Ready to start screen printing? It’s a big jump, but it’s so worth it. To build your shop, you will need to obtain some equipment and supplies. Our team of experts put together a handy check list of everything you should know about and consider for your future shop.
The screen printing market has an abundance of screen printing presses. All these presses have different features, abilities, and prices. You want to make sure you’re getting the right press for your goals and/or your customers’ needs. How do you even begin to choose?
First, you pick a trusted brand. If you’re looking at a Riley Hopkins press, you’re in the right place. With more than 30 years of experience in the printing press industry and a professional reputation to match, Riley Hopkins makes some of the highest quality and most economical screen print presses a person can buy. The beloved press line is known worldwide for having top-tier features, fast adjustment, and cutting edge looks.
If you’re brand new to screen printing, consider starting off with the Riley Hopkins 150 Press. The 150 is a simple, high-quality press that’ll help you master the craft. If you’re planning on establishing your screen printing business, consider the Riley Hopkins 250 Press.
A WAY TO GEL INK
If you’re planning on printing multicolor designs, you will need equipment to gel or flash the ink. A heat gun can work, but it’s very difficult to maintain consistent heat across the whole print.
The best option for gelling ink is to use a flash dryer. A flash dryer provides even, consistent heat across the whole print. The most popular flash dryer new printers grab is the Afford-A-Flash but the BBC Black Flash is also popular if you want a slightly larger flash area.
EQUIPMENT FOR CURING
Printers could also use a heat press for curing. A heat press is more reliable than a flash dryer because it provides a stable heat source. It will share a readout of any temperature fluctuation while you’re using it. A heat press is essentially a conveyor dryer without the conveyor belt. If you’re already decorating with vinyl, a heat press will be an excellent, multi-use tool for you.
Best case scenario is to invest in a conveyor dryer. Conveyor dryers run multiple shirts through at a time which helps speed up production. You will need to adjust the speed of the belt and heat accordingly to the garment and the ink you are using. It may not be plausible to purchase one now, but it could be a good goal to have for the future.
The exposure unit, is a very, very important piece of the darkroom. Needed to burn the images onto screens, the quality of the exposure unit matters. Some may start out with a bulb, while others get the Small UV Exposure Unit. If you’re able to chip in a bit more money, invest in a X-Vactor exposure unit like the It’s worth the investment.
If investing in an exposure unit is not doable for you right now, some businesses offer to burn screens for you, like Squeegee & Ink.
SPACE FOR CLEANING SCREENS
To rinse out freshly burned screens or reclaim old screens, you’re going to need a space to accomplish those tasks. The Dip Tank is the most practical way to manage your screen reclaiming, and we offer Starter Kits if you are wanting to get started with the ease of using Dip Tanks. The most optimal way to clean screens is in a washout booth. We supply a number of different options from small table top units to larger back-lit booths. Mail us if you have any specific requirements you wish to discuss.
To get your image onto a screen, you’re going to need a film printer. Many types of film output printers exist, but chat to us if you’re unsure about which ones may be suitable. The most common is an inkjet printer. Inkjet film has one side that’s coated, and one side that isn’t coated. The coating is important because it holds onto the ink from the printer. The coating on inkjet film also helps maintain the density and shape of the image.
Asking a local print shop to print film positives for you is definitely an option if you do not have the funds for a film printer at the moment. Ask around to see if shops would provide that service and how much it would cost.
Asking a local print shop to print film positives for you is
definitely an option if you do not have the funds for a film printer at the
moment. Ask around to see if shops would provide that service and how much it
You will need a few programs to create the art and print it off properly. For creating art, screen printing experts suggest to use Adobe® Illustrator or Photoshop. If you have a graphic design background and know how to draw.
For printing films, you’ll need software as well. AccuRIP is the most common, versatile program. If you print a lot of spot colors, you could look into Separation Studio as well.
Alright, screens are pretty important in screen printing.
Screens have various mesh counts, which are used for different
applications. What is mesh count? Well, mesh count is a measure of
how many threads of polyester cross each other per square inch in the
screen. For example, a 43T/110 mesh screen would have 43 threads p/cm or 110
threads crossing per square inch. The higher the mesh count, the finer the
holes are in the screen.
Here’s a generic summary of the uses for basic mesh sizes:
- 43T/110 — great for polyester inks, white on
black prints, block text, white base, and large spot color designs
- 62T/156 — the jack-of-all-trades for
screens, many jobs can be done with this mesh count
- 90T/230 — great for high detail and finer
- 120T/305 — CMYK,
The two most common screen printing inks are plastisol and water-based. Plastisol inks are the most uncomplicated way to start screen printing because they are easier to print, do not dry in the screen, cure painlessly, and are vibrant and opaque. Water-based inks are good if you’d like a softer feel, but the ink can dry in the screen and it’s much more difficult to reach proper cure, but nothing to fear, and are lovely to work with once you understand how to manage them on-press.
Emulsion, the liquid that you coat screens with, comes in two variants — diazo and presensitized.
Presensitized emulsion is highly sensitive, exposes quicker, has a longer self-life and, captures fine detail beautifully. The downside of this kind is that it is VERY sensitive. In fact, it is so sensitive that daylight on a cloudy day would start to expose your image. If you wash the screens out outside, the emulsion would overexpose even the stencil. It requires a better safe light environment and it’s not for beginners.
Diazo (mixed) emulsion requires the addition of a Diazo powder before printing. This must be mixed into the entire base prior to opening and printing for the first time, and is often referred to as “sensitizing” the emulsion. The diazo-mixed emulsion takes longer to expose but is more forgiving. The 10% window of error also applies to diazo-mixed emulsions. Since it takes longer to expose diazo emulsions, your window of error is larger. Say you expose a screen for 10 minutes, you could go over or under by a minute.
Other factors like ink, type of exposure unit, and lighting in washout area will also affect which emulsion you use.
Yup, there’s more. You’re going to need a scoop coater, screen tape, ink spatula or scoop, platen adhesive, digital non-contact laser thermometer, squeegees, platen tape, and scrub brushes.
Don’t forget about the cleaning chemicals! Which chemicals do you need? Depending on the ink system you want to use, we will have the right product to streamline your screen management process. Cleaning off water-based inks will require Aqua Wash. For cleaning up plastisol inks, look at our specific cleaning products HERE . To reclaim screens, you’re going to need the Emulsion Stripper to remove the emulsion well as stain remover and degreaser to degrease and dehaze the screens.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? We have selected Start Up Packages packages that will contain everything you need to get started. These packages are suited for various budgets and requirements and offer you everything you’ll need to hit the ground running and be productive prom the outset. No need to pick and choose, just select which package would be right for you and your business. Check out the Starter Packages we offer.
YOUR BRAND STARTS HERE
That’s everything you need to get started! If you have any
questions, please contact us. We’re here to help. You can call us at 01562 829
009 or email at