Screen printing a hobby and a business for millions worldwide. But some things are needed for acquiring perfect and long-lasting designs.
Creating designs is one thing, but maintaining and caring for your prints is another task. You need to have some skills and knowledge to do it.
Are you ready to flaunt your custom creations? If so, we will show you the insider tips and tricks on how to cure screen printed shirts like a pro. All this, in the comfort of your own home!
What Is Curing In Screen Printing?
Curing is an essential part of screen printing. But it seems like most people are unaware of it and have no idea how to do it.
The curing practice is essential. If you want to create t-shirts that will have a cool and long last print which won’t wash off, then this is what you need to do.
To make sure your screen printing ink and the design won’t fade after a few washes, you need to cure it.
Print curing is essential for the ink to transfer to your t-shirt material. If it’s not cured correctly, your print will fade fast. Your unique design will only last you a few days.
While screen printing can be time-consuming and one additional step seems like a lot, this is crucial if you want to speed up the drying process and ensure you are getting the desired results.
For that reason, always purchase a heat press or flash dryer for this matter; otherwise, you will be surprised that you are not getting the results like everyone else around you.
However, you will need to know about the whole process and how it should be handled before you get into this sort of action because you can make big mistakes when treating the ink.
Here we will cover all the curing and screen printing steps you need to know if you want to design an original and lasting shirt.
How To Do Screen Printing?
Screen printing is quite simple, and everyone can do it at home, even if they have little to no experience in this practice, so don’t stress too much about it.
While there are several types of screen printing, the most frequent is using light and sensitive photo emulsions because it provides you with great results even at home.
The whole process is very quick and simple, and these are the main steps you need to follow.
Tired of reading?: You can skip straight to this short and concise 2 minute video on the basics of screen printing and how it works!
Create your screen printing frame
Without a screen printing frame, you can’t do anything, and you can choose to buy one or create it yourself.
The dimensions of your frame will depend on your clothing piece and design, so make sure it always works with what you have imagined.
Most frames are made in 20×24 inches dimensions, and they should be enough for most shirts and designs.
You don’t need to create a frame of perfect sizes; make sure it fits your needs well and that the screen printing process won’t be harmed.
Attach the screen to your frame
The next thing you will need to do is attach the screen for printing to your frame and make sure to id with the help of a smooth and nice fabric.
People usually choose mesh fabrics from polyester for this type of action, and you need to stretch it carefully over the frame and use a staple gun to keep it in the right places.
When putting the fabric over your frame, you need to make sure you are not stretching it out too much but also that there are no wrinkles because it will cause malfunctions in your design.
However, please don’t put it too tightly because you don’t want to rip the fabric out and ruin everything.
If you are sure your fabric was put well, cut out all the sections you don’t need and make sure everything is pressed well so that you have a completely flat material on the surface.
Use photo emulsion to coat the frame
The main thing you need for a successful screen printing experience is a good photo emulsion to prepare the screen printing device, but make sure you don’t use it until you are in a completely dark room because it will harm the device and print.
Photo emulsions always react when faced with light, so you need to use them only in dark places; otherwise, they will not be able to provide you with any results.
You need to apply a whole line of emulsion to your device, but make sure you are prepping the product as it is suggested in the instructions.
The coat of photo emulsion needs to be as thin as possible, and make sure you don’t go over the same spots twice.
After you have finished covering the device with emulsion, leave it in a dark room to dry for a little bit.
The drying process can be sped up by using a fan, but if you are not in a rush, I recommend waiting for it.
Choose your design
The next thing you need to do is choose what will be on your printed T-shirts and ensure your printer can provide you with this design in a high resolution.
If you are starting out in screen printing, I would recommend you to stick with something simple, at least until you see how the process goes and how much effort you need to put in
This also eliminates chances for a mess up, so definitely stick with simple designs until you feel like you are trained enough to do something more.
Also, try out designs with just one or two colors in the beginning until you see what colors you can mix and how many things your printer is able to perform at the same time.
