T-shirt Screen Printing – How does it work? Part 2

T-shirt screen printing, as discussed in Part 1, has been around for a long time and continues to be the most effective form of t-shirt decoration.In Part 1 we had a look at the basic equipment used to screen print t-shirts. In part 2 we will begin to discuss the different processes involved in getting a concept from the imagination onto a t-shirt.

Ok…so you have an idea for a cool t-shirt. So how does that idea get on to the front of your chest? Well it is a little less manual now than it used to be. Keep in mind that the processes described here aren’t a DIY guide but a description of how a professional screen printer would print your t-shirt.

Artwork – So…we have to get your idea on to the computer screen. To do that we use a vector based design program. A lot of screen printers use Corel Draw but personally we prefer Adobe Illustrator. So whats vector graphics you ask? Well rather than go into that here check this out here. For single colour applications you can get away with using bitmap images…but for best results it is good to utilise the crisp edges and scalability of vector graphics. Click on picture for a large view of how Illustrator looks with vector based art and our logo which we will be screenprinting on to the t-shirt


So once you have the artwork completedthe next step is, if you have more than 1 colour, to separate and isolate the colours. If there is only a single colour then we don’t need to do third step.

After that we then convert each colour to 100% black to output to film. You’ll see why when we go to put the image on to the screen.


Film – Ok…now we have to get the image off the computer on to a clear film that we will then use to get the image on to the screen. There are different ways we can do this. It can be outsourced to professional film output company that use an imagesetter, it can be printed out onto a special film with a laser printer or you can do the same with an inkjet printer with specialised film. We use the inkjet method as an imagesetter can be expensive and a laser printer uses a lot of heat to print the image which can result in the film warping out of shape which is a nightmare when lining up multiple colours.


This is the end of the artwork preparation and output stage. The next stage is prepping the screen and transferring the image on the film to the screen. We will look at this process in Part 3.