What is Screen Printing?

What is screenprinting-

Screen printing (or as it’s sometimes known, silk screen printing) is how we print your t-shirts here at Ramp.

So why do we use screen printing, and what is it?

Silkscreen printing gives you the best, sharpest results when your artwork is transferred onto cotton. Let’s take a look at the process.


This is a very basic introduction to screen printing. It definitely isn’t intended to be an in-depth, step-by-step guide, and so we’ve left plenty of stuff out. We will be revisiting it, though, with some more detailed posts in future.

Step 1 – From artwork to stencil.

It all starts with your artwork. We take your design and separate out all of the individual colours. Each colour is then printed out on to transparent, flexible film. It looks like this:

Screen printing film
Screen printing film

This is the basis of the stencil. But this transparent plastic is way too flimsy to use, so we need to transfer it to a screen. A screen is a mesh pulled tight with a frame around it, which has been covered in emulsion. The reason it’s called silk screen is because in the early days of printing the mesh used to be made out of silk, but these days it’s made out of polyester. The mesh looks like this:

Screen printing mesh
Screen printing mesh

The film is attached to the mesh. Then the image is burned on to the mesh by shining a great big light on to it. This ‘exposes’ the image, burning the artwork into the mesh. After that, we wash off all the excess emulsion, leaving an exact replica of your design. This is the screen. Then we repeat the process for every colour in your design.

Step 2 – From screen to shirt

Now the screens are ready, it’s time to print. Printing is a pretty straightforward process. The screen sits above the t-shirt, and the ink is squeezed through the screen using a squeegee, only coming through the parts of the mesh containing your image.

Screen Printing
Screen Printing by hand

You can do this by hand, but it takes a while, so we use automated giant octopus-style printing machines, which means we can print thousands of t-shirts accurately and super quick. After the ink has been put down, the shirts are heated, to seal the ink in. Check it out below on these t-shirts for Nexmo:

Nexmo shirts rolling out!

A post shared by Ramp (@ramptshirts) on

Want to know more? Read the very in-depth guide at Wikipedia.

Ready to buy? Head to Ramp.fm where we’re happy to help with your screen printing questions.

Any questions?

If there’s anything we can do to help, just ask in the LiveChat box, give us a call, or email us. And don’t forget the free checklist below so that you have all the things you need to know before ordering custom t-shirts and more in one quick and easy document.

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