Last Updated on: 26th November 2021, 09:47 am
Unlike DTG and other printing processes, screen printing does require some patience, skill, and experience. Misprints, ink issues, fibrillation, pinholes, and others are some of the common problems in every screen printing shop, which can slow down your production process.
When we compare screen printing with heat-press, screen printing stands ahead in durability and print resolution. At the same time, heat transfers don’t hold up well with machine washing and drying. They may crack or fade after a few washes, which is not with screen printing. However, screen printing is expensive in terms of initial set up costs. While continuing with that set up is cheap. That is why screen printing is profitable for custom printing bulk orders.
In this blog, I’ve laid out top major factors, problems, and solutions that will help you run a smooth and efficient screen printing shop. Be it a professional screen printing or a newbie, there’s something for everyone.
01. Avoid Screen Print Misprints:
1. Make regular audits:
This first step would be to perform a quality audit by keeping a log of all the misprints you get on your station. It should transpire the real cause of the misprints as you understand the patterns. It would help if you also kept a log even after the misprints have stopped.
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2. Check the quality of the artwork:
Sometimes you may have to dump a print just because the error was in the artwork. The worst part is that these errors are mostly avoidable. That is where artwork approval is constructive for decorators. You should have at least two professionals who will proofread the mockup, check for grammatical and spelling errors. Moreover, it would help if you got it signed by the customers before sending it for printing. Make sure the colors are labeled according to the color system you use in your shop.
3. Equipment maintenance:
We can’t stress enough the fact that you have to keep your equipment and presses running smoothly. You don’t want any unexpected results when running prints. Before commencing your print job, you have to ensure that the screens have the right tension; there are no nicks in your squeegees. If you have automatic screen printers, we suggest you closely follow your manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines.
4. Talk to your employees:
Before any new project, you should gather up your team and have a chat with each of them about the project and how you are planning to execute it. Several print stations, project notes, and other production details should be laid out before beginning your work.
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5. Adjust your curing temperature:
Under curing, scorching, and dye migration are common curing-related problems common even among experienced screen printers. Avoiding curing related problems takes experience and some common sense.
Before using your new curing equipment, you should try out just one t-shirt to determine the duration and temperature control. Always run a test run under the flash cure for new substrate, new machines, and old machines.
6. Keep your shop Tidy:
For the most part, stains, pinholes on screens, dried-up paint, dirt, lint, and other stuff cause major problems, primarily because of a messy print shop. Educate your team to be tidy as well.
7. Dealing with misprints:
If you have a misprint t-shirt, you could use a spot gun to remove any stains. You could path the background on top of it and heat press it to give it a smooth texture for pinholes. If none of the above can be done, you could use the misprint t-shirts for your shop; you may cut them into pieces and use them to clean and wipe equipment. Even better would be to donate it to someone or keep it for yourself.
02. Efficient Artwork Production:
Typically work process flows faster in a screen printing shop. A slowed-down production process is costing the shop a lot of time and money. The artwork is one of those aspects that can seriously slow down the shop. Taking artwork notes from clients, creating artwork, revising artwork, and then approval takes a ton of time. It would be best if you worked to streamline your art production process to decrease time. It suggests that you can finish projects faster for your customers and speed up the turnaround time. To achieve this, you could
1. Have guidelines for accepting artwork:
Nearly all customers who come to you probably have no idea of how screen printing works. They may get you images and photos that could not be screen printed. Usually, it takes days to educate the customers and get the right type of image screen printing. That is where you can cut short a lot of time by merely setting some strict guidelines and letting your customers know before submitting their photos.
2. Have a protocol for preparing artwork:
Keep a professional who will prepare the artwork for the faster separation process. From removing color pollution to clearing out the edges, a pro should be able to do it as fast as possible. Then give the right naming to the files so that it’s easier for you to find the right files for your customer.
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3. Have shortcuts when possible:
There are a couple of shortcuts that you could try to save time. You could create a hot folder that will auto-change all file names and file types added to the folder. If you are drawing your designs, you can use little common images to add to the main image for a change. You could also purchase plans directly online to save a ton of time. Moreover, you can set up auto scripts for all color separation work.
4. Make approvals faster:
Before the actual printing process, you need your customer’s approval, which you can speed up by setting up an auto replay system in your email or have a template ready for the final artwork and send it to your customers.
5. Outsource if you have to:
Sometimes you will have to outsource your artwork production work when you have a lot to deliver in a tight period. That is the typical scenario among screen printing during the high season. There is no better way to speed up your process than outsourcing some of the work. Although it’s a little expensive, it’s definitely worth the money if you want to keep your customers happy and deliver their products on time.
03. Troubleshooting Exposure Issues:
Screen exposure or screen burning issues are tough to deal with and are pesky when things don’t turn around the way they should. Almost universally, every screen printer has had some issues with screen exposure that some time. Many face it daily.
Problems with exposure typically transpire while washing out the screen. Some common issues could be screens that don’t wash out well enough, softened emulsion, blurred images, pinholes, and others.
Here, we are going to write down a few easy techniques to avoid screen exposure issues:
1. Washed-out stencils:
If you find your stencils wash down, it suggests that the screen wasn’t exposed enough. Two primary causes are transparent positives and short exposure times. To tackle this, you first have to hold the film positive up to the light, and if you see through the black ink, you will have to use darker ink to create positives.
