Most commonly used screen printing terms here at K&B Promotions

If you are new to screen printing or maybe you just want to learn a little more about it, then this blog is for you. Terminology in any business can be complex, but in a screen printing shop its worse. Most people don’t even bother to learn the terms, but if you want to impress the next time you get stuff printed, then here is a quick study guide for you!


Automatic Press: A screen printing press in which the printing and the operation of the machine is accomplished through the use of electricity and hydraulics. An automatic screen printing press has a much higher production rate than a manual press and will typically produce a higher quality print result. Here at K&B Promotions, we currently have 2 automatic presses, and look forward to getting more in the future.


Bleed: A problem that occurs when dye migrates from the fabric into the imprinted ink on a garment. This problem occurs in 100% polyester or 50/50 blend garments only. Bleeding can be avoided by using bleed resistant inks and by taking certain precautions when printing, curing, and handling the garments. We’ve seen this problem happen when

Burn: To expose an emulsion coated screen to a light source to create a stencil.


Color Separation: The separating of each color in a design into a separate image. Each individual separated color will then be printed in a certain order to reproduce the original composite image.

Conveyor Dryer: A common term used to describe a belt driven, chambered device with one or more heating elements used for the purpose of curing a print.

Cure: The process of using heat to completely dry plastisol ink. If ink is not cured, then it could possibly wash out or fade extremely fast.


Darkroom: A room without light used for the purpose of drying screens coated with emulsion. The dark room is where screens get coated, dry, and burned. You want to do all of the following steps in a dark room because you don’t want any light to be exposed to your screens.

Degreaser: The process of washing a screen with a cleaning solution to remove all traces of dirt and oils prior to coating with emulsion. Not degreasing your screens could leave pinholes in your stencil. (Refer to pinholes for definition).

Dye Migration: A problem that occurs when dye migrates from the fabric into the imprinted ink on a garment. This problem occurs with 100% polyester or 50/50 blend garments only and can be avoided by using bleed resistant inks and by taking certain precautions when printing, curing and handling the garments after curing.


Emulsion: Photosensitive chemical in liquid, roll, or sheet form that is applied to a screen and used for the purpose of making a stencil.

Exposure: Exposing an emulsion coated screen to light to create a stencil. Also known as “burning” a screen.


Flash Cure: To partially cure a print by subjecting the print to a heat source for a short amount of time.

Flash Unit: An infrared heating element that is typically attached to a rotary turntable, positioned above the platen and used for the purpose of bringing a print to a partially cured state so a second print stroke can be applied to achieve desired opacity. A flash cure unit can also be used to completely cure a print.

Film: Transparent film used to block the light when burning screens. Essentially, we are printing an all black image, or logo out on film to create a stencil in the screen. The most common types of media used for film positives are ink jet film and vellum paper.

Flood Stroke: A heavily angled squeegee stroke used to fill the screen with ink.


Halftone: A color or gray scale image that has been converted into a series of large and small dots.


Ink: Most commonly mistaken for “paint” is a term used to describe the printable substance that is used to make a print. In the textile printing business, the most widely used ink is plastisol.


Mesh: The polyester material stretched over the frame through which the ink passes. It’s the woven material that makes up the printable portion of the screen.

Micro-Registration: a mechanical adjustment on the print head of a screen printing press used for precise movement and alignment when lining up or adjusting a print job.

Misprint: A print containing a defect of some kind.


Off-contact: A method of screen printing of having a slight gap between the screen and the substrate for improved print ability.

Overcured:  Subjecting the substrate to excessive heat. Over curing will result in a print that will crack and fade prematurely. Over curing plastisol transfers will result in transfers that will not adhere properly.

Overexposed: Exposing a screen for too long of a period of time resulting in a screen that will be difficult or impossible wash out.

Overprinting: Printing one color on top of another color.


Pinholes: Unwanted tiny specs that appear in the stencil after exposure. Usually caused by not degreasing or cleaning the screens. In some cases you can just use tape to close up the hole.

Plastisol: A screen printing ink primarily for textile printing composed of the following components: PVC (polyvinyl chloride), color pigments, and plasticizers. This ink won’t cure (or dry) unless it is exposed to a certain temperature for a certain period of time.

Platen: Also known as a shirt board and comes in many different sizes for different purposes. 

Print Head: The component of a screen printing press that the screen is attached.

Process color: Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black (CMYK).


Reclaim: To remove old emulsion from a screen so the screen can be reused.

Registration Marks: “Cross-hair” target marks used for aligning a screen image to the source art.


Scoop Coater: A metal trough used to dispense emulsion for the purpose of coating screens. Using a scoop coater creates a nice even layer of emulsion for a nice image when burning a screen.

Screen: A wooden or metal frame with mesh tightly attached to it. We use metal screens that measure 23×31 inch. 

Spray Adhesive (Snap): A type of platen adhesive that is dispensed through an aerosol can. Snap is used to hold the shirts in place on the platen for a nice and lined up print.

Squeegee: Wooden or metal handled tool with a rubber blade used to drive ink through a stencil by pulling the squeegee across the screen.


Under base: A thin coating of ink printed first and cured to act as a base for which all other colors are to be printed on. Underbasing is usually required when printing multi-color designs on colored shirts.

Undercure: Term used to describe any print in which the ink did not cure completely. An undercured print will most likely not pass a wash test and wash off when the garment is laundered.


Washout: Applying water to the emulsion coated screen after exposure to light for the purpose of developing the image on the screen.

Water based ink: Non plastisol inks that can be air dried.

Work order: Document used to show all of the necessary information required for the efficient production of an order. We also include a layout on the work order to ensure the production team knows exactly how the finished product should look.

This is just some of the most common terms we use here at our shop. Terms can vary between people and the work place, but we feel like these are some of the more commonly used words. We hope this helped you and you were able to get a better understanding of our vocabulary.