Screen Printing 101

Everything you need to know

Screen printing is an affordable and versatile printing technique that can apply custom images to many different materials.

It’s ideal for producing garments that need to be long-lasting and durable, which makes it a great choice for custom printed workwear.

This guide will give you a quick introduction to the production process, the potential designs and effects you can choose from, and the pricing options you have when you’re thinking of placing a screen print order.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing involves making a screen — a little like a template — and repeatedly using that screen to apply ink to a garment. The ink is forced through tiny holes in the screen onto the garment underneath.

Each screen applies one colour. By using multiple screens, it’s possible to layer different colours on top of each other to create more detailed logos or designs.

Screen printing can be used on a small scale for very small runs and home projects, but in a business setting, it’s often used to produce workwear or promotional clothing on a much bigger scale. To produce our high-quality custom printed workwear, we use automatic presses that are quicker and more accurate than printing by hand. They’re also professionally calibrated to ensure perfect alignment of each layered colour. This makes the process more accurate, and — importantly — cheaper for you.

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Benefits of screen printing

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– Vibrant Designs –

Screen Printing produces the most vibrant colours and designs when compared to other printing methods such as DTG Printing or Transfer Printing.

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– Speed of Production –

Once the screens have been produced, screen printing is by far the quickest printing method. With our carousel machines, we can print up to 1,000 garments per hour.

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– Big Order Friendly – 

Screen Printing really benefits from economies of scale. Once the set up costs in the screens have been covered the incremental costs there after for units is very small.

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– Variety –

Screen Printing is very versatile with you being able to create different types of prints such as metallics, 3D prints, puff prints, gradient prints & more.

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Quality –

Screen Printing uses heavy duty inks that are then cured in a dryer, creating a physical bond between the garment and ink. This means that the print will not fade over time.

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– Versatility –

Although we exclusively Screen Print on clothing and fabrics, the screen print method can also be used on paper, wood, plastics and other hard materials.

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– Simple – 

Screen Printing at its core is a very simple method of just pushing ink through holes in a template, although you can these days get fancy automated machines, the basics are still the same.

Disadvantages of screen printing

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– Multiple Colour Costs –

Although we do everything to keep set up costs to a minimum, the secret to having the best quality prints comes from producing the highest quality screens. These have to be produced before a single garment is printed which all comes under set up costs.

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– Multiple Colour Costs –

As each colour is applied by a specific screen, multiple colours require multiple screen, each of these increases set up costs further.

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– Unsustainability- 

Screen Printing has traditionally been a somewhat unsustainable process that uses inks with harmful chemicals. However, here at Essential we are starting to change that with the use of water based inks and self-contained screen reclamation.

Screen Printing Myths

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– No Colour Gradients –

It was long thought that colour gradients could not be created with Screen Printing, however with an expert artworker that can do some advanced pre-production colour separation of your artwork, colour gradients can certainly be produced.

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– No Small Orders – 

Whist it isn’t worth screen printing 5 garments, with a simple 1 or 2 colour design our minimums are only 25 pieces.


What Can And Can't Be Screen Printed?

Screen printing requires two things from a garment for it to be able to be printed.

Firstly, the garment fabric must be heat tolerant. This is so that when the garment is put through the heat dryer for the ink to be cured to the fabric the garment does not get damaged.

Secondly, the fabric or garment must be single-ply. This is so that when the garment is placed between the board and screen, it will not move. A double-ply fabric could move during the printing, and therefore ruin it.

Garments not suitable for Screen Printing
  • Jackets
  • Fleeces
  • Backpacks
  • Hats & Caps
  • Towels

If you’re wondering if what you’d like to be printed can or can’t, please get in touch with us.

Garments suitable for Screen Printing
  • T-Shirts
  • Hoodies
  • Sweatshirts
  • Tote bags
  • Polo shirts
Contact Us

Understanding Screen Print Set-up Charges

A proportion of the cost of screen printing involves making the reusable screen, which is a major component the of set-up cost. For a one-colour print, we will make one screen. For multiple colours, we will need to make several, so the set-up cost will be higher.

We’re very happy to produce small runs of garments, but you’ll find that larger orders tend to be much more economical to produce because the screens can be used over and over.

If price is a factor in your purchase decision, we recommend sticking to one or two colours per design to keep the cost down. We can also suggest alternative printing methods that might be more affordable.

