A Basic Jargon Buster For Screen Printing Beginners

by Wendy Croxford

in Permaset Blog

14 Jun 2016  | 0 Comments

Has screen printing captured your imagination? If you are keen to create your own unique textile prints on bags or t-shirts, then some of the terminology probably has you a bit flummoxed!

Here is a straightforward guide to the basic terms, to help beginner screen printers decode the jargon and get started on creating designs, choosing fabrics and eco friendly inks, and experimenting with colours.

Begin at the beginning

Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a mesh frame to transfer ink onto a substrate. Specific areas of the substrate are blocked out by a stencil to create a design.

Screen printing is also known as silkscreen printing, silk screening, and serigraph. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the process was traditionally known as silk screen printing because silk was used as the support before polyester mesh was invented.

Terms of reference

These are common terms associated with screen printing, and what they mean.

Mesh count: The material, normally polyester, that is stretched over the printing frame. The ink passes through the mesh. The mesh can be yellow or white in colour. The mesh count is the number of threads in one square inch of the screen fabric. The coarser the mesh, the larger the opening and the more ink is allowed through.


For printing on fabrics with Permaset Aqua inks,Permaset recommends a 43t screen.

Plastisol and water based ink: These are the two main types of ink that are used in screen printing. Water based inks are environmentally friendly and use either dyes or pigments in water. The process of evaporation is needed to set the ink. Plastisol ink is PVC-based.

Substrate: This is the term used to refer to the material that a design being printed on. A substrate can be many things, but in general is either fabric, paper, glass or plastic.


Permaset’s Permaprint Premium ink can be printed onto substrates like Perspex.

Stencil: The stencil can be made of paper, or water based or lacquer based emulsion. The emulsion is attached to a plastic backing sheet. The plastic sheet can be made by hand or prepared as a photographic image. The stencil has areas that let the ink pass thorough and solid areas that block the ink to create the design.

Squeegee: Wooden or metal handled tool that has a rubber blade. It squeezes the ink through the stencil and onto the substrate when it is pulled across the screen.

One colour is printed at a time, so several screens are needed to create an image with many colours.


Screen printing with a metal squeegee at Dot Studios in London (image courtesy of Dot Studios)

Squeegee side: The side of the screen that the ink is applied to.

Substrate side: The side of the screen that touches the surface to be printed.

Screen printing is a fabulous way to make clothes and accessories for fun, or even to sell. Now you have familiarised yourself with the basic terms related to screen printing, you are armed with the knowledge you need to embark on your new pursuit. Time to get creative!

Permaprint does not contain ozone depleting chemicals such as CFCS or HCFCS. It is also formulated free of aromatic hydrocarbons. Permaprint premium is free of volatile organic solvent and does not contain PVC resin or Phthalate plasticiser