Screen Printing Made Easy with Transparencies
Get started on screen printing with transparencies. Here’s what you need to know.
When you think of transparencies, you’re probably imagining sitting in a classroom, taking notes off your teacher’s write-on transparency film on an overhead projector. As more and more schools have Smartboards and iPads, overhead projectors have kind of fallen by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean transparencies have!
On the contrary, these clear sheets of film are still incredibly popular, and today are best known for their use in screen printing.
Screen printing uses a stencil called a screen to apply ink to the printing surface—typically shirts, bags, and signs. (But that’s not all! Keep reading for our list of ideas below).
The great thing about screen printing is that what you can print isn’t limited by much: just the size of the product, the size of your screen, and your design.
As you likely know, transparency paper is a thin sheet of clear, flexible material. You draw or print your design on this material and then transfer that design to a screen. A combination of a photo emulsion and light will transfer the design from your transparency to the screen, which you can then apply to your fabric of choice.
Most professional screen printers use larger, commercial machines to screen print. Those are the companies you can order bulk t-shirts from for company use, for example. But if you want to get into screen printing for your business on your own terms, you don’t have to hire an outside company. Just use transparency paper!
What can I screen print with transparencies?
Screen printing is an excellent way to elevate your image and raise brand awareness. Wondering what you can create with a transparency and a little creativity?
- Custom t-shirts for your staff to wear in your store or around town. You could create mouse pads
- Glass or wood store or office decor that’s customized to your business can give your brand a cohesive presence.
- Signs, banners, and other displays that you can hang in-store, bring to events such as trade shows or career fairs, or to give to customers for their own use.
- Mouse pads and other office accessories will keep your entire office on-brand!
What to Consider Before Screen Printing
There are plenty of options when it comes to screen printing with transparencies. Here’s what you need to keep in mind before you start!
Type of Transparency
Before you print your transparency, you need to make sure that you’re using the right kind for your printer! Inkjet and laser printers function very differently and using the wrong transparency in a printer can result in a small disaster.
Your design won’t smudge on ink jet transparencies, thanks to a special coating that makes sure the ink adheres to the transparency without making a mess. Ink jet transparencies are the ideal choice for detailed work that needs sharp lines.
Alternatively, you can use laser transparencies when you’re looking for more opaque black ink. Newer laser printers will create very intense black designs that won’t have any potential missing pixels in your design.
Your design must be only black. It’s better to have a simpler design with thick lines and those lines must be smooth. The less detail you have, the better—especially because in some cases, detailed designs won’t transfer at all.
We recommend making your designs on your computer. You can create something in Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop from scratch or you could draw your design and scan it in. Then you would need to convert it to black and white and smooth out any lines so you can print your design on the transparency.
You can print on many different fabrics and materials, but each option needs special consideration.
Cotton and cotton blends, for instance, absorb the ink better than most other choices as it is typically a thicker material. (That means most t-shirts, for example, are great candidates for screen printing.)
Silk is, of course, beautiful, but keep in mind that as a thinner fabric, it will absorb less ink and can shrink or wrinkle easily.
Wool and wool blends are thicker and therefore more absorbent, but you may have some issues with the texture.
Acrylic and polyester can be tricky. That’s not to say it can’t be done but be aware that because they are less porous than natural fabrics, the ink may not stick to the fabric as well as you’d like.
Naturally the size of your transparency will limit how big your design can be. So, too, will the size of your screen and fabric. Make sure to leave room all around the design to ensure it transfers properly.