Frequently Asked Questions
Have a question? There's a good chance we have an answer and it is available here, online 24/7.
As the name would suggest, this section is a compilation of answers to the questions our clients commonly ask. Just start by following one of the links below.
- How long does it take for you to complete my order?
- What is a "proof"?
- How do I go about getting an estimate from you?
- Can you tell more about Screen Printing in General?
- Why do I need to look at a proof if I've already given you everything I need to have done?
- Do I still need to approve a proof if I bring my work in on disk?
How long does it take for you to complete my order?
All of our graphics jobs are considered custom. Unless previously arranged wtih our client, we do not carry an inventory.
From the time we receive approved artwork we strive to turn every project around in 5-10 days. Often shipment is made early. If you need something sooner we will work with you to deliver on your timeline, but rush charges may be accrued.
What is a "proof"?
A proof is a way of ensuring that we have set your type accurately and that everything is positioned according to your requirements. Typically, we will produce a proof which will be sent to you online or printed on paper which can be viewed at our location or delivered to you in person.
On multiple color jobs, we can produce a color proof to show how the different colors will appear together or we can provide color seperations which details where individual spot colors will be placed..
Well, since you are here, we would suggest you use our online estimate request form. Otherwise, the best way to ensure that we get all the information necessary to do an accurate quote is to give us a call and talk with one of our customer service representatives.
Can you tell more about Screen Printing in General?
Most people are unfamiliar with how the screen-printing process works. Our goal is to educate people about the screen-printing industry and on the basics of the process. By understanding the process, you can learn the unlimited capabilities of our trade and see the potential for new ideas and approaches. Not every shop uses the same process, but all share common elements.
Facts about Screen-printing
Screen-printing dates back about 1000 years and has always been based on the same basic principals of transferring ink through a screen. The Chinese started the process, but the Japanese really developed it. Over time, the Europeans and Americans turned it into an industrial process that could be mass-produced. With today’s modern equipment and computer technologies, we can print virtually anything on any solid surface known to mankind. Screen-printing is a combination of art, technology and production--all of which makes this a fascinating field.
Screen-printing uses a porous mesh screen with an ink-resistant image on its surface as a template to transfer ink to substrates. Screen preparation begins by tightly stretching and securing the material in a rigid frame so that it is level and smooth. Non-image areas of the screen must be blocked and image areas open to allow ink to pass through to the substrate.
Screen-printing is probably the most versatile of the printing techniques, as it can place relatively heavy deposits of ink onto practically any type of surface with few limitations on the size and shape of the object being printed. The ability to print variable thicknesses of ink with a high quantity of pigment allows for brilliant colors, back lighting effects, and durable products which are able to withstand harsh outdoor weather conditions or laundering. Unlike many other printing methods, substrates for screen-printing can include all types of plastics, fabrics, metals, papers, as well as exotic substrates such as leather, Masonite, glass, ceramics, wood, and electronic circuit boards. While screen-printing does compete with other printing techniques for some products, it has a specialized market niche for many graphic art materials and textile printing applications. Comparatively low equipment investment costs allow for low-cost short production runs.
One of the biggest developments in our field is four-color process printing, which has given us the capability to print actual photographic images. The four colors--Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black--are printed in various halftone deposits to create a full spectrum of color. It’s an exacting process that takes skill to master. At our shop, we fine-tuned our process until we were confident that it matched the quality of all of our other capabilities.
Currently, there are about 40,000 graphic art screen-printing and textile printing shops in the United States. These businesses perform diverse functions ranging from the printing of billboard advertisements, greeting cards, art books, clothing and posters to printing on electronic equipment.
Decisions to make before printing
The first step is to decide what image to print and then what to print it on. If you are designing a new decal, Sign, banner, POP Display or whatever your product may be, there are several things that must be considered. A design needs to be prepared, either by you or by our graphics department. Then a decision on colors must be made, choosing from our nearly unlimited palette. Then need to decide on the size of your graphic. If it’s for a sign, you need to calculate in the maximum viewing distance against the appropriate graphics size for the best visual impact.
Environmental factors, such as heat, cold, sunlight, wind and water, need to be considered in order to select the appropriate material. If the product is going to be used in an outdoor application, then printing must be done on an environmentally-resistant material such as plastic or vinyl. As experts in materials, we help our customers select the correct material to use.
Life expectancy of a screen printed product is also a factor when selecting a material. Paper, for example, does not have the longevity of a vinyl. Once a decision is made on the lifetime of the decal, then an appropriate material can be chosen. For long-term applications, the best choices are usually metal or polycarbonate.
How and where the screen printed product will be applied is another factor to consider when choosing a material. Adhesive can be applied to the back of a screen printed product, allowing it to stick to anything, even cement and asphalt. Some people make the mistake of not specifying a strong enough adhesive or adding too much adhesive, which can then affect the strength of the bond. What determines the strength of adhesive is its thickness; a thicker adhesive has more holding power. However, choosing the strongest bond is not always the best option because the type of adhesive is dependent upon the application surface. On a car, for instance, a permanent bond would not be the best choice because at some point, that decal may need to be removed. The type of adhesive used in bonding a decal to a frozen container or a powder-coated machine will differ. By communicating with us about the final application, we can advise you of the best bonding material.
