Screen Printing on Fabric

Screen Printing on Fabric

Screen printing on fabric can be both bright and colorful, providing a unique three-dimensional effect. Sinosilk is specialized in this technology and offers you a range of other process options. If you have an idea for a custom screen printed fabric, please contact us for a consultation.

What is Screen Printing on Fabric?

Screen printing on fabric is the original printing technology. In addition to the fabric and ink that are well-known, its main components include screen plates and scrapers for printing patterns, and printing tables for laying fabrics. 

It uses a silk screen as plate making material, through the method of photosensitive design color for plate making. It is based on template cutting. A sheet of finely woven mesh fabric is placed taut on the frame to cover it with an impervious formwork. The fabric that needs to be printed is placed under it, and the ink or dye is scraped over the stencil to pass through the perforated part of the stencil. A series of such plates can be printed in a variety of colors.

Its printing results are more saturated in color, and screen printing on dark fabrics can also produce bright and vivid colors, which is better than other printing methods.

Screen Printing on Fabric
screen printing

Evolution of Screen Printing on Fabric

Hand screen printing is a traditional printing technology, and machine screen printing is the same screen printing method on fabric.

The uniqueness of traditional hand screen printing can not be replaced by other flat printing, which is why this technology continues to develop today. However, this process completely relies on human printing and is prone to many uncertainties. Carrying out large quantities of printing is relatively time-consuming and labor-intensive. Therefore, machine screen printing came into being.

Currently, machine screen printing is more commonly used and performs exceptionally well when printing on polyester fabrics. Although the frequency of hand screen printing has decreased, it remains popular among people.

What Inks to Use for Screen Printing on Fabric?

There are various options for screen printing inks. The correct choice of ink can not only make the effect better but also ensure that the fabric printing will not fade easily and can be used for a longer time. 

  • Plastisol ink is a durable ink made of polyvinyl chloride resin and plasticizer. When heated, the ink melts and binds to the fibers of the fabric, ensuring that it won’t fade quickly. It can also resist washing, rubbing, and shrinkage, and create long-lasting prints.
  • Water-based ink is devoid of organic compounds. This type of ink is bright and can be dissolved in water, which allows the fabric to be fully dyed while maintaining its softness. However, water-based ink is best used on light-colored fabrics.
  • Reactive ink is specifically designed for fabric printing. It contains reactive dyes that can chemically interact with the fabric fibers, particularly natural fibers, resulting in vivid and long-lasting colors. Its color fastness surpasses that of water-based inks.
  • Acid ink primarily consists of acid dyes and other auxiliary components. Under acidic conditions, the ink chemically reacts with the fibers, resulting in fresh and bright patterns that are suitable for designs with high color saturation.

At our factory, we commonly employ water-based ink, reactive ink, and acid ink. These inks not only ensure color accuracy but also provide enduring printing effects.

Screen Printing on Fabric
Screen Printing on Fabric

What is the Best Fabric to Screen Print on?

There is a wide variety of fabrics suitable for screen printing (both hand and machine). including silk, silk blends, wool, modal, cotton, linen, polyester, lyocell tencel, bamboo, viscose, rayon, and other fabrics.

Some lightweight and stretch fabrics are also suitable but are prone to defects during screen printing, so you need to consider carefully, such as silk cotton blends, silk chiffon, silk georgette, silk habotai, stretch silk satin, and other fabrics.

How Do You Screen Print on Fabric?

The workflow of hand screen printing on fabric involves several steps:

  1. Make screen plates. The screen plates are made according to the color of the design, which is the foundation for all subsequent steps.
  2. Wash the table. This is the end of one pattern and the beginning of another.
  3. Attach the fabric. Pay attention to the horizontal and vertical must be aligned.
  4. Straightened and smooth the fabric. To make sure that there is no wrinkle, then use a scraper to scrape the fabric into shape.
  5. Check carefully. Check for small bumps or weft deviations.
  6. Start to print. After workers put the fabric in place, they move the screen plate up and down and then use the scraper to print.

Machine screen printing is all the same as hand screen printing in terms of preparation before printing. It refers to the printing process completed by mechanical action, divided into semi-automatic and automatic printing. 

Semi-automatic printing is done by workers putting fabrics in and out, and machines do printing. 

Automatic printing is done by the machine to complete all printing steps, including the movement of fabrics and screen plates.

Screen Printing on Fabric
Screen Printing on Fabric

Advantages and Disadvantages of Screen Printing on Fabric

The advantages:

  • Well-done printing: It can print high-quality images with bright colors and strong layering, and can achieve high-precision printing effects and a stronger sense of three-dimensional. Because the penetration effect of this technology is good, it can achieve the same color on the front and back.
  • Durability: Screen printing inks have strong durability, are not easy to fade or flake, and can remain beautiful for a long time.
  • High production efficiency: It can quickly print a large number of products, suitable for large-scale production.

The disadvantages:

  • High cost: Screen printing requires the production of special screen plates, resulting in high plate-making costs. It is not suitable for small-batch production.
  • Limitations in design: It cannot accommodate complex and variable designs, and gradual color designs are not feasible.
  • Bulk production time is relatively long.

Screen Printing on Fabric VS. Digital Printing on Fabric

screen printing
digital printing

The two most common ways to print on fabrics today are screen printing and digital printing. Screen printing involves printing inks from a screen plate onto the fabric with a scraper, while digital printing requires no other medium and can be printed directly on the fabric with a printer. 

Screen printing requires a lot of time to create a screen plate based on each color of the design before proceeding to print, while digital printing is done by printing the design directly onto the fabric through an application.

Screen printing as long as the screen plate is made,  the design is not changed, no matter how many quantities can use the same plate, so the unit price of bulk will be lower. And the larger the quantity of digital printing, the more expensive the unit price of bulk will be.

Screen printing is suitable for printing simple designs. Digital printing is flexible so any design can be printed.

Due to the different printing processes, the ink of screen printing can better penetrate the fabric, while digital printing can not do that. So from the back of the fabric, screen printing is better than digital printing.

Distinguish between hand screen printing on Fabric and machine screen printing on Fabric

Hand screen printing on fabric Machine screen printing on fabric
Professional printers are hard to find and difficult to manage. Ordinary workers can operate the machine to print, easy to manage.
The quality will be affected by the physical strength and mood of the printer. The machine can continue to work, the quality is stable.
Labor costs are rising. It requires only one investment and can be produced in unlimited quantities.
Limited physical strength of workers. The machine can work 24 hours.
Small printing width Large printing width, wide screen plate.
It is difficult to overprint large plate The machine can accurately overprint no matter the size of the screen plate.
Simplex small cut printing Simplex multi-cut block printing.
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