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The Ultimate Screen Printer’s Checklist: 5 Must-Haves

When it comes to printing custom clothing, bags, and other items, having the right screen printing tools is a surefire way to achieve quality designs that your customers will love. If you want to best set yourself up for success with screen printing, make sure you have the following items ready. 

 

Pre-Burned Screens

Any skilled screen printer knows that using pre-burned screens is the way to cleaner, crisper-looking prints. No matter what type of garment, fabric, or ink you’re using, pre-burned screens allow screen printers to create more complex and advanced designs like gradients, half-tones, tiny prints, and fine lines. 


Customers will be able to tell the difference between prints that were made with conventional designs and ones that were made with pre-burned screens. All in all, the quality of your prints will be noticeably better with pre-burned screens. You can find pre-burned screens in a variety of sizes right here at Arena Prints

 

Squeegees 

As a screen printer, your squeegees are an important tool that will see a lot of action. They are what you use to pull inks across the surface of your screen and onto the garments. You’ll probably want to have a few squeegees on hand in a variety of hardness levels and blade sizes to pair with different ink viscosities and designs. Plus, make sure you’re buying squeegees that have ergonomic handles for comfortable use since you’ll be using them so frequently. 

 

Inks & Stir Sticks

The inks you use are what bring your screen printing designs to life. The two main types of inks you can choose from are water-based inks and plastisol inks. They each come with their own properties and appeals, so screen printers can use their own personal preferences to decide on which to use. 


Whichever type of ink you choose, make sure you’re using a high-quality brand that will result in long-lasting prints. Don’t forget to have wooden stir sticks stocked to ensure your inks are well-mixed and ready to use. 

 

Screen Cleaner

Part of maintaining the quality of your screens is cleaning them properly after each use. Doing so will lead to consistent prints and long-lasting screens. So, make sure you are thoroughly removing any remaining ink residue from your screens to keep them in great condition and ready for future use. 


When you’re using plastisol inks, you can use the Camie 480 Screen Opener and a paper towel to wipe away excess ink and keep your screen in optimal condition. This screen opener is the recommended option for Arena pre-burned screens, and will quickly work to keep your screens from plugging up. Plus, it isn’t a harsh compound that will damage the delicate mesh in your screens. 

 

Painter’s Tape

With the right painter’s tape, you can achieve precision and clean edges with all your prints. For multi-color prints, you can use painter’s tape to mask off areas of the screen that you will be printing in a different color. Having quality painter’s tape in your screen printing arsenal will help you create designs exactly how you envisioned them.

 

 

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5 Common Mistakes when Printing with Plastisol Ink

Plastisol ink is one of the most common types of ink that screen printers use. Characterized by its vibrant colors and thicker consistency, plastisol ink tends to be quite forgiving, even for beginners. However, there are some common mistakes that people make when using plastisol ink that can detract from the overall appearance of the finished product. To help you master plastisol ink screen printing, check out the following common mistakes so you know what pitfalls to avoid.

 

1. Not Stirring Plastisol Ink

You should never use plastisol ink right off the shelf. Before use each time, make sure you thoroughly stir the ink to avoid any clumps or mushy consistency in your prints. Plastisol ink does tend to thicken while on the shelf, and the various components may even start to separate depending on how long the ink went unused. So, you’ll want to give it a good stir each time you use it so you have an even consistency. 


This typically isn’t just a quick stir, either. Depending on the exact shade of plastisol ink you’re using, you may want to use a drill to stir the ink for a few minutes before it’s ready. 

 

2. Not Reading the Instructions

Even if you’re a seasoned screen printer, you should consult the instructions for each brand of plastisol ink you use. Ink manufacturers may have different handling directions or instructions for their exact formulation of plastisol ink, which may differ from other brands you’ve used before. So, if you’re purchasing a new brand of plastisol ink, make sure you check the directions first to avoid making any costly mistakes. 

