The Future of Screen Printing

T­-shirts are an incredibly versatile item of clothing. They can make statements for
aesthetic or political purposes, they can be function as a wearable trophy as the result
of completing a gruelling test of physical and mental fortitude like a marathon, or they
can serve a basic utilitarian purpose of covering one’s torso. What unites almost every
t­shirt is how the various designs found on them were printed: screen printing. Called
the world’s most versatile printing process, screen printing is used to apply graphics to
an incredible amount of products found throughout our world. For example, R&P prints
offers hundreds of clothing styles to print customized graphics on. Despite the rise of
digital printing, many printing industry experts swear by screen printing to accomplish
the bulk of tasks due to its inexpensive nature and the variety of finishes that can be
easily accomplished on a single printer.

Screen printing can trace its roots back as far as the Chinese Song Dynasty,
from 960 to 1279 AD. Various innovations along the way, particularly the invention of
Plastisol, the most common ink used in garment decoration, have allowed screen
printing to flourish and continue to dominate the printing industry, especially when the
substrate (the material being printed on) is a textile like a cotton t­shirt. Plastisol is
durable and more stretchable than the more primitive water­based inks that were used
in the past, and it also allows garment makers to print on varying colours of garments
without the need to adjust the colour of ink at the design level.

Most industry experts agree that the advent of digital printing will affect some
industries where screen printing holds the bulk of market share, but do not see it as a
threat. Digital printing is more cost­effective for smaller print jobs, but the large printing
runs made by large corporations will continue to be dominated by the more cost
effective screen printing processes available. Digital printing is also quite limited in
terms of substrate variety. In order to attract up and coming niche markets that dictate
smaller printing runs, experts agree that screen printing technologies need to evolve to
attract these small market clients.

As clothing start­-ups continue to flourish with a renewed focus on social
enterprises, limited edition clothing runs, or lifestyle brands, the usage of screen printing
by these companies will continue to evolve to suit the budgets of these smaller clients.
These clients also have diverse tastes in terms of design and quality, so a company like
R&P Prints will continue to satisfy clients’ needs due to our wide array of styles to
choose from. Many charitable organizations or events also rely heavily on screen
printing to produce custom t­shirts for their events, which many participants value
highly. As digital printing techniques continue to develop and subsequently reduce
costs, it remains important for screen printing technologies to keep up to remain resilient
in the marketplace. Experts agree that a focus on the large printing runs will be the bulk
of the market share for screen printing for years to come, but niche groups must also be
catered to, otherwise the risk of a substantial loss in market share from digital printing
firms remains a very real threat.

Perhaps the greatest threat to screen printing is a lack of education and training
provided to new graduates. While graphic design programs focus most heavily on digital
printing technologies, screen printing training must remain prevalent in order for a
skilled workforce to be maintained. Some schools have adopted screen printing into
their curricula, and companies like R&P Prints continue to deliver high­quality training to
our staff. R&P Prints is currently among the fastest growing printing companies in
Canada. We’re dedicated to providing our clients with a full array of custom screen
printing and embroidery services with top­notch service for both businesses and
individuals.