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Screen printing uses a tightly stretched mesh to transfer ink onto a product surface (substrate), except in areas blocked out by a stencil. A blade or squeegee first moves across the mesh to fill the open mesh with ink, then a reverse pass touches the mesh to the printed product applying the ink.
One colour is printed at a time, so several screens can be used to produce a multicoloured image or design. However, there are certain production limitations compared to offset print. The registration (positioning of different colours) is slightly more accurate on a highly automated plate offset press. Screenprint also struggles to accurately reproduce colour densities lower than 30%, or tonal vignettes (gradients) outside a 30% to 70% range.
Screenprinting is a common technique where custom corporate colours or Pantone formula colours are required. Inks are pre-mixed to an exact formula. This provides very tight colour control, subject to any colour effects produced by the substrate (e.g. lighter inks look different on darker substrates).
Silk was traditionally used (hence the alternate name silkscreen printing) but polyester is now more common. The mesh can be woven to different thread counts per inch, achieving different effects and print resolutions.