The Best Way to Align Film on a Screen  | Screenprinting.com

Aligning the film to your 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’s a few tips on how to make the most out of your screen creation process.

A woman aligns film to a screen

Photo by Symmetree

THE PROCESS

The process of aligning your film starts at the press since it involves platen placement. Let’s walk through the steps to properly aligning your film and screens. 

Before you begin, create a grid-type alignment system on a flat surface. You can choose to make the grid back lit to easily see through the screen, or create it on a solid surface. 

STEP 1: KNOW YOUR PLATENS

Understanding the way your platens work in relation to the screen is important. First, center your screen on the platen. Make a grid system on the platen so you know where to place the screen every time. Your grid should have a vertical center line and horizontal lines marking distance down from the top of the platen. The “sweet spot” or focal point of the print should be about five inches from the top of the screen. We’ll cover this more in a bit.

person placing a screen on an exposure unit

Photo by Golden Press Studio

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”X24” 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”X14” 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. Majority of Baselayr exposure units come 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. 

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.

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. 

Looking for a DIY hack? Check out this video.

ALIGNING POCKET PRINTS

Pocket prints, or left/right chest prints, take a little guesswork. The center of the design should typically be four inches over from the center of the shirt. 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 at four inches from 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 press, adjust your screen over so the print is at 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.

Always test your prints before you head to production. If your left chest print looks a little off, adjust it before printing. Practice makes perfect. 

RELATED: HOW TO GET THE PERFECT POCKET PRINT PLACEMENT ON PRESS

 

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! 

DesignExposureFilm positivesPrinting filmScreen printing educationScreen printing exposure