Normally, screen printing shops seem overcrowded with a lot of machinery and equipment, but in the real sense, you actually need a few essential equipment and supplies before you print your first T-shirt, tote bags, etc. The essentials supplies are those that you basically need from pre-press to post-press.
This involves the preparation of artwork and the screens to lay down your prints. They encompass the following:
- A computer with software programs for designing vector graphics
- Printer and film used to produce stencils on the screens, the graphics created are printed on a clear film, and that will lay down opaque black ink that will block out UV light when exposed.
- Screens for your screen printing purposes, the options available for this are plenty, but you may go for those that you really need to get started and the ones you are sure you will frequently need. Of course, you can add more as your business hits the ground running for your business to cover a wide range of clients.
- Emulsions to coat screens so that they harden well when exposed to the UV light to create stencils
- Drying racks. You can build your own or buy one from the shops. These provide the surfaces where to lay your screens horizontally as the emulsions dry
- Exposure unit that provides UV light needed to cure stencils
- Washout stations plus a water source, a washout station where you rinse the stenciled areas of the screen after exposure and reclaim after press runs. Garden horse or pressure washer can suffice.
From here, you get down to your actual screen printing. The tools you will need in this stage include the following:
- Press, which is the actual heartbeat of any screen printing shop, most shops start with the manual and then upgrade later when they are into business. Presses are different in configurations, but for a start, it is wise to begin with a six-color press which can print virtually any job presented with.
- Ink for printing, you will choose from traditional plastisol and water-based and discharge ink. In the beginning, start with basic ink, mixing pack and some regular colors that you know you will need them regularly. Plastic containers and ink scoops will help you in handling the ink. You may also need scales and mixers to help in preparing the ink.
- Squeegees used to pull ink across the screen so that you can lay down the prints on the material. They come in variety but at the start go for the basic ones that you will need regularly.
- Substrates to lay your prints on whatever the material you are printing
- Flash cure unit which allows you to cure or gel your ink.
These are pieces of equipment you need to heat the ink to the curing temperatures so that they become permanent.