Screen printing requires many tools to get the job done right. One tool that is often overlooked when reading through screen printing tips and blogs is the inkjet film printer. So, why is this tool so important and worthy of its own blog post? If you do not start the printing process with a high-quality film positive, it can ultimately set you up for failure. Bad positives lead to bad exposure and bad stencils. Exposing is one of the hardest parts of screen printing and this process brings a whole new slew of problems. Do yourself a favor and set your foundation right with a good inkjet film positive. If you are like me you also hate printers, they are the kryptonite to my savvy technology skills. A good printer can help ease the printer's pain and frustration.
In this blog, we recommend our favorite inkjet film printers in various budget ranges. A disclaimer, we do not manufacturer any printers listed below and are therefore not liable for issues related. With that said we do feel comfortable enough to recommend these printers, each will help you to achieve a nice opaque print worthy of exposure light.
First, let’s talk about what makes a good film positive and why it is important. A dark and opaque print is going to give you the best results when making an emulsion stencil. The darker the stencil, the more light the ink blocks out when exposing your screen. If your inkjet film is not dark enough then you will have light creeping through the printed area which will begin to harden your emulsion. When the emulsion hardens in your print area your design will not wash out properly and ink will not pass through the mesh. To ensure crispy lines and defined images make sure the film positive is fully opaque/black.
✔️Pro Tip: Hold your film positive up to the light. If you can see light passing through the black print, the print is not dark enough and you may run into a problem exposing it.
Why are these the popular choices for screen printing?
1. They are both inkjet printers, you need an inkjet printer, not a laser printer.
2. These printers also have a large print area capability. Epson 1430 can fit sheets up to 13”x19” and this is a great area for most screen printing frames. 99% of printers use a 13x19 inkjet film sheet. P800 print area is a bit larger and can print up to 17”x 22” sheets
3. They are Epson. Epson printers are known for their reliability and you can access support any time of the day!
There are a few other options we also recommend
2. Epson P400
These are great alternatives to the two most common printers. Canon is also a staple household name we trust. They offer great support and a quality printer.
We know these printers have a hefty price tag. Please keep in mind these are the printers we recommend for quality prints. If you are printing for fun or just starting to get your feet wet in silk screening, you can opt for a cheap standard home office printer. Keep in mind it will not produce crisp prints and might make the exposing process a bit more difficult.
✔️Pro Tip: Invest money on the inkjet film printer and spend less money on other equipment that is usually pricey. A printing press can be very expensive and so can an exposure unit. Take the DIY approach on these two units, they can both be done on the cheap and be highly effective. The inkjet film printer is the foundation that will set the tone for the rest of the printing process. You will notice a significant difference in your screen exposure when using a quality inkjet film positive.
If you decide to research other printers for screen printing film positives keep the following in mind
- The printer must output a dark and opaque print
- Print Area: What size is your artwork? What size inkjet film do you need for this artwork and will the printer support this print area?
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