For the arty among you, you may well associate screen printing with the iconic work of pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichteinstien who used the technique to revolutionise the art world in the 1960s.
Warhol’s huge repeating portraits of Marilyin Monroe and striking renditions of Campbell soup cans still cause wonder today with their boldness and simplicity.
But screen printing has been around for centuries. And, despite traditionally being the domain of artisans and DIY craftspeople for T-shirts, posters and album covers, commercial screen printing is highly effective technique which is used globally in order to apply branding and other important information to products and packaging.
So how does it compare to other forms of printing, like pad printing? What are its stand-out benefits? And which of your print jobs would benefit most from being screen printed?
Screen printing is a traditional printing method in which a blade or squeegee is pulled across a stenciled woven mesh (screen), to press ink onto an underlying material or product (substrate). Different ink colours are applied one at a time using a different screen, which allows for subtle and complex layering in the finished print.
Screen printing is a highly versatile printing method, allowing you to print onto a wide range of materials, including paper, fabric, wood, glass, metal and plastic.
While its roots may lie in hand-made art, screen printing has been brought bang up-to-date with a range of hi-tech, large capacity machinery. These can perform long print runs onto both flat and curved surfaces – which makes screen printing an interesting print option for a variety of products.
But the principles and process followed by even the most sophisticated modern equipment remain true to their traditional origins:
Screen printing is a print process that has been industrialised and automated over the years, but which still embodies the key elements that make it the unique and popular industrial print solution it is today.
So why would you choose screen printing over pad printing or other printing methods like digital printing?
Screen printing allows you to apply thick coatings of ink – which tends to give you a higher quality finish than other methods. The colours are rich and saturated and have good light resistance, so will stand the test of time.
Whereas pad printing is limited to smaller objects, the sky’s pretty much the limit with screen printing.
The materials – frame, screen stencil, ink – are simple and cheap to get hold/produce. So screen printing can be a cheaper alternative to other forms, especially for small print runs.
Thanks to the relative thickness of ink application, the end product is durable and long-lasting.
Screen printing is a fantastic solution for large designs and big spaces, but it has its limitations.
With the evolution of new technology, the days of screen printing being limited to flat surfaces are behind us. Modern automatic and semi-automatic screen printing machines are capable of printing onto a range of flat and round objects.
Here are just some products we’ve printed onto:
Pad Printing, which uses a flexible silicone pad to transfer ink from an etched base plate onto the product, is a perfect way to transfer a 2D image onto a 3D object. And it’s a particularly effective method for printing onto irregular, tiny objects like keyrings and jewelry where screen printing may struggle.
But setting up and executing a pad printing job can be slower and more involved that screen printing, and pad printing is limited in its printing area: you can’t really use it to print over a large area, which is where screen printing comes into its own.
So, it’s really horses for courses: it’s about choosing the printing method that suits your particular requirements.
We’ll be more than happy to help you choose the right service for the perfect print job.