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What are the main types of screen printing techniques?

While screen printing has been around as a printing technique since the 1700s, since then, it's come a long way. There is now a wide range of different techniques available, each providing different specific benefits for various applications. Which one you choose for your project can have an impact on the way your designs turn out - clearly, it's important that you choose the right one. To help you decide which one might be best for you, we decided to put together this introduction on screen printing, including a run down on the main techniques that are commonly used. 


Screen printing has multiple benefits that can be useful for a wide range of projects. First, it's incredibly versatile and can be used to print onto almost any media. Second, as a result of the amount of ink that's used, it can create a very durable end result. This makes it an appropriate printing solution for hard-wearing objects, such as clothing. 

It's also very quick and highly cost-effective, meaning that even smaller businesses and individuals can afford to turn their dream projects into reality. As you can see, there are a whole host of different techniques available, with one that will likely suit your needs down to a T.


Screen printing is a method that generally uses a machine to press ink around a stencil onto the surface below. One of the great things about screen printing is that you can print on basically any surface as long as it's flat enough, including fabric, paper, metal, plastic or even wood.

1. Making the design

The first step in screen printing is making the design. How you do this will depend on the technique you've chosen - as a result, it's important to choose one first and understand how that technique might influence the way you progress with your design.

2. Preparing the screen

Next, it's time to prepare the screen. There are different kinds of screens that you can use, some with smaller and some with larger holes for the ink to pass through. A finer screen will allow for more detailed design printing, while larger holes will be slightly less detailed. Once you've chosen a screen, it needs to be brought to an appropriate tension, generally by mounting it on a frame. Once it's appropriately tensioned, you can apply an emulsion evenly over the screen.

3. Hardening the emulsion to make the stencil

By exposing certain parts of the emulsion to UV light, you can harden it, meaning that ink won't be able to pass through those parts of the screen. This is how you can transfer the stencil and design onto the screen. Once the stencil shape has been hardened on the screen, you can wash away the emulsion that hasn't been dried, leaving the shape you want printed on your chosen substrate.  

4. Printing the design

Once you're happy with the way the design has been applied to the mesh, you're ready to print it onto your chosen medium. This step consists of lowering the screen onto the substrate and then applying ink to the top of the screen. By brushing the ink evenly over the surface, you can ensure that the ink is transferred all the way through.

5. Curing the print

Finally, it's important that the design is dried properly to ensure that the ink doesn't run or fade. This can be done by heating the ink to a specific temperature or exposing it to certain types of light. This is an important step that some printing services can overlook. While the resulting product may appear the same to the customer at first, screen-printed designs that haven't been properly dried and cured will wear and fade far more quickly than a design that's been properly finished. 

Here are some of the main screen printing techniques that are typically used in the industry.

half-tone printing

half-tone printing

Halftone printing is a technique that involves using single colours but in different gradients. By using this technique, you can make it appear like multiple different colours are being used while only needing one. As a result, this technique can cut the costs associated with needing multiple different inks, making it a great option for those who're on a budget, as long as the techniques suit the design that you want to use.

duotone printing

duotone printing

Duotone printing is a technique that can create an effect that's very popular at the moment. Despite the name, duotone doesn't have to be done in just two tones - it can also be done in three or four. Presses need to use special kinds of inks rather than the normal CMYK ones (covered later on).

Normally, the image will be printed using a darker base colour, with a lighter colour printed on top of it - hence the term duotone. As a result, duotone printing isn't an appropriate printing method for all designs, but it can create a very persuasive effect. 

4-colour printing

4-colour printing

4 colour printing, or CMYK printing, uses the four colours contained in the acronym - cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Using a combination of these colours can produce incredibly impressive results, but it's also one of the most complicated methods of screen printing. As a result, it's important that our provider has appropriate machinery that's capable of handling the printing process.

spot-colour printing

spot-colour printing

Spot colour screen printing is one of the most popular screen printing techniques available. It's relatively simple, and by using solid blocks of printed colour, it can produce impressive results. As a result of its simplicity, it's a great option for printing on fabric, especially clothing. It's often an affordable method of printing that many designers will choose for bulk orders.