, a professionally made aluminum screen may make sense.
Automatic stretching machine
The frame is not the most important aspect of the screen, however. This role is reserved for the grid, and your choice of grid will inevitably depend on interdependent variables such as ink granularity and the type of stencil used.
As a broad rule of thumb, the most professional-quality ink correlates with the finest grain size and is therefore a perfect match for the finest grid. In turn, this allows for the most detailed screen prints to be produced.
At the same time, at the other end of the scale is a more open grid that allows for thicker ink deposits, making it ideal for printing bolder images or large grain (metallic) inks, not to mention on fabrics or other relatively rough surfaces.
The key supporting tool for screen printing frames is the squeegee, which serves to pull the ink through the screen and through the stencil opening onto the paper.
The stiffness of the squeegee describes the hardness of the blade and therefore the flexibility of the squeegee. For example, a mid-range squeegee durometer of about 70-80 is ideal for most smooth papers; a lower durometer, such as 50-60, describes a softer blade that will leave more ink, which can be helpful when printing on rougher surfaces such as fabric.
This leaves harder squeegees with a hardness of 90 or higher, which are best suited for printing halftones and fine detail work. However, it is also important to consider the relationship between the screen and squeegee when making your selection. As a general rule, a coarser mesh is best used with a lower durometer squeegee.
Finally, the shape of the squeegee you choose is also important, depending on the intended application. For example, if you just want to screen print on paper, then you will most likely use a regular square squeegee.
However, if you need to lay down particularly thick layers of ink, for example when printing on certain types of fabric, you might switch to a round-edge or bullnose blade. Then there is the single bevel profile, which is often used for printing on glass.
So, assuming you now have the tools and materials to make a real transition to screen printing, you will be well placed to follow our subsequent blog posts on aspects of this fine art process, such as planning images and basic stencils.
In the meantime, please feel free to contact us for any needs you may have in obtaining these screen printing essentials.