Screen printing can be a world unto itself with its own language! We know that the industry can be a bit overwhelming for those who are new to it. With so many terms and jargon, it can be hard to know where to start and what means what. That's why we've put together this handy glossary of some of the most important terms you'll come across in the screen printing world.
First up, let's talk about the "screen." Often also referred to as a silkscreen, this is the piece of equipment that holds the stencil in place and allows the ink to pass through onto your fabric or material. It's typically made of a frame and a mesh material. Speaking of mesh, that's another important term to know. Mesh refers to the number of threads per inch on the screen. The higher the mesh count, the finer the detail that can be printed but, the harder it will be to push ink through.
Next, let's talk about emulsion. This is a light-sensitive liquid that is applied to the screen and then exposed to UV light. It hardens and creates a stencil on the screen. This is what allows the ink to pass through in certain areas and not in others.
Films are another important part of the screen printing process. These are the images or designs that are used to create the stencil on the screen using that emulsion. They are normally printed on a roll of transparency film, hence the term films. The printed area on the film blocks the light from reaching the emulsion in specific places to create the stencil.
Underbase is a layer of ink that is printed first on the fabric or material. It's typically used when printing on dark colored fabrics to ensure that the final design is bright and vibrant. Most of the time this is white ink but can also be other lighter colors being used in the design. This illustrated in the separated artwork graphic below where the very first layer on the very left show a base layer of white that will be printed first.
Separations or "seps" is the process of converting your artwork into a layered image where each layer represents an individual screen that will be used to print a single color. These screens will be printed in a particular order to achieve a multi-colored image. (Illustrated Below)
Registration is a term that refers to the alignment of the different colors in a design. It's important to get this right to ensure that the final design looks the way it's supposed to. Registration marks are added to each layer of the separations to ensure they can all be layered together accurately.
Trapping is a technique that is used to ensure that there are no gaps between the different colors in a design. It involves increasing line weights or expanding blacks of color so there is a small amount of overlap to reduce the possibility of those gaps occurring. This is especially important when printing on fabrics that are prone to stretching.
Choke is when an area of the design is slightly reduced in size to ensure that there are no slivers of color peeking out from underneath other colors. This is especially important when using an underbase
Halftones are used to create a gradation of color by using small dots of varying sizes.
Overprinting is a technique that is used to layer different colors on top of each other to create new colors. It's often used to create more complex designs where halftones overlap to trick the eye into seeing a mixture of those colors.
Simulated process is a term that refers to printing a design that looks like it was created using 4 colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) in a process of layering those colors white they're wet so they mix to create a full spectrum of colors. The "simulated" part of it is when the print is created with more or less colors to try and achieve the effect by overprinting colored halftones and flash drying the colors in between so that the color mixing is more controlled. This is illustrated in the "separated artwork" graphic above.
Finally, flash curing or "flashing" is a term that refers to the process of quickly heating the ink on the fabric or material to dry it. This is done to ensure that the ink doesn't smudge or smear before it dries.
So there you have it, a glossary of some of the most important terms you'll come across in the screen printing world. I hope this helps you navigate the industry a little bit better. And as always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!