Glass Screen Printing: The Ultimate Guide

Glass screen printing is a technique that enables heat transfer of relatively large opaque images, patterns or prints onto different glass material surfaces.

Ideally, this printing process entails creating a stencil on a fine mesh screen and pushing ink through to form your design imprint on glass surface beneath.

In this guide, you will find all information you need about glass screen printing.

1.  Benefits Of Glass Screen Printing

screen printed glass

screen printed glass

  • Ordinarily, glass screen printing is a popular technique nowadays since it provides vivid colors even on darker glass surfaces.
  • The ink used in the process lies in layers on the glass surface, giving the print a pleasantly tactile quality.
  • This printing technique is also preferred on glass surfaces since it allows printer to reproduce a design multiple times.

You can always use the same stencil to replicate a design as many times as possible.

Hence, you can use the method to create multiple copies of the same glass accessory, making the process quite effective for large batches and custom designs.

  • Glass screen printing allows you to create complex multicolored designs, particularly when using professional equipment.

Of course, the complexity of this process hardly implies there’s a restricted number of colors the printer can use.

However, it allows for more intense coloring than it is possible to attain with digital printing method alone

  • This printing method also allows you to print glass surfaces with cylindrical shapes, such as bottles

For instance, bottles, vials, jars, and flow tubes are among the several glass accessories with cylindrical surfaces you can print using screen printing method.

  • The prints created on glass surfaces using screen printing rarely fade, peel off, wrinkle or stain.

In essence, it means this process gives you highly durable prints, which is important in maintaining the surface.

  • You can get as creative as you desire with glass screen printing, and this is imperative since it expands your artistic limits.
  • It is more cost-effective than many other printing techniques hence allowing you to save a reasonable amount of money, especially in bulk production.

2.  Glass Screen Printing Vs Digital Glass Printing

Glass screen printing and digital glass printing are suitable techniques that yield better results on a specific glass surface or accessory.

screen printed glass

screen printed glass

However, the most suitable option to consider often depends on several variables, such as the following;

  • Quantity of glass items you are printing
  • Stipulated turnaround for printing the order
  • Level of precision and print details required
  • Budget
  • Particular surface finish of the printed glass material
  • Number of colors to print
  • Extend of customization required

Nonetheless, in glass screen printing, colors are applied using a different stencil, each at a time combined to attain the final look.

It is an ideal option for designs that need high vibrancy level, especially when printing on specialty glass products.

Moreover, ink in glass screen printing is relatively thick hence yields brighter colors even on glass products with darker shades.

You can screen print unique glass products because the process is somewhat manual.

glass digital printing

digital screen printing

On the other hand, digital glass printing is a relatively new technique, which entails processing and printing artwork directly on a glass surface.

It does not entail heat transfer; instead, the ink adheres to the surface of a particular glass product or accessory.

Digital glass printing is more suitable for products that require in-depth details but in smaller quantities.

Also, since the process hardly uses screens enables photographic print with more details.

3.  Suitable Inks To Use In Glass Screen Printing

Glass screen printing uses ink, pigment or paint, often pushed through a mesh screen and onto the glass product.

However, there is much more to finding the right ink than selecting a particular color.

You can find a wide variety of specialist inks that can create various effects on finished product.

For example, a printer is likely to use puff inks, texturized inks or glittery inks to create a unique feel or look.

While at it, the printer will also consider the texture of glass surface you are screen printing.

When printing glasses, printers often use a specific type of ink that cannot fade nor wear out, irrespective of the product’s shelf-life.

Even so, plastisol-based ink the considered the most suitable choice for glass screen printing.

It is user-friendly and relatively accurate for Pantone matching colors.

Moreover, the viscosity of this type of ink is much thicker hence creating a more opaque print.

Also, you can always reduce thickness of this ink to enable you to attain the ideal viscosity for your glass product.

4.  Preparing Glass Surface For Screen Printing

Essentially, you can screen print different glass surfaces as long as it undergoes appropriate surface preparation.

However, a glass surface with a closed-cell, matte finish would be ideal since it makes it easy to wipe-off mistakes using thinner.

The surface material of the specific glass material you are screen printing must also be dry and clean.

Ensure you remove all the detergents like grease, oil or any sticky element before beginning the process.

This ensures proper adhesion of the print to the glass surface.

Moreover, the surface should be scratch-free to prevent the print from creating shadows through the ink.

Thus, it is advisable to use a soft cloth moisturized with isopropyl alcohol to clean the surface of the glass material before screen printing.

5.  How Glass Screen Printing Works

Technically, glass screen printing is an involving process and needs attention to detail to attain the desired results.

Here are the aspects surrounding the process of glass screen printing;

  • Creating design – It entails printing the design on a transparent acetate film, which is used to create a stencil.
  • Screen preparation – Ordinarily, the printer needs to select the appropriate type of mesh screen suitable for design stylistics and glass surface texture.

