Guide to Screen Printing T-Shirts

Guide to Screen Printing T-Shirts
12th August 2020 5th Team

Thinking about getting t-shirts printed and not familiar with the screen printing process or what’s involved in it? In that case, read on, this short article will come in very handy. Our guide to screen printing t-shirts is drawn from the lessons we’ve learned since we started printing tees back in the Seventies. A lot has changed in the intervening period, innovation and technological developments, but the basics of screen printing fabric are still the same.

Over that time, Fifth Column have screen printed millions of t-shirts and these days we pride ourselves on being able to answer any query and handle most types of project. Like so many things in life, experience and hard-earned knowledge are unbeatable when it comes to achieving the best results. So, let’s share the know-how with our guide to screen printing t-shirts. Some top tips to help you get off to a flying start with your next batch of custom t-shirts.

Guide to Screen Printing T-Shirts - Definition


Guide to Screen Printing T-Shirts - Advantages



What is Screen Printing?

In brief, screen printing involves pushing ink through a mesh stencil onto the surface of the material. It’s fair to say that screen printing is an ancient art, even if t-shirt printing with screens is a relatively modern take on it. To put that last statement into context, printed tees began their unstoppable rise in the 1950s. Computerisation has made things faster and more accurate, but the essential nature of the process hasn’t changed.

Advantages of Screen Printing T-Shirts.

The main reason that screen printing has endured is that it has several advantages over other methods of customising clothes. Screen printing t-shirts is cost-effective and can produce large volumes in a quicker timescale compared to other types of personalisation. Screen printed shirts also wash well and expertly applied print is more durable. It is worth pointing out that screen printing incurs a set-up cost and small print runs work out more expensive.


Although we love screen printing t-shirts, we’re the first to acknowledge that it’s not suitable for all customisation jobs. Quantities are a big consideration. If you require less than 50 garments, DTG printing may be a better option. Embroidery might be preferable for very small designs. And don’t get it mixed up with transfer printing. The latter is quite different and nowhere near as good in terms of detail and durability.

Guide to Screen Printing T-Shirts - Artwork


Guide to Screen Printing T-Shirts - Design


Guide to Screen Printing T-Shirts - Ethics


Guide to Screen Printing T-Shirts – Design.

We thought it might be helpful to split the design side of this guide to screen printing t-shirts into two separate areas. Firstly, the technical specifications for the artwork and secondly, the actual design itself. We recently wrote an article about the best artwork file formats for printing and embroidery. This covers a lot of the tech spec stuff. Click Here to read it.

Design Tips.

The artistic element of your t-shirt is a big deal. Whether you’re selling the shirts to boost your charity, at gigs to promote your band, or online as your main focus. The artwork can be the difference between success and failure. Here are few points to bear in mind when you’re considering the concept.

Give it Time – take your time to get the art absolutely right. If you’re lucky enough to have a designer, discuss it with them at length. Look at some classic tees and think about those shirts that have really made an impression on you. Once you’ve settled on an idea, get feedback from people you trust. Some extra time spent at the start can pay dividends further down the line.

Don’t Overcomplicate – simple is often best. That’s true for many things in life and certainly applies to the designs used in screen printing t-shirts. Simplicity doesn’t rule out great drawings or inspired images, but it does convey your message in an effective manner. One or two colours can have far greater impact than a rainbow of shades and it will also keep your printing costs under control.

Know the Market – identify your market and make sure your artwork appeals to the folk in that sector. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. You can have the best screen printing in the world and still fall at the first hurdle unless the design resonates with your audience. Doing a little good quality research before any ink hits the cotton can swing the odds in your favour.

Ethical Considerations.

Nowadays, any guide to screen printing t-shirts needs to include some mention of the ethical aspects. Sustainable, organic garment customisation is increasingly popular in UK printing. For both customers and print and embroidery companies like us. It’s one of our areas of expertise, we specialise in printing organic cotton and fashion made from recycled materials, and it merits serious thought when you’re planning a range of screen printed tees. Choosing organically grown, sustainably sourced shirts obviously makes a lot of sense from the eco-friendly perspective. However, it’s also good business. The quality is generally higher and organic clothes tend to produce better results when printed. Beyond that, the people who buy and wear the t-shirts are more and more ecologically aware. Ignore them at your peril.

Fifth Column have been screen printing t-shirts in the UK for decades – we offer an extensive range of garment customisation Services – and love what we do. Contact US for more information or request a Quote Online.

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