An abbreviated history of custom T-shirt printing

Would you believe that the ancient Chinese were some of the first people to fire off batches of custom printed T-shirts?

Archaeologists and historians have found records showing that ancient Chinese textile traders, merchants, and entrepreneurs were using different dyes and different materials to create custom printed pieces of clothing for their customers all the way back in 960 A.D.

Now, if you told someone running a custom T-shirt printing press at a flea market or carnival that they had ties to ancient China, big probably send you back to the beer tent.

But it’s true!

The ancient Chinese pioneered silkscreening

Silkscreening, the precursor to screenprinting, was originally developed and mastered between the years 960 and 1280 A.D. by Chinese people living during the Sung Dynasty. These ancient Chinese merchants and entrepreneurs began to use different natural dyes combined with stencils so that they could impart different patterns (originally maker marks, kind of like the ancient precursor to the Nike swoosh).

Would take another 500 years or so for the first screenprinting and silkscreening presses to make it over to Western Europe, but by the time that this technology landed almost everyone that could afford one of these presses were using them to differentiate and “brand” their clothing from other suppliers.

The first carnival barker’s setting up a screenprinting shop

From the early 1800s all the way up until 1853, the Japanese really began to design and develop incredible silkscreened and screenprinting technology that they pretty much “kept secret” from the rest of the world – but that all changed at the 1853 World’s Fair.

Professional clothing manufacturers and merchants from Japan exhibited the incredible designs that they were able to produce from their silkscreening and screenprinting technology, and because they demonstrated the finished products on the world’s largest stage (at the time) word quickly spread to all corners of the globe about this amazing capability.

Rapid iteration of the technology begins

It wasn’t long after the World’s Fair that Samuel Simon patented the very first mechanical screenprinting method in England.

A tool and piece of technology that he used almost exclusively to print different designs on wallpaper (of all things), you have into blame for your grandparents choosing that absolutely terrible and dated wallpaper all throughout their home!

It didn’t take long for people to discover that they could use the newly patented technology on expensive (and not so expensive) clothing and fabric as well, and an explosion in rapid iteration and development of this technology really kicked off.

All throughout the early 1900s all the way up until today people have been tinkering with screenprinting and silkscreening technology, refining that the actual process and finding new ways to produce stunning results without increasing its cost.

Amazingly enough, the original designs are still foundational elements in the silkscreening and screenprinting process for creating custom T-shirts today. This remains a testament to the imagination and engineering of those early pioneers, and really helps to hammer home the fact that “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”.

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How to digitize embroidery

digitizing embroidery screen shot

When you decide to digitize your own embroidery you will need to purchase the software for this process. Most the software you can purchase cost between $100 and $8000, the higher priced software will have more features and capabilities. There are a few software options to choose between such as Brother PE Design plus, Digitize n Stitch, DRAWings 6 pro, Embroidery office art, Janome digitizer pro and many more. There are a few simple steps to digitizing your own designs. Most digitizers have the basic design setup for illustration and digitizing for your embroidery purposes.

  • Open your illustrator software and download your design or create your design.
  • You can open an existing file or start one from scratch your choice
  • To open and existing file just drag and drop into the designated area or go to open file
  • With the file open you can edit the design by adding text, adjust alignment, sizes, colors, stitches (satin or fill stitch).
  • If you are not satisfied with the existing file you edited, then you may need to open an image file and digitize it.
  • By dragging and dropping the file you can then size and place the image.
  • Once selected click the Auto punch digitizing wizard button, or similar tool in other software.
  • Once the digitizing has got size, colors, number of colors, fill stitches or blank areas, and weighting issues you are ready for you preview and click finish.
  • Once the image is ready you can add text, embellish, change colors, stitches, stitch order and view it in 3d
  • When its complete then save the file
  • Now it’s time to write the digitized file to your embroidery machines card and get ready to stitch.

Now that you have your design you can now use it on any embroidery project that you have available. If it’s your own design you can sell products with your embroidery design on it, if it is a licensed character you should look up the regulations on whether or not you can sell them before you sell them. This could result in a copyright infringement if you don’t get permission to use the design before selling it.

Many women are making a living by doing embroidery design for other moms who can’t do it themselves. There are many popular character designs right now that are licensed by Disney that lots of little kids are going crazy over and these designs that are allowed to be sold are making huge profits for the embroiderers. Once you learn to digitize your embroidery designs you can start making money to help support your family.

Simple Screen Printing Technology

screen printing

For conventional printing in early age, silk was mostly utilized as a screen where printing used to be done. Along with Screen Printing the term “Silk Screen” is internally associated. In modern science and graphics technology this procedure or method is known as “Serigraphy”. As the advancement of technology has begun many new machinery and tools has taken place in screen printing and in place of silk people began to use polymer meshes. Various industries of graphics, fabrics have obtained the technology of Screen Printing in a broad way.

Let us know how the equipment’s work for screen printing

The screen in which printing will be done has to be finalized. Then in a wooden frame or aluminum border the screen has to be mounted. After that the template of the design is stamped on the screen to get the preferred design. The ink by which the printing going to be done decides depending on the type of the screen and what is to be printed. If the printing is going to be done on mesh then to control the movement a rubber blade squeegee used to fixed alongside the screen. For resulting a smooth printing the material used is held very resolutely by the base of the machine.

Application used in Screen Printing

Other than silk screening with the advancement of screen printing technology one can do the printing on cotton, polyester, paper, metal, glass, plastic etc. To perform t shirt printing, promotional products creation, production for marketing products, printing on posters and on fabrics, screen printing is very commonly used. It’s also used in various marketing and advertising as it’s very cost effective. I would highly recommend silk screening over digital printing or vinyl transfer.

screen printing manually

What are Techniques of Screen printings?

Let me describe you the techniques step by step. At first the screen has to be fixed firmly on the stand for a proper printing result. Then the template of the design has to be fixed for getting a particular design on the product. There is a fill bar used in the machine by which the ink fills the template. The screen which is going to be printed does not come into a straight contract with the substrate. To conclude the infilling procedure of the ink the screen start slowly sliding down which is stabled by the tube action. As described earlier to steady the movement of the screen squeegee have been used alongside the screen. After the screen printing is done the screen get moved up with the help of the squeegee.

For printing cylinder, Flat-bed and rotary the procedure of screen printing is done and among this three rotary is used mostly. Sometimes the same screen can be used for printing a similar design with different materials and screen, but for doing a new design on a screen, the whole screen has to be cultivated. By using powdered or liquid template remover you can remove the stencil of a screen.

In early years the stenciling of screen is normally done by photo emulsion technique. A variety of inks has been used for flexibility and new pattern in designs. One of the popular inks which are used in screen printing is Plastisol. It gives more durability and excellent texture in a design.