 

3. Not Using a Reducer

You might think that using an ink reducer will detract from the pigmentation of your plastisol ink, but this is not the case. Again, plastisol ink can get pretty thick when it’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. So, if stirring didn’t do the trick to give it a smooth, even consistency, you may need to add some reducer to it. 


Follow the instructions on the exact brand of reducer you’re using to ensure you’re thinning out the ink while still allowing it to provide good coverage. When used correctly, the reducer will help with the viscosity of the ink and make it easier to work with, but the opacity and pigmentation should remain the same for bold, vibrant prints. 

 

4. Not Cleaning Your Screens

If you plan on using the screen to make multiple prints, make sure you are properly cleaning the screens after use to avoid plastisol ink build-up on the screen. Thick, plastisol ink can accumulate on the screen over time, leading to poor print quality, smudging, or difficulty in achieving fine-line details. So, make sure you are thoroughly cleaning screens between use to prevent any of these printing mishaps from occurring. 

 

5. Keeping Your Shop Too Cold

In general, plastisol inks tend to work better when your shop is warm, as the platens in the ink heat up and give it a smoother consistency. As a result, you may not have to stir the inks as much and you can use them faster when they come off the shelf. 


Of course, there is a balance to creating an enjoyable work environment without overheating yourself. But, you’ll want to avoid a printing area that is blasting A/C all day if you want your plastisol inks to be easier to work with.

Best Practices for Creating Multi-Color Prints

Screen printers who create designs with multiple layers of colors can add depth and dimension to their prints. But, this is a more advanced technique that takes some practice to get right. Using color theory principles, the color combinations you use in prints can evoke certain emotions and elevate your designs, though you need to know how to utilize them properly together in order to get the best results. To create multi-color prints your customers will love, continue reading through the following best practices to set you up for success. 

 

Use Quality Inks

The quality of ink you use can make or break your multi-color designs. You want to use ink that is high-quality and suitable to the fabrics you’re using. Plus, they need to be able to layer effectively without bleeding or detracting from the look of the design. This will also enhance the longevity of the print and help it retain its look even after multiple wears and washes. 


You can use both plastisol inks and water-based inks for multi-color printing, you just need to select the proper ink type for the look you want to achieve. 

 

Choose the Right Screens

Screens with a higher mesh count will be better for designs that call for fine details, while lower mesh count screens are better for printing solid areas. One is not necessarily better than the other, but you need to make sure you are choosing the appropriate screens for your designs. Doing so will help you achieve the look you’re going for. 


With pre-burned screens from Arena, you can achieve stunning and progressive prints that your customers will appreciate. Durable and long-lasting, using pre-burned mesh screens not only result in higher-quality prints, but you’ll end up saving time and money too. 

 

Print in the Proper Order

When printing multi-color designs, you will need to create multiple layers and screens for your design, with each layer being dedicated to one distinct color. If possible, you should start with the lightest ink colors first, then the darker ink shades to prevent contamination. 

 

Understand Color Theory

It’s important to have a good understanding of color theory when you are creating multi-color screen print designs. As you layer the various colors, you may notice that they interact with each other in ways that you didn’t expect, giving you a different look than you anticipated. So, you should be aware of the color wheel, what colors complement each other, and how to play with contrast so you end up with visually pleasing multicolor prints that your customers will love. 

 

Be Patient

Between each ink layer, you need to ensure that you are letting the ink dry fully before you add the next layer. This will keep the lines in your design crisp and the different layers from bleeding into one another. Follow the guidelines of the ink manufacturer so you know how much time you’ll need to let the ink fully dry. 


If you’re just trying out multi-color prints for the first time, be open to trial and error until you find the right inks, methods, and order for printing. You may not nail it on the first try, but with practice, you will find your rhythm.

Color Theory for Screen Printers: Everything You Need to Know

As a screen printer, you want to create prints that are high quality and impress your clients. But, the results can depend on a few factors outside of choosing the right design and garment. If you’re not aware yet, color theory plays a big role in how your screen prints turn out, so it’s something that all screen printers need to be well-versed in. Continue reading below as we cover what color theory is and how it applies to screen printing. 

