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What do you wish you would have known when you first started screen printing?

Discussion in 'Screen Printing' started by Dovette, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. Dovette

    Dovette Member

    Dec 21, 2012
    Hello everyone!
    First off, I want to tell everyone on this forum how amazing you all are. Everyone is so knowledgeable and helpful. I have never seen a sign site with such community. I've only been in the sign industry for about 5 months, but with the help of everyone here, I can proudly say that I've learned a lot. But then again I guess when the subject is fun to learn about, it's not so hard to retain information. :)

    I'm just recently getting into learning about screen printing, and WOOOW do I feel like I'm in over my head. So all you lovely ladies and dapper gents, is there anything that you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you started screenprinting? Any tips and tricks you can share with a girl who's trying to get a grasp on this complicated art? Any and all information is appreciated.

    Thanks! :)
  2. Dovette

    Dovette Member

    Dec 21, 2012
    Seriously, even if it's about cleaning products or how you maintain your shop. I'm sittin' here with my notepad ready to go. Give me your knowledge, Signs101!!
  3. joshGN

    joshGN Member

    Nov 8, 2005
    textile or flat stock?
  4. Dovette

    Dovette Member

    Dec 21, 2012
    Both, honestly.

    Opinions on the best drying method for both of these. Air dry, infrared, heated, UV?
  5. royster13

    royster13 Very Active Member

    Apr 3, 2009
    Montrose BC
    After printing myself for a few years in the late 70s I learned that I could make more selling than printing....I learned that a large and efficient specialty shop had faster equipment and bought materials way better than a littler guy could...I stopped printing in about 1980 and became a "broker"....
  6. Hog Wild graphics

    Hog Wild graphics Member

    Apr 2, 2011
    Here is what I learned about screenprinting signs.


    I normally can have them printed and ready for pick up as soon as I could have the blanks ready to print. Unless your going to print large orders all day I would focus on other areas and outsource those jobs.
  7. Bill Modzel

    Bill Modzel Active Member

    When we first started we made a decision to print no apparel which is a choice we've never regretted. It set our shop apart from the other half dozen t-shirt shops in town along with all of the garage "businesses" and we developed a reputation of a premium product shop.

    Having said that, today things have changed radically with the advent of the digital solvent printers and the flatstock business had dropped dramatically. We printed many thousands of political signs last year but normally, I'd only ink up the press once every two or so weeks, everything else comes off our three printers, a Gerber Edge, an HPL26500 and a Canon iPF8300.
    Frankly, if you really want to screen print today, stick to the apparel or specialized substrates. We have quite a bit of low qty premium price jobs I'd classify as industrial printing. Aluminum control panels and product labels and whatever other strange things come in the door.
  8. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

    Sep 29, 2003
    Wetumpka, AL
    Assuming "DON'T DO IT" is already understood the first thing I'd tell you to do is to set up with UV inks right from the start. A whole lot more forgiving than Plastisol inks and a lot fewer headaches.
  9. TheSnowman

    TheSnowman Major Contributor

    Aug 28, 2007
    Like others, the best advice I was ever given that I learned was SUB IT OUT. It's not worth the investment, and the headache apparently unless you are doing mega volume. Either way, I've made some of my best money over the years just selling some big jobs, and subbing them out.
  10. weaselboogie

    weaselboogie Very Active Member

    Apr 23, 2006
    How the ink gets EVERYWHERE. And if you ever do any work with plastisol and glitter, expect to look like you spent your lunch face-deep at the titty bar for the next 6 months. To coin Demitri Martin, "glitter is the herpes of craft supplies" I worked in a silkscreen shop for many years and I'll never have anything to do with apparel again.

    SUB IT OUT. Its too competitive and way too much labor for the amount of profit margin.
  11. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

    Sep 29, 2003
    Wetumpka, AL
    I will think of that every time I see glitter for the rest of my life.
  12. d fleming

    d fleming Very Active Member

    Nov 28, 2007
    Middleburg, Florida
    Screen printer for over thirty years. Taught ad comp and to hand paint in school then I was lucky enough to learn at the beginning from a very experienced gentlemen printing t-s and signs. Proper cleaning of screens and all tools is the first rule and why I have always started out new help doing just that. A messy shop and screens makes for messy printing. Everything else is trial and error until you get the process for the space you are printing in and the tools at your disposal up to a productive level. I still use plastisol for t-s and 9700 or corogloss for most everything else. Will most likely do it that way until I'm done. My large format printer took over most of my flat stock screen work years ago. Having said that, 300 coros screen printed just walked out the door with the customer. Nailers for a junkyard that buys old cars.
  13. HulkSmash

