4 Tips For Screen Printing Multiple Colors

Multiple color work can be tricky without the proper tools or experience. There are many variables to consider from artwork color separation to misalignment. Here are our most useful tips from Screen Printing professionals to get you tackling multiple color jobs without growing grey hairs.

To start off we will jump into the graphic design portion as this will be the first step when getting your job ready for the press.

Color Separation

Color Separation software is a tool you may have heard by now in the screen-printing world. In these programs, a Full Color Image is uploaded, and the program separates the colors into their own layers, breaking it down for you very nicely! Note: A Full Color Image is an image that combines four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black, commonly referred to as “CMYK”) to create full-color images.

If you are dealing with spot color art, this art can be done without color separation software if the designer created the file properly for screen printing. Note: Spot color image is an image with exact colors, not an image containing any halftones or mixing of colors like a full color image.

Color Separation Programs are not cheap so it may not be your first investment. Before taking the leap consider how many times you have printed a complex full color image. It may be time to make the investment, or in the meantime you can use a vector graphic tool. You may also find it easier to just stay away from multi color prints unless given spot color art. 

Exposing Your Artwork

Now when it comes to exposing your artwork it's extremely important that you place all your artwork in the same exact place. This step makes lining colors up on the press work much more smoothly.

There are a few things you can do here to help make sure your artwork is being placed as closely as possible to where it needs to be:

1. Use your platen marks to center your artwork, this works well but there is still a chance you may not get the second or third in the same place as you did with the first. For more information on screen printing platen marks, check out our Blog How to Align Your Shirt On the Platen

2. Use a T-Square. This tool looks like a T and has a long ruler allowing you to place it at the edge of a surface and center your artwork. Below is a T-Square

3. Use a registration template. This looks like a big piece of graph paper, which will allow you to get a very accurate placement. This means your artwork will be in the same place each time you go to expose. You can find our Registration Template for sale here. 


This next one is a MUST in our books. Test, test, test! The only way to make sure your artwork is lined up perfectly is to test print them. There are a multitude of reasons to test your print. By testing, you will see the quality of ink coverage, make sure you are hitting the correct curing temperature, and see if your screens are lined up properly. Use anything available to you for testing such as an old shirt, test pellons, or clear registration tape. Trust us, this is going to save a lot of headaches and frustration when you are trying to register your screens on press.

Printing Technique

This one is a big one! However, the style in which you execute will be determined by preference. “Wet on Wet” vs “Print - Flash – Print” These are two techniques used in screen printing when it's time to get moving on the press, but you need to know when it’s a good idea to do so.

“Print - Flash – Print” means you are printing your base or first layer of color, placing it under the flash dryer to semi cure it, and then printing the next color of ink. By flashing the ink it ensures you can touch the ink without messing it up and you don’t get ink build up on the bottom of your screen. This technique is recommended on dark garments since this technique helps achieve better opacity.

“Wet on Wet” is a different story, with this technique you are going to avoid the flash dryer altogether. You are going to do this on your lighter garments and print from light colors to dark colored ink. This will speed up the printing process because you aren’t flashing anything. You should get good coverage with just one pass using this technique. However, keep in mind the ink remains wet when printing the next color and can possibly move if anything touches it.

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Happy Printing, 

Screen Print Direct