At a glance, screen printing might seem simple to pull off. In fact, there are plenty of articles that will tell you how to do it at home. It's true: anybody can follow step-by-step instructions. But, unless you have the requisite experience, the likelihood of error is high. Remember, IKEA furniture comes with instructions and the process of following them causes well-documented tension. In screen printing, an error might not cause a fight, but it can require that you start the process over again. All in all, it's a more complicated process than you may think. That's why we think it's best left to professionals (*cough*). But, we want everyone to know what the process is like and all that goes into it.
Here are a few other aspects of screen printing you might not have considered:
It's a Time Consuming Process
As mentioned above, the process isn't quick. That's why it's not feasible to print a single design on a single shirt. That's also why screen printing happens in bulk. Before printing even happens, there is a full design and preparation phase that accounts for everything that will be needed to set up the job correctly. That includes the desired apparel color, the design colors, design placement, whether there will be printing on one side or both, and more. Depending on the specific request, the length and cost of the printing job can vary significantly. Taking every detail into account and then executing on the vision doesn't happen in an instant.
The Printing is the Easy Part
For professionals... that is. When printing is your business, it becomes second nature. The more challenging part is designing from scratch or taking a design from a customer, then building the printing process around it. With both the medium and the customer's budget in mind, a plan is devised that will yield the best looking product for the best price. There are even several types of special ink that can affect the process. With the exception of a few, limited techniques, you’re only able to print one color per screen, and each of those screens need to go through the entire process of emulsion, exposing, washing out, taping off, setting up, and registering. The process can get expensive, quickly, if things like quantity, shirt style, material, placement, and more aren't considered from the start.
"Done" isn't Really Done
The printing process is eventually done and the product is delivered. But, "done" is relative. For those doing the printing, it's necessary to clean up from the last job and then prepping the press for whatever is next. All of the printing and preparation is done by hand, requiring concentration and a honed skill set. Luckily, when you find a printing company that's passionate about what they do, the printing process is a labor of love.
When it's time for your next printing project or you find the need for some screen printing, remember what goes into the process. It's more complicated than it looks. It's time consuming. It takes design and preparation. It takes clean up and more preparation after that. But it also produces apparel and products that look great and scream YOU.