When we first started, we needed to determine the best printing method that suited us and our style but was also very durable. After literally minutes of research, we decided that screen printing was the way to go.
Some of you may have been introduced to screen printing at school - it is commonly taught in art classes. In fact, it has been used as a printing method since the 18th century when it was used to patternate fabrics. So, how does it work?
First of all, I design the artwork on the PC in Photoshop. This is then printed onto a transparency ready to be reproduced onto the screen itself. The screen is a wooden frame with a silk gauze taughtly fixed to it. This has a photosensitive liquid on it which, with the design placed upon it and subsequently exposed to light, creates a negative, or stencil.
Once dried, it is ready for printing. The screen is laid upon the garment for printing, this is then loaded with ink which, using a squeegie, is dragged across the stencil leaving a positive impression of the design on the garment. Next step is to fix (dry) the ink to the top so it simply doesn't wash off and then, tadah!, all done.
Perhaps the most famous example of screen printing is by Andy Warhol who used it liberally to create his art works. Punk embraced it in the 1970s as it was a relatively cheap and easy way to make DIY T-shirts to sell at gigs. This latter reason is half the reason why we chose it. Being in a band, the DIY thing is always the logical choice for us to make. The offer half was down to durability. The ink used in screen printing bonds itself to the fabric meaning the print should last as long as the garment does. Most band T-Shirts from the 1970s to the 2000s used screen printing precisely for this reason (a lot now use sublimentation printing, but this doesn't work so well on black garments), and they lasted well!
The choice used by most slogan T-Shirt companies is transfer printing. It is quick, easy and produces much sharper lines than other printing methods. But this is basically just a thin plastic cut-out glued to a garment and, after a few washes, the print will peel off. In other words, they may be cheap for you to buy but they will only last a few wears so it is a false economy.
We worked out once that Vikki has personally printed over 200,000 T-Shirts which have shipped to thousands of customers around the world. We often re-see these tees on the streets, at gigs or at ComicCons and it's always great to see how well they have lasted.
So, there you have it. Screen printing. How it works and why we chose it!