Once you have found the desired image, print it out on a simple blank paper and cut it out with a special knife – make sure you are cutting it precisely because you don’t want to be left without parts of the design you need.
All the paper left but isn’t part of a design will still replicate your T-shirt, so make sure you cut it out perfectly if you want to get good results.
Open your screen
Once your screen is completely dry, you can quickly transfer your designs to it.
With the printer and photo emulsions, you will receive detailed instructions on how to start screen printing, and make sure you always follow their recommendations because devices can differ one from another.
The main thing you need to do is set up a decent area for your screen, and you must always use a dark-colored board to place your screen on it.
I would also recommend getting a lamp with an adjustable stand that will position the light directly onto your print.
Make sure your screen was covered previously with a towel or paper because if it was exposed to light before the process, it could create problems.
Your nonrecessed part of the screen should be upward, and you should put a piece of glass over it to make sure the design will stay in its place.
Once you have positioned it on the right, turn on the light and expose your screen for a recommended amount of time.
I recommend keeping a timer with you so you can be sure it is not staying under the light for too long or too short.
Once your timer has gone off, and you have reached the desired time, remove both the glass and the image from your screen.
The design should be seen immediately, and your photo emulsion surrounding the frame should be cured well.
Before moving anything around, clean and cleanse your screen and spray it with water as long as all parts of the emulsion are entirely gone.
Start printing your design
Now you are entirely ready to start printing your designs, and the best thing you can do is get several T-shirts to practice on before you begin making perfect clothing pieces for yourself.
You are ready to start creating your unique T-shirt designs, but it is recommended to do a wash test to see how well the color will hold and whether your desired prints can appear on that material properly.
Also, see how it goes when you are ironing the T-shirt because some types of ink may wash out when they get in touch with a stable heat source like this one.
The process is ultimately the same whether you are printing on a T-shirt, hat, or hoodie, and you should treat every piece of clothing with the same care if you want to achieve the best results.
However, cotton T-shirts and clothing pieces are the best options for screen printing because it is an enduring material that works well with every type of ink and allows you to start screen printing immediately without preparing the fabric too much.
It is also easier to have everything properly cured when dealing with such suitable materials and inks than with polyester and, for example, water-based inks.
These T-shirts are the best option if you are a beginner because you will learn how to handle the process and then realize how you should act with different inks and materials.
As you can see, the whole process of screen printing is relatively easy, and as long as you practice it a little bit and see techniques and designs that work the best for you, you will see excellent results.
Bonus Video: The Basics of Screen Printing [02 mins 20 secs]
How To Cure When Screen Printing?
Curing is a very important and final step in every screen printing process, whether you are dealing with silk screening or a simple one.
Depending on the type of ink, you can choose which curing method works the best for you, but since most people are dealing with plastisol ink and water-based inks, there are some techniques that seem to work excellently for all of them.
All of them cure when the temperature is around 300 Fahrenheit, so you can use the same technique, and you will get identical results.
These are some of our favorite methods for curing T-shirts that are extremely fast and suitable even for a beginner in screen printing.
#1 Heat press curing
Heat press curing is definitely the best and the most efficient way of curing, but it is also costly, and people who are doing this out of fun usually don’t have, nor do they need to splurge that much money on a device like this.
Everything is simple with a heat press because it is made specifically for things like this, and it can provide you with the perfect screen-printed T-shirt in a second.
You will probably need to use some sheet, preferably a Teflon sheet, over the area you want to print, but the whole process requires you to make a few clicks, wait and finish everything.
It is suitable for printing at home, but you will need a lot of space and time to set everything up, so unless you are a professional, this is probably a too expensive and too time-consuming purchase.
#2 Oven curing
Although most people think oven curing is a completely crazy idea, it is some heat source that will help you cure the design without any heat press or heat gun, which can eventually save your design from ruining.
However, you need to stay near the oven throughout the whole curing process because you don’t want to bake your T-shirt by accident.
The screen print process will go smoothly, and once you have finished all the steps, just put your screen-printed T-shirts in the oven to extra-cure them.
