Types Of Screen Printing [6 Different Processes]


Screen printing is one of the oldest printing techniques, first developed in medieval Asia and then brought to Europe in the 1800s, where it was eventually industrialized. It was even turned into a form of art, with Andy Warhol using it to create one of the most influential paintings of the 20th century, the Marylin Diptych.

The variety of things that can be accomplished with this method and the fact that the equipment is relatively cheap and easy to make compared to alternatives made it one of the most popular printing methods, further diversifying it into several types.

Key Takeaways

Spot color screen printing

This method is best used for printing 1 to 4 colors and works best when printing garments of a darker color.

Grayscale screen printing

Typically used when looking for a retro-look or trying to portray a retro-feel. An affordable way of printing high quality monochromatic images.

Halftone screen printing

This method allows you to create a gradient effect that makes up your design. It can be a single color gradient or a multiple color gradient. This allows for the ability to create more complex designs.

Nowadays, there are six main types of screen printing, each of them with its unique properties.

These different methods all fall under the base formula of transferring ink from a screen to the material that is being printed on, but the ways they accomplish this goal is vastly different.

While the majority of these methods have been developed to be used by screen printing machines, some things can be done in the home environment as well, using nothing but a silkscreen, a board, and some stencils in the same way screen printing was done in ancient China.

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    Let’s take a look at each type, its advantages and disadvantages compared to others, and what it can be used for.

    #1 The Spot Color Screen Printing Process

    The first and oldest screen printing technique developed in the West, its primary purpose is to create many a vast number of identical items on an industrial scale.

    Even nowadays, when there are many other printing methods used for printing on clothing, spot color screen printing remains the most popular one, mainly because it is very easy to do.

    Spot printing is likely the first method your learn when starting out screen printing.

    The spot color screen printing process uses stock color ink, sold in bottles and tubes in any ink store around the world, combining them with a mesh screen in a very similar way to the original medieval process.

    The end result of this printing method is a highly vibrant solid spot with a thick layer of ink that is very durable and resistant to washing, mainly if plastisol inks are used. Furthermore, this type of print can be used on just about any clothing material. The only fundamental limitation is that its original color must be on the spectrum’s darker side.

    Overall, spot color screen printing is the preferred way of printing full-color images on darker garments. It can also be done in a home environment without changing any part of the actual process, except for the smaller scale compared to industrial production.

    What are the pros of the spot color screen printing process?

    • This way of printing is much cheaper than most of its alternatives due to the simplicity of the equipment used.
    • It is the go-to method for printing on darker garments as it gives excellent, vibrant images that are also very resistant to wear and repeated washing.
    • The process is very simple and can be performed in a home environment with little preparation.

    What are the cons of the spot color screen printing process?

    • Unfortunately, the nature of the colors results in them being much more washed out when printing on lighter clothing.
    • If you would prefer a less vibrant colored image, a different screen printing process may be preferable.

    #2 The Grayscale Screen Printing Method

    When we say Grayscale printing, we think of a complicated process that uses optical illusions to create detailed imagery by combining black and white inks.

    Entirely reliant on the way light works with different shades of gray, this method requires a specific knowledge of its properties to be executed correctly.

    The reward is more than worth it, making grayscale printing one of the most common ways to print black and white images on various items. It can be used with not just clothing but also cups, cars, children’s toys, and much more.

    The end result of grayscale printing is retro-feeling images that seem as if they belong in a movie from the 20s, allowing for printing high-quality monochromatic images at a very affordable price.

    What are the Pros of the grayscale printing method?

    • The grayscale printing method produces consistent, high-quality black and white photographs regardless of the properties of the material it is used on.
    • It doesn’t cost much to start, with both the materials and the equipment needed being relatively cheap compared to some other screen printing methods.

    What are the Cons of the grayscale printing method?

    • Grayscale printing is only viable for black and white photos and doesn’t work with multi-color printing.
    • It requires a great understanding of how light absorption and reflection work if you want to use them to their fullest extent.

    Watch this video: Screen Print Halftones [24 mins 12 secs]

    To save time, skip to timeline 00:50!

    #3 The Halftone Screen Printing Process

    The third method on our list, halftone printing, is accomplished by combining two halftones in different colors on the same screen, creating a vibrant multicolored image that cannot be achieved by any other method, including spot color printing.

    Furthermore, the dark and light combination allows for creating a second halftone on top of the first one via a printing machine, giving away an illusory effect that is unique and very appealing to the human eye.