 

What Is Color Theory?

Before we talk about how it applies to screen printing, let’s review what color theory is. It is a set of rules and guidelines that covers how colors combine together, evoke emotion, and interact to create visually-appealing compositions. 

 

What Screen Printers Should Know About Color Theory

Understanding color theory will help you make good decisions about what color ink combinations to use in your prints. There are endless ways to interpret and analyze color theory as it applies to screen printing. But, here are some important concepts and tips so you can apply color theory in each of your client projects. 

 

The Color Wheel

Good screen printers have a clear knowledge of the color wheel and the types of color relationships it demonstrates–like the following: 

Primary: Red, blue, and yellow; cannot be created by mixing other colors, but are used in combination to create all other colors

Secondary: The colors created by mixing the primary colors, including green, purple, and orange

Tertiary: Formed by mixing a primary color with a secondary color, offering a variety of shades and color variations

 

Color Harmony

Understanding the color wheel helps printers grasp color harmony concepts like complementary, analogous, and triadic color schemes to create balance and visual appeal. 

Complementary colors: Colors that are located on opposite sides of the color wheel (green and pink), which create contrast when used together

Analogous colors: Colors that are adjacent on the color wheel (orange, yellow, red) that create harmony when used together

Triadic colors: Three colors that are equidistant apart on the color wheel (orange, purple, green) to add more dimension to designs but still look harmonious

 

Color Temperature

Screen printers should also be aware of the difference between warm and cool colors when creating their prints. Some common examples of warm colors include shades like orange, red, and yellow, which are known for evoking energy and passion. On the other hand, cool colors like green, purple, and blue are more calming. 


This taps into the psychology of colors, or the emotional associations that we have with certain colors to evoke specific feelings and moods in design. 

 

Color Mixing

A very important concept that screen printers need to know is how to mix ink colors appropriately to achieve the desired effect that meets client preferences. It can take some trial and error to understand how mixing different pigments and colors together can affect the end result–and how to do so consistently. However, this is a crucial part of creating custom designs that clients love. 

 

Substrate Variety

Specific to screen printers, colors can appear differently when they are printed on different substrates. In other words, the green ink you use to print a design on a black cotton t-shirt may appear differently than when you use the same green ink to print on a black vinyl tote. Screen printers should be aware of these possible variations and make adjustments to the ink colors accordingly to get the desired effect.

 

 

How to Choose the Right Ink for Your Screen Print Project: Plastisol vs. Water-Based Ink

In screen printing, the two most common types of ink used are plastisol and water-based ink. Each ink has its own unique properties that make them better suited for certain projects. Plus, some screen printers have distinct preferences for one ink over the other. So, is there one type of ink that’s better, and what types of projects are they best for? Continue reading below as we lay out the differences in these inks and how you can choose the right one for your needs. 

 

What is Plastisol Ink?

Plastisol ink is a thick PVC-based ink that requires heat to cure. You can think of it like a liquid plastic, meaning it sits on top of the fabric you’re printing on rather than absorbing into it. This type of ink is widely used because it is easy to handle, forgives mistakes, and results in long-lasting designs that won’t crack, fade, or peel.

 

What is Plastisol Ink Best For?

Plastisol inks are best used for designs that use bright colors, and it is suitable for many types of fabrics like cotton and polyester. Given the vibrant and opaque designs you can create with plastisol ink, it’s often a good choice if you’re printing on darker-colored items. Plus, many beginner screen printers find that plastisol ink is easier to work with and more forgiving. 

 

If you’re using plastisol ink, use our Camie 480 Screen Opener to wipe away inks and clean your screens after use easily. Whether you’re going to store your screens or use them again with a different color, this screen opener will instantly clean plugged screens to reduce downtime and help speed up your production.

 

What is Water-Based Ink?

