Silk Screen Printing for T-shirt Customization

Custom T-Shirts by Silk Screen Printing

Silk screen printing is a textile printing technique that is widely used for customized t-shirts and other custom apparels. This is the best known textile printing technique and certainly the favorite of companies and textile designers. It can produce spectacular results.

tshirt screen printing

What is silk-screen printing?

Screen printing on paper and on textiles follow a very similar process. The method consists in applying ink through a mesh stretched onto a screen. It produces color impression in layers, color by color. In the case of textile screen printing, inks are applied directly on the garments.

Textile silk-screen printing is a very old technique developed in China. It is an artisan craft though these days the process is automated by machines. At Tshirt Metro, our specialists retouch the visuals and adapt them to create the layers and screens. We position the t-shirts manually one by one on the machine and then apply the colors by hand.

History of Seriagraphy or Screen Printing

screen printing t-shirtSerigraphy or Silk screen printing is a word comes which from the Latin word sericum (silk) and Greek word graphic (to write or to draw). This technique was first developed in China, under the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD). They used silk threads for the application of ink, hence the name Seriagraphy.

Screen printing then spread to Japan and neighboring countries. It was not until the 17th century that the silk trade flourished to see the introduction of silk screen printing in Europe. In France, the city of Lyons began to use silk-screen printing to print fabrics : this process is called Lyonnaise Printing.

The year 1910 marks the birth of modern silkscreen printing with the first use of a photosensitive emulsion to create screens that block the passage of ink. In the United States, the technique was used to create advertising posters and later also for artistic purposes. But it is probably the artist Andy Warhol who used this technique for fashion by creating a portrait of Marilyn Monroe in the 60s. Nowadays, most t-shirts and other apparels are printed with silkscreen printing.

Textile customization by screen printing

Silk-screen printing is a complex process. it is for this reason that we rely as much on our graphic designers. The most important thing to know is that the printing is done color by color and that the inks pass through a mesh or stencil.

Layers, screens, and inks are the three main elements to consider for screen printing process because they determine the cost. In short, the more the colors your artwork has, the more layers, screens and inks we have to use, leading to higher cost.


The first step in screen printing is the making of layers. Your visual is separated by color and from each one we print a layer with an opaque black ink on a transparent acetate sheet using a high definition plotter. If your pattern has more than one color, you will need to create a layer for each color.
It is a delicate process that requires a lot of experience to get high quality results. If we neglects the details at this stage, we may get a bad quality print.


screen printing insolationThe insolation of screen printing screens is a delicate step. We apply a photosensitive emulsion directly on the mesh of the screen. Due to this sensitivity to light, we work only with red light as in photographic laboratories.

We fix the layers and the screens and then expose them to a light source with the help of an insolation machine. When the emulsion comes into contact with the light, it solidifies, leaving the mesh totally solidified aside from the opaque zone of the layer. We finally remove the part corresponding to the visual with water thus obtaining the screen ready to be used. The solid part of the mesh will block the passage of the ink which will pass only on the area of the visual.


To customize your garments, we use high quality inks that are environmentally friendly. These inks consist of plastisol.
When the frames are exposed, they are mounted on a carousel.

tshirt printing carouselThere are two types of carousel. In manual carousel, the ink is passed by hand with a scraping equipment called squeegee. This process is automated in automatic carousel.

The manual carousel is better suited to production in 1 or 2 linear and medium-series cores, whereas the automatic carousel is more suitable for large series and four-color process. Once all the elements are in place, the machine begins to turn and it only remains to remove the t-shirts whose printing is finished.

The final step in the process is to dry the t-shirts inside a drying tunnel. Adjusted to a precise temperature, it allows a correct fixation of the ink on the fabric of the garment. Once printed, your t-shirts are ready to be shipped.

Restrictions for screen printing for T Shirts

T-shirts, polo shirts, shirts and sweatshirts can be customized in silkscreen printing at up to 6 colors. Silk-screen printing is a technique suitable for simple logos, phrases or visuals. It can not reproduce high-resolution photos or create color gradations, although the use of screen-printing frames makes it easier to imitate these color gradations.

Silk-screen printing is a time-consuming process that includes the use of layers and screens for color-to-color printing. Hence, it is economic only when you have to print a large number of t-shirts of the same design.

Advantages of Serigraphy

It is the most professional textile printing method. The rendering is very thin and the impression seems integrated into the fiber of the shirt.

It allows a strong deposit of ink which guarantees not only an intense color that lasts in time but also a good opacity.

It is economically attractive even for short runs (but digital printing increases the breakeven point).

This technique allows the use of specific silk screen inks: fluorescent, phosphorescent, gnawing or swelling

Disadvantages of Serigraphy

The fixed starting costs (screens and frames) do not allow to carry out too small orders, or at a prohibitive cost.

This technique is generally reserved for orders of more than 50 pieces (in one or two colors).

It does not allow the printing of too fine details (generally no more than 120 pixels per inch) with solvent inks, but this problem was solved when UV inks were discovered (which did not dry in the mesh but Only under ultraviolet light).

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