Screen printing is a magical thrilling process in which you can create original designs and print endlessly to create your very own textiles. I thought I'd share my love of screen printing here, and break it down so anyone can try this at home (where I do all my printing!)
The first thing you will need is a screen printing frame to work with. I made another tutorial
on how to build your own, but if you don't want to do that, you can always buy one pre-made from websites like dickblick.com.
Once you've gotten a frame for printing you need to start thinking about what sort of image you want to print. There are many ways you can go about applying an image to your frame for screen printing and I'm going to concentrate on one of the techniques I use the most: drawing fluid/screen filler. This particular application method is great for getting painterly effects, precise drawings, and gives you a lot of control in how your image looks as you draw it as you can make adjustments as you go.
In this tutorial I'm going to break it down into 3 different processes: applying the drawing fluid, applying the screen filler, and then the fun part, printing!
To apply the drawing fluid you will need:
-Screen printing frame
-Image you want to transfer
This should actually be prepared at least a day before you're actually ready to print.
Step 1: Find/draw/create an image you want to print. For this method thin lines and intricate detail are not impossible but are difficult to achieve so keep that in mind.
Step 2: Tape the image loosely to the recessed side of the frame so that you can see it through the screen.
Step 3: Using a paint brush (smaller brushes mean finer lines, bigger brushes mean more coverage) transfer your image to your screen with the drawing fluid. Be careful not to put too much drawing fluid on the screen at one time, it will pool and create thick gloppy areas that we do not want!
Step 4: Remove the taped image and check the image on your screen by holding it up to a light source to find any small areas that need another layer of drawing fluid to ensure you've thoroughly filled it in.
Step 5: Wash your paint brush(es) and let the drawing fluid dry thoroughly, at least 3 to 4 hours. It might take less if you have less fluid to dry.
OK now you're ready to move onto applying the screen filler. This part is tricky and takes some practice to get down so don't be discouraged if it takes you a few tries to get the hang of it.
-Screen printing frame with drawing fluid thoroughly dried
-A squeegee or stiff piece of cardboard that is as wide as your frame
-A stipple brush or stiff brush
-Sponge and sink (sorry, not pictured)
Step 1: Lay down newspaper or something to protect your working surface
Step 2: Place your screen down, flat side up.
Step 3: Get your screen filler and shake well.
Step 4: Open the bottle and carefully pour onto one side. Don't be stingey! If you don't have enough filler it won't spread smoothly and then all your work will be ruined and you'll have to start over. However, don't pour so much that it's dripping over the edge. Practice will help to master this delicate balance. (Worse case scenario: You make a horrible mess and it doesn't spread nicely, run it to a sink and wash it out quickly. You'll have to do the drawing fluid steps over again but it beats having to either buy screen cleaner or replace the mesh completely).
Step 5: Taking your squeegee (or in this case a piece of folded cereal cardboard - I find it easier to use for spreading screen filler), gently but quickly pull the filler to cover the entire screen. (My apologies, in the photos above, I had an impossible time trying to get an action shot). You'll know you've done it correctly when the drawing fluid can be seen easily and all other surface is covered by the filler. Any excess filler can be returned back to the bottle if possible or washed with a wet sponge. BE VERY CAREFUL when you're cleaning up the frame that no stray water drops hit your frame until the screen filler is dry it will be marred by water.
Step 6: Let the frame dry again thoroughly this time overnight would be best.
Step 7: Once the frame is dry, take it to the sink and run cold water on your frame. The drawing fluid is water soluble and will dissolve in the water, leaving you an excellent durable stencil to print with! If you have a little bit of trouble with screen filler blocking areas that had drawing fluid in it, try scrubbing with a rough paint brush or stipple brush.
Now you're ready to start printing!
You will need:
-Prepared screen printing frame
-Squeegee (doesn't have to be fancy or elaborate, I bought mine relatively cheaply off Amazon)
-Screenprinting inks (water based is easiest to work with Speedball brand is easily found in craft stores, or dharmatrading.com, or dickblick.com)
-Spoons, spatula, non-food-eating containers
-Clear contact paper
-Towel (one that you don't mind staining)
-Blow dryer (optional)
-Cloth covered printing surface (for example I use a piece of plexiglass covered with scrap fabric)
-Fabric to be printed (follow the directions on your screen printing ink, typically 100% cotton works best)
Before starting: Prepare your work surface. Take your piece of scrap fabric and tape it securely to the surface of where you will be working. This serves to absorb any excess ink that will bleed through your fabric. I use a piece of plexiglass that I've taped a large piece of fabric to as an example. YOU DO NOT WANT TO PRINT DIRECTLY ONTO A TABLE OR FLOOR! IT WILL BLEED THROUGH AND STAIN!
Step 1: Lay out the fabric you are going to print on. If this is an item of clothing make sure that you have something sandwiched in between like cardboard to prevent bleeding on the back side of the clothes.
Step 2: If there is any other open areas on your screen besides the image you will be printing (as my screen does) cover the open areas with contact paper to ensure that ink will not print anywhere but through the image you have created. It is also a good idea to put contact paper or masking tape around the edges where the screen filler meets with the duct tape edges as bleeding can sometimes happen there as well. Flip the screen over so that the flat side of the screen is on the table and rub the recessed side of the screen with your hand vigorously. This creates heat which will help the contact paper bond even more with the screen.
Step 3: Figure out where you are going to be printing and lay the frame down.
Step 4: Spoon a liberal amount of ink onto the duct tape area at the top of your frame.
Step 5: Place your squeegee at the top making sure to dab it in the ink first, and pull down firmly and smoothly to the bottom of the frame.
Step 6: Gently lift the frame. The fabric may cling to the frame so gently peel it away. Voila! You've printed. If you want to continue printing, either use your hair dryer to blow dry the first print so that you can keep printing without worry that it'll smear, or be mindful that as you continue printing, your frame doesn't overlap the wet ink causing it to smear.
Step 7: Once you're done printing in the color of your choice, clean the frame right away! (Hint: It's best to work close to a working sink if at all possible) Do not let the ink dry on your frame because that will quickly ruin it. You should be able to leave the contact paper on the frame while washing, but be gentle. It needs to dry again to properly adhere for printing. You can speed up the drying time by blow drying the screen.
Step 8: Pick your next color and print some more!
When you are all done make sure to clean your screens thoroughly so no ink remains on the mesh, and keep all of your leftover inks in air-tight containers such as Tupperware.
Finishing tips: Most screen printing inks need to be heat set, so make sure after the ink has dried to iron your image on the no steam setting for a couple of minutes before washing.
Here are some examples of things I have screen printed using the drawing fluid/screen filler method!