Water-based ink is made with water as the primary solvent and pigments or dyes to create the desired color. It has a thinner consistency than plastisol inks and absorbs into the fibers of the fabric rather than sitting on top of it. Designs made with water-based inks will leave a thin, smooth, flexible layer on the item. This type of ink is seen as the more eco-friendly option since it doesn’t contain chemicals or plastics.

 

What is Water-Based Ink Best For?

Water-based ink gives off a softer look compared to the vibrancy of plastisol inks. But, printing with water-based ink is seen as more advanced than using plastisol inks. It evaporates quickly since it’s made primarily from water, and isn’t as forgiving with mistakes since it absorbs directly into the fabric upon contact. 

 

As we mentioned above, water-based inks are a great choice if you’re looking for sustainability. Plus, it can be a good option if you’re printing on light-colored or thin fabrics since it doesn’t leave as heavy of a deposit as plastisol. 

 

If you’re using water-based ink, you’ll need our AlbaChem Screen Opener to quickly clean your screens and restore them for future use. This foaming cleanser works fast to clean away dried-on water-based ink from your screens but doesn’t leave a film or oily residue behind. 

 

Wrapping up Our Comparison of Water-Based Ink vs. Plastisol Ink

Neither of these inks is necessarily better than the other. Choosing between the two will largely come down to your own preferences as a screen printer, in addition to what your clients are looking for with their design. Both plastisol and water-based inks can be used to create eye-catching and long-lasting prints, so make sure you consider the above points to choose the right one for your next project.

Patriotic 4th of July Design Ideas for Screen Printing

4th of July celebrations are the pinnacle of any American summer, and themed screen-printed accessories and apparel are always a staple for this time of year. So, you can show off your patriotism this year with some festive screen-printed designs. All you’ll need is a pre-burned screen with the right template and your item of choice to celebrate Independence Day in style. Read through the following list of 4th of July-themed screen printing ideas you can try out this year. 

 

Festive T-Shirts

The possibilities are endless when it comes to designing a 4th of July-themed t-shirt for screen printing. You can go all out with a full tee design, or stick with smaller details like red-and-white-striped shirt sleeves as an homage to the American flag to cater to all types of customers.  

 

Layering designs in red and blue ink on a white t-shirt will create a festive piece of apparel that’s perfect for this time of the year. Essentially–any combination of these three colors will come off as patriotic this time of year. Add color blocking and gradients for even more depth and sophistication in your designs.  

 

Popular design items for the holiday include fireworks, stars, and anything having to do with the American flag. If you want to get even more creative, come up with t-shirt designs that highlight popular landmarks across the United States like the Liberty Bell, Mount Rushmore, or the Statue of Liberty. Another idea is to pull quotes or phrases from the Declaration of Independence and design them in elegant fonts to put some more meaning into your shirt’s design. 

 

Patriotic BBQ Aprons

Nothing says the 4th of July more than a backyard BBQ to celebrate Independence Day–and you can do so in style when you have a themed grilling apron to match! The cookout crowd will certainly love this item, and as we discussed above, there are plenty of design options you can choose from for a 4th of July-inspired look. 

 

Sticking with staple designs like stars, stripes, and fireworks is always a good idea. But, you can include more food-themed designs on the aprons like hamburgers, hot dogs, popsicles, and more. Don’t forget to include some elements related to the holiday like stars, firecrackers, or simply a red, white, and blue color scheme. 

 

Handheld American Flags

There are some guidelines around screen printing American flags. But, in general, printing small hand-held flags for parades and other 4th of July celebrations is widely accepted and beloved. If you decide to add these to your shop this July, they will certainly be a popular item for customers to pass out at their backyard picnics, to display in their yards, or for any other uses they may find for them. 

 

Red, White, and Blue Accessories

You can also add a patriotic touch to accessories like totes, bandanas, hats, and more by screen-printing festive elements onto them. These items can complete a 4th of July outfit and would be a great addition to your screen printing shop this summer. Even if customers don’t want a fully-themed t-shirt to celebrate the holiday, a red, white, and blue accessory may be just what they’re looking for.