The mesh screen is coated using a light-reactive emulsion that hardens as it develops beneath light.

  • Exposing emulsion – Acetate sheet containing the design is placed on emulsion coated mesh. The light hardens the emulsion to allow any screen parts covered by design to stay in a liquid state.

If you are using more than one color in the design, you will need to use different screens for each color.

Thus, you’ll need to align each screen with precision, in this case, by hand.

  • Create stencil – All uncovered screen areas tend to get hard after a certain time elapses. Any unhardened emulsion at that time is rinsed away.

This forms a clear design imprint on screen for ink to pass through.

  • Drying screen and making touch-ups – Once emulsion is washed off, the screen dries fully the printer makes necessary corrections and touch-ups.
  • Preparing product for printing – The screen is put on the printing press and the product on printing board underneath the screen.
  • Inking and squeegee – Screen is lowered to printing board and ink added to the top.

While at it, a squeegee is used to pull ink across screen’s full length. Hence, the process pushes ink through open areas in a stencil, leading to imprinting of design on the product.

  • Drying and finishing – The printed product passes through a dryer to cure the ink and ensure it creates a smooth finish.

6.  Determining The Most Suitable Glass Screen Printing Machine

When buying a glass screen printing machine, you should look into various fundamental elements such as follows;

  • Flexibility – In this aspect, it implies you need to go for a versatile machine that can print different types of glass surfaces.
  • Dimensions – Go for a sizeable machine that can meet your production demands effectively without necessarily compromising quality.
  • User-friendliness – Ensure the specific equipment you choose is easy to use since this determines effectiveness of the whole process.
  • Budget – Always establish your budget because it makes it easy for you to choose from the available options and get best one.
  • Installation needs – Determine whether it is easy to fix the machine or you’ll require assistance of a technician.

screen printing on glass

screen printing on glass

7.  Common Challenges In Glass Screen Printing

Once in a while, you may encounter a few challenges when screen printing different glass products and accessories.

The notable challenges, nonetheless, include the following;

Sticky prints – Usually occur due to insufficiency preventing the ink from drying on the surface. Hence, you must ensure the ink dries properly.

Prints washing away – Often arise due to improper or incomplete curing. Thus, it is important to ascertain the curing temperatures.

Cracked ink – This also occurs due to incomplete or improper curing. An ideal way of dealing with this trouble is by giving the prints a gentle tug.

Peeling prints – Dealing with this issue requires making sure the ink’s temperature during curing stage.

8.  Main Equipment Used In Glass Screen Printing

Typical glass screen equipment requires a wide range of materials, tools and equipment to attain the best results possible.

Often, the common materials, tools and related elements used during this process include the following;

  • Emulsion – This refers to a mixture of two or more immiscible liquids that consist of a pigment bound in a synthetic resin.
  • Computer device –It is a digital electronic machine often programmed to undertake sequences or arithmetic and operations systematically.

It comes with design software for creating the ideal designs.

  • Printer– It is a peripheral machine for creating persistent graphics or text representation on surface.
  • Stencil – This is a thin sheet of plastic or metal-containing letters or patterns cut out of it.
  • Exposure unit – It is a device designed for exposing mesh of screen.

9.  How Screen Printing Improves Glass Manufacturing And Fabrication

Screen printing enhances manufacturing and fabrication of glass products in various ways, such as the following;

  • Gives new alternatives for short-term molds

All it requires is ensuring you go for the correct surface finish for best results.

  • Customization of consumer products

Nowadays, you can tailor different glass products and accessories using screen printing.

It is vital since it enables the customers to get specific parts that match their respective requirements.

  • Allows prototyping without imminent production

It makes it easy for technicians to come up with different glass prototypes without necessarily seeking attention from manufacturer.

  • Improved production throughput

Glass screen printing is becoming a preferred technique in different manufacturing companies, thus increasing sales.

You can print several glass products relatively fast, which is important in enhancing profit turnover.

10.  Limitations Of Glass Screen Printing

The main shortcomings of glass screen printing include the following;

a) It is an investment which requires a significant initial cost, especially for set up and purchasing the required tools, materials and equipment.

b) In some instances, glass screen printing can be relatively disastrous to the environment. However, several interventions are made to ensure the process is entirely eco-friendly.

c) There are cases where the type of ink you use in glass screen printing makes the design look like it is raised from print material.

d) It is unsuitable for a small project which requires on-demand printing since the process is challenging to set up and inappropriate for a few orders.


In general, glass screen printing is a highly versatile process that enables you to attain the best results for your products and accessories.

It is an ideal choice, especially for bulk orders, since you can always use a stencil as many times as you can.

The most important thing is ensuring you understand the mastering of the process and have all the right tools, materials and equipment in place.

Contact us now for all your glass screen printing.

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