    HulkSmash Major Contributor

    Sep 10, 2010
    too much time, not enough money
  14. Mosh

    Mosh Major Contributor

    Oct 19, 2009
    1) not to punch the next customer that needs "just one more" shirt (after you tear down the screens)
    2) how much cleaning screens sucks
    3) how boring it is after seeing the first print fun wears off and you have 1,000 to go.

    I could go on all day!
  15. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    Added screen printing to our shop back in the early 80's. Before that, it was from outsourcing. Didn't do any textiles in-house, just flat stock.

    Now, we have shelves full of ink and our biggest screen is 5' x 10', but hardly do it anymore, cause too many backyard hacks do it in their basement for next to nothing. Besides, it's easier and cheaper just doing the runs on our flatbed. No making screens, no clean up, no foul odors, next to nothing ink cost..... and more. If someone is getting more than one-color, it's far cheaper to go flatbed.

    My advice is make sure it's a well ventilated area and understand what inks are for what substrates. At any given time we have 4 and 5 kinds of ink of the same color. 5 blacks, 5 blues, red, white and so on with the common colors. I'm not into the multipurpose for just anything.

    Second advice would be re-think getting into it, unless you go BIG. Otherwise, you're probably gonna get eaten alive and have a whole bunch of squeegees and racks to sell and get next to nothing for them.
  16. John Butto

    John Butto Very Active Member

    Jan 9, 2007
    Buy the best one man squeegee setup available, good frames like Newman or Diamond Chase, (do not know if they still make them since it has been awhile for me). Tension meter, and a good one point light system for exposure, gives better detail than multiple lamps causing sawtoothing. Use the direct film material which gives better detail than coated screens and read or find a good screening blog. The term is "silkscreaming" as you will find out.
  17. johnnysigns

    johnnysigns Very Active Member

    Nov 3, 2004
    East Coast

    hahahahahahahah, I tell the same joke here. We did a glitter job 4 months ago and it's still like the entire staff was at a strip club 2hrs before work started.
  18. Accelerated Graphics

    Accelerated Graphics Active Member

    Jan 11, 2005
    I've done both, screen printed signs and textile... The 2 happiest days of my life-when i sold my flatbed sign screen printer and the day i sold my shirt screen printer...
    I out source both now and make money and never get dirty...The ink is a mess the cleanup, burning screens, washing out screens, the space it takes up the electricity it takes to run a good dryer...
    Find a local wholesale screen printer and let them do all the work..
  19. headfirst

    headfirst Member

    Dec 16, 2011
    We primarily print apparel for wholesale buyers and ad specialties distributors.

    Like everyone else I'm going to suggest you sub it out. But if you don't follow that advice here are some pointers for you.

    • Get a dip tank. Washing screens sucks. A dip tank makes it much easier.
    • Use corn and soy based chemicals from companies like Franmar and Easiway. Traditional screen printing chemistry is nasty stuff. We're all much happier since getting rid of the old solvents, stencil removers and dehazers. which brings us to...
    • Learn to print with a liquid pallet adhesive. Aerosol pallet mists will leave your floors black and sticky and probably do the same thing to your lungs. Moving to liquid adhesives is really tough after using aerosol for years so start now and make it part of your workflow.
    • Learn from a pro. There is a week-long class at SGIA HQ in May that is being taught by Charlie Taublieb. I cannot recommend his classes enough. If it is at all possible go take that class, or one like it at a screen print supply co.
  20. TyrantDesigner

    TyrantDesigner Art! Hot and fresh.

    Mar 9, 2011
    Amarillo, TX
    I really don't know if there was something I wished I knew when I still had a screen printing company. Only real time me and my partner made bank was when there was a serious art fee involved. So really, it's probably Sub-It-Out. Since he bought me out, I've made more money subbing it to trusted shops and doing some mad crazy illustration work than I ever could have with a shop. Still have a 1 color press though ... but I use it for fine art prints only.

    I have mad respect for any shop that can make a serious living doing just screen printing and not have more pokers in other fires as well.

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