If you can’t see through the ink, you could try exposing it for a longer time. To test your exposure time, use cardboard, cover the screen with a swatch, and then expose. Test it several times and find the best exposure time for the emulsion.
2. Stencils that don’t wash out:
If the stencil doesn’t wash out, the problem is just the opposite, i.e., and it has been overexposed. Here, you have to make sure that UV light isn’t sneaking into the exposure room and tackle it. You have to run multiple tests, as mentioned above, to get the right exposure time using the equipment you use.
Make sure UV light isn’t getting in around the edges of the positive.
3. Soft emulsion:
The soft emulsion is the result of laying too thick of an emulsion coating on the screens. After washing out, you will find that the emulsion is soft and spongy. In this case, you will have to expose the screens for a longer time.
4. Jagged stencil:
It is a typical problem when the stencil edges are soft, over washout, using the wrong mesh count. That could be caused due to the UV light leaking around the edges because the positive isn’t held tightly to the glass. Moreover, if you are too harsh or aggressive while washing the screen, you will find a jagged appearance on the stencil.
5. Dealing with pinholes:
Many don’t bother to check the screen after washing out, where most pinhole problems lurk. For a small pinhole, you could tape it up and run your press. But if you get frequent pinholes issues, you should check your exposure process.
Some common problems could be unclean screens, outdated emulsions, and an unclean glass of the exposure unit. Simply by checking a few things such as exposure time, tidy screens, washout pressure, and other factors, you can prevent pinholes.
04. Top Tips to Flash Curing Your Prints:
- Flash cure only when you have an under the base to increase the print’s opacity and overlapping of colors.
- Flash cure plastisol ink between 240 to 250 Fahrenheit, so the ink is gelled and not completely cured. If it is completely cured, other layers will not stick to the print permanently.
- Adjust your distance depending on your fabric; if it’s 100% cotton, you should keep your flash cure unit closer to the fabric, and for synthetic fabrics or blends, keep it at a distance to prevent scorching.
- Use the right pallet adhesive that can withstand the heat.
- Preheat your pallet to make sure that the flash cure time is consistent throughout the press run.
- For some projects, you may need a cooling station after the flash cure.
- Keep the temperature of the flash unit room within strict temperature boundaries. Avoid keeping your flash units near windows where they could be affected by their draft.
- Keep humidity under control using a dehumidifier.
05. Avoid Common Plastisol Screen Printing Issues:
1. Sticky prints:
It’s not uncommon to find your t-shirts getting stuck to the self because of the sticky prints. It would either leave the self with a stain or your t-shirt with a missing color spot when you take it off.
It is typical when you don’t give your plastisol ink enough time to cool. Before cooling down completely, the t-shirt will get stick to anything it touches.
2. Ghost imaging:
Screen printing can be challenging when you are not careful, and you are more likely to get tons of problems related to ink. One of these problems is called ghost imaging when the image can be seen at the substrate’s back.
It is typical when the printing is done on pure cotton substrates using low-bleed inks, which are actually meant for synthetic substrates. Simply using the right ink is enough to avoid this issue.
It occurs when the fibers of the substrates break down. It can be prevented by using high-quality ink and applying a thicker deposit of ink. Using a clean or white underbase will also help keep the substrate fibers together.
4. Peeling away prints:
As discussed above, a peeling away print can be caused by either under-cured ink or the use of improper ink. To resolve this issue, you have to check the temperature of the ink during the curing process.
5. Dye migration:
It can be solved using ink additives to prevent dye migration; moreover, you should cure your ink at lower temperatures but for a longer period.
6. Washing away prints:
As mentioned before, when prints wash away, it suggests that the ink wasn’t fully cured. That can be checked by taking care of your curing temperature. You can use a heat gun, temperature tape to check during the curing process. Adjust your temperature, speed, and distance from the substrate to get the right cure for your t-shirts.
7. Cracked ink:
That too is a problem of under-cured ink and can be avoided with proper curing.
06. Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid If You are New to Screen Printing:
Here are the top 5 screen printing mistakes newbies make, which you should avoid making your business more efficient.
- Not learning the skills from a pro: Although you will find many YouTube videos and they are pretty good to learn the basics, it’s not exactly for those who want to be a pro-screen-printer. To hone your skill, you have to do things on your own and be better if you become an apprentice of a master screen-printer.
- Strictly following the manufacturer’s instructions: Rookies would always stick to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid troubles. However, it’s good to stick to instruction, but not wise without testing it first. Screen printers should test their equipment and run a test production to make sure everything is expected.
- Not Networking: When you are in the industry, you have to network your reach to other screen printers. You will have to reach out and talk to customers, possible partners, and industry influencers.
- Trying to reinvent the wheel: Some rookies try to create their style and methods, which is nice for RnD but not for customer projects. Screen printers should always follow the industry’s best practices and stick to the recipe.
- Always using the same equipment: Many new screen printers think that they only need one set of tools to run their small business, but that’s not always the case. In your production process, screen printers need multiple sets of the same equipment, such as various screen sizes and various types of colors for multiple types of substrates. Make sure you have all the equipment you need to run a business meeting various client needs.
Running a screen-printing business efficiently truly takes a lot of work. Even with all your safety measures and best practices, you will fail sometimes. It’s common among screen printers to see a loss in business a few times a year. However, if you can manage to keep your production process efficient for the rest of the time, that’s enough to make big profits.