It can start with something as small as an idea. Our trained designers will take that idea or sketch and make it awesome on the computer. Once it’s approved then we’ll print it out on film. We say film but really it’s just a fancy name for transparency stock.
Each Color Gets it’s own piece of film. If it’s more than one color we use registration marks to make sure we can line them up later on in the process. Our printer only uses UV resistant black ink. We’ll explain more later.
We need to get the film on the screen. We use a registration grid that allows us to know exactly where we’re putting the artwork on the screen. We use a specialized adhesive strip called scotch tape to attach the film to the screen. But shhhh, it’s a secret.
The screen goes in our exposure unit. You know those lights you see that light stadiums up at night? We have one of those lights that shines light directly at the screen. The emulsion is light sensitive. The exposed emulsion becomes hard. The emulsion that is protected by the ink on the transparency remains water soluble. This will make more sense here in a second.
Immediately after the exposure we move the screen to our washout booth. As we spray water on it the stencil starts to appear. The parts of the screen that were masked by the uv resistant black ink on the film will begin to wash away and the stencil begins to take shape. The screen is very fine polyester mesh. Think of the opens in the mesh as pixels. Screens vary in resolution much like a computer screen. The finer the screen count the more detail we can get out of a print. Similarly the lower the screen count the larger the openings, the lower the resolution and the more the ink gets deposited on the shirt.
We take extra time to make sure the stencil is clear and blown out properly. That’s why we have a back-lit washout booth. The light helps the contract between the washed out areas and the emulsion. In many ways this is the most important step of the whole process. This is the template we use to replicate your shirts. Whatever has been washed out is what ink will go through on to the garment. Once finished the screen must dry completely before we can use it for production.
We load the ink on the screen. Putting a good amount of ink down is actually important. Nothing worse than running out of ink half way through a print. There are many different kinds of printing ink. We specialize in ALL types of printing methods. We could talk for hours about the types and different printing methods for each type but you don’t want to know all that. But if you are a printer of hobbyist then come on down and we’ll talk your ear off about it.
The Pull / The Push
We flood the print with ink, then we print. The ink transfers through the open areas of the stencil and passes through the mesh directly on the garment. This is where printers earn their keep. A good printer knows how much pressure and what speed to print at for the best possible results. Of course, we have automatic presses too. Machines are really amazing when printing large quantity jobs. Automatic presses don’t get tired and they keep the exact pressure and speed settings the press operator sets from print one to print 10,000. After-all, when you order 10,000 shirts you want them all to look the same. In printing there are more variables than there are holes in the mesh which is why you want professionals printing your garments. We live and breathe to make the best possible prints for our clients.
The Finished Product
When it’s all said and done you have a shirt that you and your customers will love forever. We day dream about making people’s new favorite t-shirt every day at Riot. We hope you’ve found this section educational and mildly entertaining at least as entertaining as it was for us to make it! If you want to know more or just want to see us in action come by the shop anytime.