Screen Printing Equipment & Supply Startup Checklist by Terry Combs

ClassPicture1During screen printing classes, I regularly get the question, “What do I really need to get started in this business?” Here’s my list to use as a guideline.

Six Color Manual Press – With a six color machine you can print most anything.

Conveyor Dryer – Required for any real production, and air flow is a plus.

Flash Dryer – A must if you’re printing on dark garments. Buy basic. Extra bells and whistles won’t matter here. ON and OFF are all the controls you’ll need.

Exposure Unit – Pinpoint light source is best, but the sun will work on a budget.

Washout Sink – You can buy something professionally made or improvise.

Power Washer – Used for reclaiming screens for reuse.

Heat Press – Optional but necessary if you plan to do any team printing.

Film Output Device – An Epson inkjet printer and RIP software is the package of choice for creating your film positives. Don’t overbuy. Most printers rarely use more than a 13″ wide film, so an inexpensive device like the Epson 1400 will do the job.

Screens – Wood frames are fine, and you should buy them pre-stretched.

  • 12 -156 mesh – general printing
  • 6 – 230 mesh – fine line
  • 6 – 87 mesh – puff and athletic
  • Others as needed. You’ll want to end up with enough screens for several days production.
Squeegees – You’ll need them to be a minimum of 1” smaller on each side than the inside dimension of your screens.
  • 6 approximately 15” with medium durometer blades
  • 6 approximately 5” with medium durometer blades for left-chest designs
  • Others as needed – purchased by the inch

Inks – Buy a starter mixing system that allows you to mix any color, plus white, black and any common colors such as for local schools.

Scale – Necessary for weighing inks in mixing system.

Quart Containers – For use in mixing ink colors.

Spotting Gun – For cleaning plastisol drips, drops and fingerprints from printed garments. Requires spotting gun solution as well.

Curable Reducer – This product is used for thinning your inks.

Emulsion – A dual cure emulsion is the most forgiving and easiest to work with.

Scoop Coater – Used to coat emulsion onto your screens. At least 1” clearance required on each side from the inside dimension of your screen.

Emulsion Remover – Chemical used for degrading emulsion for screen reclaim.

Degreaser – Chemical for cleaning screens prior to coating with emulsion.

Ink Degrader – Chemical used to clean ink from screens after use.

Brushes – Soft bristle brushes (and separate) used for 1) Ink Degrader, 2) Emulsion Remover, and 3) Degreaser.

3” Tape and Tape Gun – For taping the inside of your screens before printing.

Temperature Tapes – These will help you determine actual dryer temperature.

Spray Adhesive – Low tack adhesive used to hold garments in place during printing. Comes in web or mist spray.

The Wish List Retensionable Frames – After use, screen mesh will lose tension. Retensionable Frames allow you to tighten mesh after each use.

Safety Kleen Part Washer – Most larger shops use Safety Kleen part washer tanks to clean their squeegees and spatulas.

Tension Meter – This device when placed on a screen will tell you the tension of that screen, measured in Newtons.

Jacket Hold Down – Jacket printing requires the jacket be held firmly in place during printing with this printer attachment. Also you’ll need a plastisol ink additive such as Union Ink’s Nylobond.

Vacuum Platen – Another printer attachment, the vacuum platen holds flat stock products in place during printing. Required for printing transfers and bumper stickers. Reprinted from TerryCombs.com

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Terry Combs is a 30+ year veteran of the garment decorating industry, offering training and consulting through his website TerryCombs.com. Terry is also editor of the management and production newsletter Screen Print Weekly.

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