If you have a multi-coloured logo and you’re not sure how it will look, our team may be able to tweak your artwork to reduce the number of colours. If you’d like us to take a look, just drop us a line for a chat without commitment.

Preparing Artwork for Screen Printing

Ideally, we need to receive your image in a digital file that is the same size or larger than the size of the print that you need to produce. We prefer images in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator format at at least 300 dpi, with each colour separated onto a different layer. If you don’t have Photoshop or Illustrator, our team can advise on alternative options.

If you hired someone to create your logo, your designer probably provided a colour separated version. This can usually be prepared for screen printing.

If you don’t have a pre-prepared file, and you’re not confident in using graphic design software, we can help you to develop a suitable version of your image. Just send our team a clear example of your logo in the largest possible size.

Your print can be placed on many different garments. Bold designs work best because they’ll make your image ‘pop’ from the garment, ensuring it’s eye-catching and — importantly — legible at a distance. Contrary to what you may have read online, we can print shaded gradients on garments, so you can incorporate interesting effects and colour fades.

Additionally, you can specify Pantone or CMYK values if you need a close colour match. Bear in mind, though, that the degree of precision will depend on the colour of the ink, and the colour of the garment you’d like us to print on.

Artwork Limitations

Remember: screen printing is an analogue process, while most designs are digitally designed for high-resolution displays. Very intricate designs can be complicated to reproduce using screen printing, and very fine lines (such as serif fonts) sometimes become difficult to read when printed at small sizes.

If in doubt, our team will check your image and suggest improvements before we send it off to the press.

Screen pPrinting Colours & Effects

We’re proud of the huge range of coloured inks that we can use for custom workwear, and we can accurately reproduce practically any shade. Our inks wash well and retain their vibrancy over time. For workwear that comes under stress, we’ll use specialised inks to produce stretch-proof designs that won’t crack and flake as the fabric moves.

We can also create a range of textures and finishes using specialised inks if you want an eye-catching effect. For example, you could add flashes of foil to make a logo sparkle or stand out from its background. Other options include high gloss finishes, ink that appears to glow, pearlescent colours, glitter inks, or even an raised ‘puffy’ finish to add texture to your garment.

ned about plastics, we can print with water-based ink onto cotton for an eco-friendly result. Water-based inks are a little more limited when printing on dark colours, but they produce a very pleasing, smooth effect when printed onto a light background.

As you’ve probably gathered, the sky is the limit when it comes to inks and finishes. The colours we have available to print your garments will vary according to the effects and finishes you want to use and the colour that you plan to print on. Give us a call to chat through the options.

Our Screen Printing Equipment

Precision is vital when printing one colour over another; it can make the difference between a professional-looking logo and a shoddy finish. That’s why our team uses state-of-the art printing presses in our in-house production facility.

Our high-spec machines help us to achieve consistent results, and we take great pride in the accuracy and quality of the image of our screen printed workwear.

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Manual vs Automatic Presses

We’ve already briefly touched on the screen printing process and the different ways of screen printing ink onto a garment. When using a press, there are two options: manual or automatic.d


Manual presses are great for hands-on printing, particularly in artist’s studios and for small garment runs. But as soon as you ramp up the quantity, the manual printing process quickly becomes impractical. It can be a little to slow, or a little less accurate, and that means higher cost.

Manual screen

All of our screen printing machines are automatic presses, partly because of the volumes that we print. Being able to print quickly and accurately reduces waste, and that keeps our costs down. Our machines also very safe; there’s much less chance of downtime because they automatically detect problems and will stop if a garment becomes snagged. That results in a quicker turnaround.

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If you have a target date for receipt of your printed workwear, just let us know when you order and we’ll do our best to meet it.

the order process

When you’re ready to order your custom printed workwear, get in touch with the team here at Essential Embroidery Design. Even if your design is in the very early stages, we can develop it into a fantastic finished garment. We also have brochures showing the different garments we can print on; if you’re not sure what you need, we’ll send them over for you to browse.

When you get in touch with your artwork, we’ll review it to ensure that you’ll achieve a good result. If necessary, we’ll suggest tweaks to bring out the detail. We can also advise you on ink colours and types, garment brands, and fabric weights so that you get the perfect combination.

With decades of experience in commercial screen printing, you can trust Essential Embroidery Design to produce your printed workwear clothing without any hassle. We don’t expect you to be an expert; just tell us your ideas, and we’ll do the rest.