So you’re thinking about getting into screen printing and you are looking to start small to see if you really like it. To start out you need the bare minimum of equipment just to test this out. The question is what belongs in a basic screen printing kit. If you don’t have the right equipment to start out then you might become discouraged. We’re going to clear up the mystery.
Screen printing kits have a lot of components. However, not all screen printing kits come with everything you need. Depending on who you talk to, they may have a different idea of what basic is. We’re going to define it first.
Basic screen printing kit - A group of screen printing tools that allow the user to print garments at a beginner level.
What this means is that the kit will not include equipment that can do 1000 shirt print runs in one hour. These kits are basic. You are going to print a few shirts to see if you like the concept of printing shirts. Once you have determined that you enjoy screen printing and want to take it to the next level you can purchase additional equipment. For now, let’s just look at the basic tools that you will need.
A Basic Screen Printing Kit should include:
Screen - These screens can be made of aluminum or wood. They also come in a variety of sizes. With that being the case there are some common sizes for the beginning screen printer. They are 10” X 14”, and 16” X 20”. Most beginner kits do not bother with mesh count. They come with something that is adequate to print many shirts.
Screen Printing Tape - This tape is designed to tape the designed acetate sheet to the screen. It is typically blue. It is similar to painters tape.
Emulsion - A light sensitive coating that you apply to a screen prior to applying a film positive.
Squeegee - A device used to flood the screen with ink. It is used by either pushing or pulling the ink over the stencil. You will need multiple sizes and this depends on the screen size.
Emulsion Scoop Coater - A device used for spreading emulsion onto an empty screen.
Emulsion Remover - A substance spread over a screen that has dried emulsion on it in order to remove
Plastisol or Water Based Ink - You have your choice on which to use. Plastisol is the better choice because it is more durable. These come in a variety of colors.
Screen Printing Press or Clamps - A machine that allows the screen to be lowered onto a shirt. Start with a table-top or bench press and usually only with one color. The press will have a platen probably made of wood. If a screen printing machine is not available then you can use the clamps to hold the screen in place.
Heat Gun - A device forces air at a high temperature onto a substrate.
Acetate Sheets - Clear sheets used to print designs on as film positives.
Are all of these items required for a screen printing kit?
This is the real question. Most of these items are indeed required for screen printing. However, many people have gotten by without certain objects. For example, a screen printing press is not required. It is just highly recommended. You could lay the screen on the object and print, but it would not be easy. It also doesn’t demonstrate the point of modern screen printing. This is why we’ve included it.
You don’t need a heat gun. The inks must be heat set to cure them. How you achieve this is up to you. A beginner could use a heat gun. However, this may not be a great option for some people. There are a number of ways to heat set and you can test them all out. You could even heat set a shirt in your own oven. Nonetheless, you will need a way to heat set your inks.
The rest of the items are necessary to screen printing.
What to do when you are ready to move to the next level of screen printing?
After you’ve gotten the hang of screen printing with your basic screen printing kit you may want to move on to something a little more advanced. You want better equipment. You want to produce shirts faster or with better quality. You have two options for doing this. The first option is to purchase an intermediate screen printing kit. The second option is to begin replacing the equipment you already have piece by piece.
If you are going to purchase an intermediate screen printing kit then you need a reputable dealer to discuss your options. We recommend Lawson Screen and Digital. Here is a link to all of their screen printing kits.
They also sell individual pieces of equipment as well.