What Is Screen Printing?

Screen printing companies in Knoxville, TN create a variety of products through this old print technology. It involves a tightly meshed screen coated with an emulsion that is coated on wet and hardens as it dries.

After the emulsion dries, we use film transparency with UV-resistant ink to create the stencil. We sandwich the film between the coated screen and a glass table with a very bright light under it. The light exposes the emulsion and hardens it even further. The UV-resistant ink on the film blocks the light from exposing certain parts of the emulsion.

After that, the film is removed from the screen and the screen is washed out with a pressure washer. The parts not exposed by the light wash off the mesh giving us our desired stencil.

Once the water has dried from the screen, we’re left with our stencil on the mesh, and it’s ready for tape. We tape the areas of the screen where the emulsion doesn’t cover completely like the edges and registration marks, etc to prevent any unwanted ink on the garment.

The screen is then placed on the press and gets loaded with ink. We attach the squeegees and flood bars on the pneumatic print heads on our presses. Once they’re in place it’s time to print!

One screen exposure can last up to 25,000 impressions before needing to be reclaimed. Once we’re finished, we clean the ink off using certified safe and nonhazardous chemicals and dispose of any waste in an environmentally friendly manner. When the screen is clean and dry, it’s put back in rotation and ready to be coated and exposed for the next job.


Plastisol Ink

Most standard printers will use Plastisol Ink. It’s extremely reliable, durable, inexpensive, and easy to print with.

  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Easy to Print
  • Excellent Color Clarity
  • Plasticy feeling
  • Somewhat glossy
  • Works on Cotton / Polyester / Rayon / Etc.

Waterbased Ink

Waterbased inks are more recently becoming widely used. Waterbased is more expensive but environmentally friendly.

  • Super soft to touch
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Soaks into the fabric
  • Won’t crack or peel
  • More expensive
  • Durable
  • Color matching has improved

Discharge Printing

Discharge is waterbased ink, but it is for printing lighter inks on darker garments. For instance, the opaqueness of most waterbased pigments is too thick to look clear and visible.

The solution is Discharge Ink. Once activated, discharge ink actually deactivates the dye the shirt makers use to color the shirt from the original cotton color. This means a straight discharge print will actually look more cream or off-white.

Taking discharge a step further, ink manufacturers can add colored pigment to the ink that re-dyes the affected areas with color, making it possible to print bright vibrant colors on black or dark shirts with virtually no feeling to the print at all.

  • Printed areas have no feeling at all
  • Can mix colors but not extremely accurate
  • Doesn’t work on anything but Cotton
  • Must be washed before being worn

Minimum Order: 24 Units

As you can see in the diagram, screen printing is a very set-up intensive printing method. Smaller runs of custom T shirts in Knoxville, TN are not a financially viable option, as the setup for a one or two-shirt order is the same as a 1000-2000 shirt order. In some cases, though, we can accommodate smaller orders, but understand it will be more expensive.


Maximum Colors: 12

This includes simulated process printing, which gives us the ability to print photo-realistic images on shirts using halftones and standard screen printing technology. If you’re familiar with CMYK printing or standard process printing (like a newspaper), then the simulated process is very similar, only better, because it uses 12 colors to blend together opposed to four in regular process printing. Simulated process printing allows for a much higher dynamic range of colors, which provides better color clarity and contrast overall.



Stock Color Chart

Special effects inks do cost extra. Please talk to your sales rep to learn more about ordering custom T shirts in Knoxville, TN today!