What's Happening

Keep an eye on this area for recent changes to the site, events, vacation notices, and more.

What's New

New changes on a nearly daily basis.

Help Central

How can we help you?

Screen Printing Basics

Everything you wanted to know about screen printing... and probably a few things you didn't. What is screen printing? What are the processes? How does it differ from other printing processes? Why do some people look at me funny when I say "Silk-Screen?"

Be sure to check out our glossary Under Construction


While most printing processes involve transferring ink from one surface to another, screen printing is based on the stencil concept.

Most people's experience with stencils involve the lettering stencils most of us first encountered in elementary school; those tan cardboard sheets with the letter shapes cut out of them. Also, admit it, we all had them, you probably had one of those transparent color plastic rulers with the letter shapes cut out of them.

One of the apparent drawbacks to that type of stencil is that in order to draw the counter of certain letters ("O", "A", "R", etc.), thin tabs connected the outer edges with the inner edges.

Screen printing achieves this by applying the reverse of an image on a matrix of mesh. Each thread of the mesh replaces these tabs and connects each part of the image with every other part of the image. Every place that remains open will allow ink to pass through onto the item being printed, while the closed areas will prevent ink from passing through.

Screen printing is achieved by forcing ink through a screen stencil with a squeegee onto the intended surface. It is widely accepted to refer to the image on the screen as a stencil.

Multiple color jobs are printed one at a time; one ink color per screen. This means that the higher the number of colors, the higher number of screens that will be needed.

Screen Printing vs. Silk-Screening

Originally developed in China, silk was the original mesh used. Because of this, to this day, screen printing is still often referred to as "silk-screening". Even the fancy term "Serigraphy" refers to silk with the Latin prefix "seri-."


Screen printing has certain advantages over other methods of printing. The variety of surfaces and ink types that can be printed is it's greatest strength.

Thicker materials which have no chance of ever squeezing through an off-set press are easily printed. Crushable and brittle materials are also good candidates due to screen printing's lower pressure requirements.

Textiles, garments, metal plates, glass, wood; there is almost no surface that screen printing cannot handle.


Further Reading

A very good source of basic information about the process and uses can be found at Wikipedia's entry on "Screen-printing".

This site has been checked, verified (mostly), and built with the help of: