There are several steps involved with learning how to screen print. Each step will take you closer to the actual printing of the tee shirt. But the learning curve can appear to be too great to accomplish if we over analyze and look at the whole endeavor at once. We can break the process down into 7 very basic parts:
1. Create the artwork positive.
2. Output the artwork to film.
3. Make the screen.
4. Expose your film positive to the screen.
5. Washout stencil in screen.
6. Print shirts.
7. Cure printed shirts in oven.
Now there are many different ways of accomplishing a screen print. The above checklist would be more of a rough commercial outline. However, printing at home in an arts and crafts fashion is fun and easy. You can use everyday items such as an old picture frame or an embroidery type hoop as your frame. Some people have used white, sheer nylon curtains as the mesh. There are even ways of hand applying a stencil to the screen so there is no need for complicated equipment or light sensitive chemicals.
Since screen printing is a basic stenciling process, you do not needlessly need to push ink through the screen with any kind of squeegee. Many dab or swab different kinds of inks and paint through the screen with brushes or paint rollers. There are even fabric additives for standard acrylic paints that can be used. They only need to be set with an iron.
The possibilities of screen printing at home are endless. It can be fun and educational while producing a lasting keepsake. You can refine your techniques to screen print at home quite well in fact. Many people end up doing shirts for friends and family. You can get good enough to consider going commercial but there are many things to consider in commercial screen printing.
Although you can do quite a lot at home and even print shirts for money with a "home brew" style of screen printing, going commercial is a little bit different. The idea in commercial screen printing is to produce the highest quality print in the least amount of time with the least amount of effort. That means it should be fast and easy to print really great looking prints on tee shirts.
This is something to consider as printing in general is riddled with deadlines and large quantity pricing. That means as the customer buys more shirts, you sell them at a lesser price per shirt. You will actually make more money by printing high volume jobs than smaller runs. That is where your equipment needs to be able to produce for you.
That is where the expense of printing commercially comes into the picture. If you want to be serious about screen print jobs, you need at least a few key components to your equipment line up. The tee shirt press is an essential piece of equipment for professionals. Of course a belt dryer and an exposure unit would also be important.
Have no fear; There is hope for the merger of the 2 different sides of screen printing. One could always buy only the key pieces of equipment one would need and then fill in the blanks with home or hand crafted tools or accessories. And sometimes set it all up in your garage?
Many screen printing businesses have been starting that way. Just think, you could print tee shirts for you mothers birthday party and pay for the shirts with the money you make printing shirts commercially.
Well, there is yet another thing to consider with that. Be careful to abide by any local environmental laws relating to the usage and disposal of screen printing related chemicals and products. Vendors of screen printing products will be happy to provide Material Safety Data Sheets, (MSDS), for chemical makeup and hazardous materials information as well as precautionary information for human use. This also means checking into local zoning laws that may restrict or prohibit such semi industrial activities in a residential area. This of course would not apply to a hobby or home craft style of screen printing.