They will need just 2 to 3 minutes, but make sure the oven is preheated to around 250 degrees at least.
You need to be very careful, but if you are willing to experiment and don’t see too many other ways to cure screen-printed T-shirts at the required heat, this is the right choice.
Make sure the T-shirt is inserted on some metal tray, and be careful so you don’t mess with the screen printing ink and ruin it.
There will be some vapor released, so don’t worry too much about it, and don’t get it out of the oven immediately because it is a common thing.
#3 Iron curing
The iron curing process is probably the most frequent one, and all people who are trying to create their own screen printing frame tend to do it because everyone has a good iron at home.
It gives a similar effect as a heat press or a heat gun, and it can go up to 400 Fahrenheit, which makes it an excellent option for water-based inks.
You should ensure that you are ironing over the whole print if you want to ensure it will stay screen printed long enough.
Don’t use the iron before it gets to 400 Fahrenheit because the iron tends to be way less heated than regular curing devices.
It also has some air movement so that the print will get cured quickly, and since you can move it around a lot, it will work well with cotton and all other garments, and you can be sure your screen printing ink will stay on the material without any problems.
Some irons may not be hot enough, so you will need to repeat the process several times, but always check out the state of your T-shirts before you are finished to see how much more repetition it needs.
Every basic household iron will do the job well, and if you have just started screen printing, it can be an excellent way to see how the ink works under heat and how you should treat it on that type of material.
#4 Hair dryer curing
Okay, this is a really time-consuming one, but if none of your other devices seem to be decent enough for you to handle, and you don’t want to experiment with a heat press yet, then maybe you could try to bring your hair dryer to use.
Hair dryers can’t reach the desired temperature for the heating process, so if you decide to start curing with this, your screen printed design will be good to go after 20 to 30 minutes, which is a lot, especially if you take into consideration the fact that you will need to hold that dryer in your hand the whole time.
The screen printing journey with this one is quite tough, so unless for an experiment, I would recommend doing it because ink cures will rarely look good this way.
#5 Heat gun curing
Heat guns are the best thing for completing a curing process, and they can be a great tool even if you are in a screen printing business.
Even the cheapest and simplest ones can heat up to 1000 Fahrenheit, which is fantastic and allows you to create printed T-shirts quickly.
You can get heat guns in every homeware shop, but you will need to have some skills to handle the print well, and it requires you to be very precise and repeat the same sections several times to cure it properly.
However, with T-shirts created with a heat gun, you don’t need a wash test because you can be sure your print will stay on forever because the heat they provide the ink with is exceptionally high.
Make sure you have practiced a little before creating screen-printed T-shirts this way because it requires a lot of effort and precision, and you need to have a good eye and a lot of practice to see how you should treat different fabrics and prints.
#6 Natural process
The air dry method is a good old way to dry up everything, from washed T-shirts to cured T-shirts.
It takes a lot of time and may not get you the perfect results, but it is very easy, and you don’t have to worry too much about anything except the wind ruining your designs.
While it definitely wont get you the most perfect results, it will do the job decently abut I would recommend doing it if you want a high-quality print.
As you can see, there are several options for curing, for professional ones that require a lot of money, and for DIY ideas with products we all have at home.
Practice a little bit, see what works the best for you and get ready to start your screen printing career.
The process of screen printing is an important one. Do it incorrectly and the life expectancy of your design will shorten. Effectively you are producing an inferior product which you don’t want to do, especially if this is your line of business.
It is also easy to recommend opting for expensive pieces of equipment, such as a conveyor belt heater. This the best way to cure screen prints, the reason for this is because the belt is timed to run at a specific speed, long enough to heat the print to the desired time and heat. All the while, you can continue working on your next print and then repeat the process!
However, not everyone can afford such machinery, let alone fit it on their homes. This is why we opted out of mentioning such machinery in this article and rather provided methods more affordable methods.
We always recommend testing each of these out and get a sense of what works best for you depending on your requirements.