Screen Print Vocabulary

Man getting screen ready for screen printing

Screen printing vocabulary can be confusing to customers who don’t know about the inner workings of the screen print business. Do you often find yourself asking your printer to repeat themselves or explain themselves further, because you don’t understand what they’re saying? You’re not alone! That’s why we’ve created a glossary to help you better understand your screen printer’s unique lingo!


Screen Print Glossary

Artwork –
A text or image that will be used for printing.

Bleed – The area on a t-shirt that shows the ink. (It can also refer to ink that shows through other inks.)

Burning a screen – Exposing a prepared stream to a very bright light to harden emulsion.

Coating – The process of applying direct emulsion to a screen.

Color Separation – A process of converting an image into individual color components that can be isolated and printed.

Cure – Refers to the heat process of hardening a polymer material such as plastisol or waterbased inks.

Dye Migration – This can happen when you print on a polyester shirt.

Emulsion – A photosensitive chemical that is applied to the screen before it’s burned in order to make a stencil.

Heat Transfer – Special plastisol inks that are screen printed onto transfer paper and then applied to a garment. This allows complex and intricate images to be printed.

Heather – Refers to a blend of yarns in a fabric.

Mesh – The material that is stretched over the screen frame.

Mesh count – The number that refers to the size of the openings in between the filaments of thread in the mesh. Low numbers have larger openings and higher numbers have small openings. A higher mesh count will have a softer feel.

Opacity – An ink’s ability to cover the underlying color of the substrate.

PMS (Pantone Matching System) Color – This is a standardized color reproduction system.

Process Color (CMYK) – Four color printing is a printing process where you begin with finished full color artwork and separate out the artwork into the CMYK format – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black.

Screen – A wooden or metal frame with mesh tightly attached to it.

Screen Press – A device used to hold the screen when pressing ink onto the t-shirt.

Spot Color – Any color that is generated by an ink and printed using a single run.

Vector Art – Vector art graphics that are based on paths and shapes. These graphics can be scaled by any amount without changing the quality of the image.

Viscosity – The thickness or thinness of an ink.

Weight – the weight of a fabric, which is determined by number of ounces per square yard. The finer the yarn count, the lighter the fabric weight.

Wicking – Widely used for athletic apparel because of it’s breathable material.




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