The Basics of Screen Printing (Part One)

In our multiple part series, we will be guiding you through the basics of screenprinting. This will furthermore help you understand how the process works, as well as help design purposes for your future clothing label.

The Basics of Screen Printing (Part 1)

Screenprinting is not a simple process, nor is it a difficult one either. In screenprinting, you must understand the process of color separations, design and other important factors. T-shirt screenprinting is not as simple as placing an image on a t-shirt and printing it (as seen in conventional printers to paper). Traditional screenprinting is a process of creating mesh grids, separated by color to displace ink to create an image. There are new innovations that have led up to conventional printing methods such as Direct-To-Garment but do not yield the same results. There are a few determining factors before you actually begin screenprinting.

How many colors is my image?

Images can be comprised of a huge amount of colors, or a small amount of colors. Some standard designs may look like this:

This is considered a 1-color design. After a few washes, you may get a vintage look from the print, as it is more prone to fading without a base.  However, for greater attention to detail, as well as better print longevity, a base is usually recommended (changing your design to 2-colors).  That way you have a more solid, opaque finish on your print such as:

Some more intricate designs may require more screens for colors, and can drastically bring up the pricing to print your garments. You may want to consider doing larger size runs when ordering shirts that feature more colors. Take a look at this Obey Design:


This design alone features the colors: white, orange, black, yellow and green. This can incur 5 set up costs for just one design. If you take that into perspective for a small order of t-shirts, the set up costs drastically increase the prices of the each shirt individually.

It is best to solidify your design and manage techniques that minimize costs. That way you can create better sample runs before investing into buying huge lots of printed garments. On the next part of the “Basics of Screenprinting” series, we will discuss the different types of ink that are used in printing, and deciding which one may be best for your case.