Aligning screen printing films to a screen can be tricky. If it’s not done correctly, it can slow down your process. To avoid that, you need a way to align your screens correctly every time. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your screen creation process.
STEP 1: KNOW YOUR PLATENS
Understanding the way platens work in relation to the screen is important. First, center the screen on the platen. Create a grid system on the platen so you know where to place the screen every time.
Draw a vertical line down the center of the platen and another about 4” over from the middle line to the left. This way you’ll be able to line up the center of the print, as well as left chest prints.
Vertical lines are important to get the shirt lined up to the print. Horizontal lines do that too, but they also help you line the collar of the shirt up in the right place. While you can draw any kind of lines you’d like, it’s recommended to draw horizontal lines 1”, 2”, and 3” down from the front of the platen.
Pro Tip: Draw the lines directly onto the platen. This way, you won’t have to redraw them every time you set up a job. Draw lines that work for your process.
RELATED: HOW TO GET THE PERFECT POCKET OR LEFT CHEST PRINT PLACEMENT ON ANY PRESS
STEP 2: FIND THE SWEET SPOT
For the print to come out looking crisp and clean, the design needs to be placed a few inches away from the top and bottom of the screen. That way, when you pull or push the squeegee and ink over the design, the screen can release from the garment before you end your print stroke.
The “sweet spot” of your screen is the usable print area where you’ll be able to lay down the best, even, solid ink deposit. On a 20” X 24” screen, the sweet spot should be about five inches down from the top and five inches up from the bottom of the inside of your screen. Depending on your equipment and tools, 12” X 14” is the maximum “sweet spot” for the print to maintain its integrity.
RELATED: HOW TO MAKE A BETTER SCREEN FOR SCREEN PRINTING
STEP 3: CREATE REGISTRATION MARKS
Every design you create should have registration marks on it. You’ll want registration marks on the top and the bottom down the center line, and in the corners. This way, you can line up the film to the screen and registration template correctly every time.
Registration templates use a grid system. The majority of Baselayr exposure units come equipped with a registration template (the X-Series do not). If you’re using the same size screens, you won’t have to worry about making adjustments to the alignment.
RELATED: THE BEST WAY TO REGISTER WATER-BASED AND PLASTISOL SCREEN PRINTS
STEP 4: ALIGN YOUR SCREEN
Place the registration template on a flat surface. Place the film on the template where you want it to sit. Again, this should be fairly simple, as the registration marks will line up with the grid system on the template. If you don’t have a registration template, grab a marker and a piece of plastic and make your own.
Place your screen on the film and template. Using clear tape, secure the film to the screen. Once your film is stuck to the screen, remove the registration template.
Pro Tip: Buy brand-name tape for securing your film to the screen. Scotch tape works great for securing film. The less expensive the tape is, the more potential issues you’ll have with it sticking to the film and screen properly, and the harder it’ll be to peel off when you’re done.
NO REGISTRATION TEMPLATE? NO PROBLEM
Don’t have a registration template? There’s a surefire way to align the film to a screen using only a T-square. Here’s a quick guide:
- measure the width of the frame on the T-shirt side and mark where the center is. If you’re doing a left chest print, make a mark 3 to 3.5 inches to the left of the center line.
- Flip your T-square so it runs vertically down the center of the screen. Take your film positive and place it on the screen under the T-square.
- Mark your T-square where you want your registration marks to be every time. This way you’ll be consistent and repeatable. By marking this on the T-square itself, you’ll always have that measurement.
- Once your film positive is centered, tape it down to the screen.
TIPS FOR ALIGNING POCKET PRINTS
Some registration templates come equipped with marks for a pocket print. If you don’t have marks for a left/right print, you can create it yourself with a marker and ruler or T-square.
While the placement on the shirt needs to be four inches from the center, you will need to adjust placing the film on the screen so the print remains clear and crisp. Remember that sweet spot! Offset the film at three inches or so from the center. When you get on the press, adjust your screen over so the print is four inches from the center, following the alignment of the shirt collar.
Printing designs close to the edge of the screen gets a little tricky. To make printing a little easier, move your film a little closer to the sweet spot on your screen. The back clamp allows you to move the screen left or right. Slide it over so it’s offset so the design on the screen matches the grid on your platen.
Whether you’re printing one shirt or 10,000, aligning film correctly is vital to getting a good, solid print. Once the screen is burned, register it on your press, do a test print, and get printing!