Early in the process, you should determine the quantity of screen printed products you’ll need. As with almost anything, the more you order, the lower your unit cost. Since screen making, setup and teardown charges are fixed, higher quantities allow us to spread out cost and then pass those savings on to the customer. Many times, increasing a quantity results in little additional charge. For instance, having 1500 bumper stickers printed instead of 1000 raises the overall job cost very little. Ask us about quantity savings and you might find you’re getting more for less per piece.
With our production facilities and equipment
we can meet most of your rush needs!
Lead time is another important factor to establish before an order is placed. While rush jobs do happen, in general it’s best to give adequate lead time to all involved in a project. This results in better quality and less additional costs for the customer. At Prentice Products, we have a vast array of people, equipment and expertise, allowing us to turn most jobs around quickly. However, in order to have the best scheduling options, a lead time of 10-15 days is preferred. Also figure in your materials availability because some specific materials need to be ordered, increasing the lead time to four to six weeks. Planning ahead makes it easier for everyone to deliver the best possible product.
The Screen-printing Process
After deciding on the decal design, film is produced for the screen making department. Each color requires its own sheet of film, which is used to expose the screen and then apply the ink. Depending on the type of art and amount of ink required to print the design, different screens are chosen. Screens are rated by their type of mesh (the material stretched across a square frame) and mesh count. Mesh can be made of various materials such as stainless steel, polyester or nylon. Frames also vary and can be made from metal or wood. Once the proper screen is selected, a detailed quality inspection is done before any further steps are taken. We look for pinholes, tears and any other imperfections. Once the screen is perfect, we can start the tensioning process. In order to get the best results, the mesh in the screen-printing frames must be as tight as possible. To ensure accuracy, we use a tension meter to check for the proper tension. If the screen is too loose, it will distort the image and make for less-than-exact registration between the colors. Once that is set, the screen is ready for the next process.
Making the Stencil
Images can be transferred screens manually, but it is more common to use a direct coating photomechanical stencil, which is applied to the screen's surface. The emulsion is spread and leveled either manually with a scoop-coater or by machine. When the coating has hardened, a stencil or film is applied using transparent tape to hold it on the screen. The screen is then exposed to UV light, which causes a photochemical reaction and makes the emulsion insoluble. Any un-reacted emulsion, which is still water soluble, is rinsed off, leaving only the design behind. Any remaining water is vacuumed off with a wet/dry vacuum, utilizing a specially-made rounded head. Once the screen is dry it is inspected again, this time on a light table. The screen is then laid down, print side up, and liquid filler called block-out is applied to the area surrounding the image. Tape is applied to prevent ink from getting between the metal and mesh. Then the screen is allowed to dry again, before going on press.
Ink categories include traditional solvent-based inks (which include enamels), ultraviolet- (UV) curable inks, water-based inks, and plastisols (for textile printing). We use UV inks for most jobs but are adept at using any kind of screen-printing ink. We recapture any excess ink after printing, both to reduce the amount of ink used and to decrease the amount of cleaning emulsions needed to wash the screen, thereby helping reduce additional environmental impact.
Setting up the Printing Press
The first step in printing is to place the frame in the press and then align the screen with a press sheet until it is perfectly square. Once the image is positioned, the frame is locked into position. We tape down the press bed and tape the areas surrounding the press sheet to help increase the suction of the sheet during printing. Next, ink is poured onto the screen and spread to lubricate the screen and prevent tearing. Guides are placed alongside the press sheet to ensure proper placement with each press.
A test print is run. The printer sweeps a rubber blade (squeegee) across the screen surface, pressing ink through the uncovered mesh to print the image defined by the stencil. After the first color is printed, the product is inspected for defects such as smearing, pinholes, missing images, debris, and misalignment. If there are any problems, they are fixed immediately. Once the print is perfect, the pieces are ready for curing.
To ensure proper curing, our dryers and lamps are run at the highest possible temperature. Even if everything is running perfectly, we still stop at every 10% juncture to make sure the quality is consistent. Once the entire job is printed, we do a quick check again on every sheet and pull out any defects. Scrap sheets are used to set up the finishing process.
Final Finishing and Inspection
Many, many quality control checks go into every print job. We inspect continuously--during and after each process. This is a double assurance to the customer that every piece surpasses their standards.
Why do I need to look at a proof if I've already given you everything I need to have done?
We employ human beings to produce your work and, last time we checked, humans are not perfect. Your approval on the final proof is assurance that you have looked over every aspect of our work and approve it as accurate. It benefits everyone if errors are caught in the proofing process rather than after the job is completed and delivered.
Do I still need to approve a proof if I bring my work in on disk?
Yes. Along with human error there is always a chance that your computer file may have been created on diferent type of computer, using different software or software settings. Often what looks great on your computer screen does not always look great on our high-resolution print equipment. Not to mention that fonts, images, margins, etc. sometimes do not transfer well even on disk.
We always error on the side of caution and require an signed proof, so that we are all happy with the final product.