    Finally, the way the two halftone ink colors interact with each other allows you to use this printing method on just about any material without having to worry about the image being washed out or unstable.

    What are the Pros of the halftone printing method?

    • When used correctly, the halftone printing method gives off an illusory, lifelike image that cannot be achieved in any other way.
    • This method works really well with multiple color prints, making it an excellent choice for intricate images.
    • You have complete freedom in choosing the material to print on.

    What are the cons of the halftone printing method?

    • The method is very complicated and all but requires an automated printer to be used, as the two halftones cannot be combined manually.

    #4 The Four-color, Or The CMYK Printing Method

    By far the most advanced and the most complicated silkscreen process ever designed, the CMYK printing method requires an automated screen printer, as well as extensive use of computer-designed images.

    The process works as follows: First, you choose the desired image, scan it and upload it to a computer, which then strips it down to the four base colors that will be used for printing the image on the material.

    These four colors are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, and the computer will use the RGB scheme, with each color ranging from 0 to 255 on the scale, to represent the colors.

    After the image has been stripped down to these four colors, you can begin with making the garment or item you want. The automated printer will combine the colors for you, creating a detailed and intricate screen print without any need for further input.

    What are the Pros of the CMYK printing method?

    • The four-color method allows for the creation of incredibly detailed images by making good use of computer-assisted image design.
    • Automatic t-shirt presses can print four-color images with great precision, far beyond what can be accomplished manually.

    What are the cons of the cmyk printing method?

    • This screen printing method requires quite a long preparation time, making it unsuitable for quick prints.
    • It can only be done by an automated printer due to its complexity. Completely impossible in a home environment.

    #5 The Duotone Printing Method

    Another very popular way of printing on clothing and other items is the so-called duotone printing method. The duotone printing method is based on the same principle as halftone printing, except it uses two separate images instead of one, placing them on top of each other to achieve an even higher quality of print.

    The duotone method achieves this by creating, then mixing, a dark and a light halftone and putting them on top of each other to make an image look like it was printed decades ago. Because of this unique property, duotone printing is often used to create retro-looking clothing and items such as bowls, cups, and curtains.

    What are the Pros of the duotone printing method?

    • You can use duotone printing on just about any material and background color, making it an incredibly versatile screen printing technique.
    • It produces a unique combination of colors with a cooling feel, which cannot be replicated using any other printing technology.

    What are the Cons of the duotone printing method?

    • This method is almost as complicated to execute correctly as CMYK is, making it unsuitable for inexperienced people. Furthermore, it more often than not requires you to use automatic printing processes.
    • Using only the black and white technique makes the final print look much more washed out when using color ink, resulting in a less vibrant image. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.

    #6 Simulated Printing Process

    Simulated process printing is a technologically advanced screen printing technique that depends wholly on computers’ use in obtaining their graphics quality.

    The complexity of this process makes it impossible to do without machine assistance, but it further improves on the already impressive results provided by the four-color printing process.

    The possibilities are infinite once you master the simulated process, but it is not an easy thing to do. However, most highly technical and complicated prints, such as board circuitry, will be done using this method.

    What are the Pros of the simulated printing process?

    • This printing process is incredibly versatile, combining the best elements of several other methods to achieve a high-quality print.
    • It can be and often is used for highly advanced pieces of equipment, such as electronic circuitry, motherboards, and medical tools.

    What are the Cons of the simulated printing process?

    • The process was developed for and is only usable by an automatic screen printing machine.
    • Not all screen printers are suitable for this printing method.


    With all the types of screen printing that are available out there, it is unsurprising that the technology is used for so many different things.

    That being said, what was once a unified process has gotten diversified into several different types of screen printing, each of them coming with its own advantages and disadvantages.

    Overall, your choice of screen printing method will most likely depend on your goals, as well as on the type of equipment you have at your disposal, as some techniques can print complex images but require a lot more setup and higher investment.


    What is the best type of screen print?

    There is no way to say which screen printing method is the best, as each common screen printing technique comes with its unique advantages and disadvantages.

    Therefore, no single process is better than the others, and your choice will largely depend on the goals you set for yourself, as well as the tools that you have available when you start printing.

    What are the 6 major types of printing?

    The original silkscreen printing process developed in medieval China has been diversified into 6 different types of screen printing. Each of these processes is used for different things and requires different materials.

    When combined, grayscale printing, CMYK printing, Simulated printing, Spot color screen printing, Halftone printing, and Duotone printing constitute the majority of screen printing processes used today.

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