Screenprinting, an illustrated guide

Are you:

A. the super procrastinating family disappointment who STILL has not sent out your 2012 Holiday Cards? Maybe not even the ones for 2011? Well, you will soon be the family disappointment no more! Be the talk of the town with your very cute and crafty (but late) seasons greetings – just follow the tutorial below!

B. the ultra go-getter that likes to have all your responsibilities completed AT LEAST 11 months ahead of schedule? Well, then this super awesome and artsy project is for you! Just scroll below to find out more!

C. just a really nice person who happens to be reading this blog? Gee, thanks. It is a pleasure to have you. Look around and be sure to let me know if you have any questions.

Also, A’s, don’t feel too bad about your procrastination.. Life just happens sometimes. For instance, this blog was originally planned to be posted before Christmas, and therefore a bit more relevant. It was also supposed to be with photos, but I unfortunately forgot to pack the supplies on our holiday trip north. So naturally, it has become either a post for the fashionably late or for the overly planned. And an illustrated one at that. Points for uniqueness? Whatever, stop judging me. Here’s a resolution for you, you punk, “be more compassionate and understanding in 2013,” or maybe just “pick on someone my own size.”

TUTORIAL TIME! Let’s make some screen-printed Holiday Cards! Or whatever cards! Or pillows! Title

A FEW DISCLAIMERS AND SUPER EXCITING NOTES

*I will be using handkerchiefs as example for a printing material in these instructions, but keep in mind you can screen-print on basically anything flat, for any reason. What fun?!  Just be sure you have the appropriate ink for the application – paper, fabric, etc. *

* There are a lot of kits out there and they are all different. This is the process I have used in the past for the kit that I own. While the basic steps should be the same, be sure to read through any instructions you receive with any kit or screen/fluids you purchase.*

* About the Photographic Emulsion Method –There are several other screen-printing methods, but the photographic emulsion method provides the most exact image and offers the widest range of possibilities. If you are wanting a result with any fine-line drawings or text/lettering, this is the best method to use.*

SUPPLIES

Printing Screen (for the purposes of this tutorial the front is the recessed side and back is the flat side – see image in [poorly] illustrated guide below)

Sensitizer Fluid

Photo Emulsion Fluid

Your design, printed or drawn on transparency/acetate sheet

Ink

Squeegee

Clear tape or clear glass/Pexiglas

A bat cave or equally dark space away from heat

Office Light or equivalent light source, preferably aluminum plated

Detail Paintbrush

Screen Filler

Printing Materials

Cardboard

Scrap Paper

PROCESS

1. Create or select your design for your wedding invitation, thank you note, tea towel, etc. and print it in black and white on a transparency or acetate sheet. If you are a super fancy artist-type, you can also draw your artwork with a black ink pen. Just be sure that your image is opaque and has very high contrast. Ultimately this design will be transferred to your print screen and the opaque areas will be where the ink is able to pass-through.

Panasonic PDF File2. Prepping your screen.

  •  Take your water resistant masking tape and tape over the edges of the screen where it meets the wood frame, this will keep the emulsion fluid from getting in the cracks between the screen and frame.Tape off edges
  • Take your sensitizer and photo emulsion fluid and follow the specific instructions on the containers to mix. The directions for my kit were to simply empty the sensitizer fluid fully into the emulsion fluid, but depending on the manufacturer, this mix may be slightly different so be sure to check your bottles. Any sensitized emulsion fluid that you don’t end up using can be saved. Store the excess in the refrigerator, it should last about four weeks.Blog Post Sensitized Emulsion Fluid
  • Pour a line of your sensitized emulsion fluid on one end of your screen. Using the squeegee, spread as evenly and thinly as you can. Reapply where necessary to achieve a continuous and even coating. Repeat on the other side of the screen. Clear away any spills.Emulsion Fluid
  • Place a thumbtack in each corner of the back side of the screen. Lay down some old newspaper in your bat cave/dark room and place the screen horizontal, bottom side down with thumbtacks supporting as feet. Ensure this area is AWAY FROM HEAT OR LIGHT. Allow the screen to completely dry and keep in the dark room, AWAY FROM HEAT OR LIGHT until you are ready to create your image on the screen. To help decrease the time needed for the screen to dry you can use a fan, but to be safe I simply left mine in my dark room overnight. Front and Back

Thumbtacksdark room3. Setup your light source. While your light setup doesn’t have to be in a dark room, KEEP YOUR SCREEN IN THE DARK ROOM AWAY FROM LIGHT AND HEAT WHILE PREPPING YOUR LIGHT. There is a lot of information out there on the right light source and exposure time. I will admit, I followed them kind of loosely but I still got a great result. I am going to share with you what worked for me, but if you are at all concerned about your setup, take some time to do some extra research on your lighting. I used a 150-Watt, Clear Incandescent Bulb in a clip on aluminum office light. It is highly recommended that you use a light with an aluminum pie plate reflector. My screen was 12” x 18” so I placed my light at 15” away from my screen. If you have a smaller screen, place your light a couple inches closer and the reverse for a larger screen.

4. Prepping artwork on your screen. Using clear tape, attach the edges of your transparency/acetate image to your screen with the artwork aligned just as you would like to have them appear on your printed area. I used tape and had no trouble, but if you happen to have a large enough piece of clear glass or Plexiglas, this is actually a preferred method to hold you image in place on your screen. Once everything is appropriately placed and laying flat against the fabric, you are ready to expose the screen using your light source.adding artwork

5. Exposure. Exposure time can be especially important and specific. Always look to any instructions you received with your screen/fluids first. Again, this is the timing I used, but with this being the most sensitive step in the process, I would highly encourage double checking this for your screen and your setup. For me, I had a 12” x 18” screen with my 150-Watt light setup at 15” above my image so I exposed my image to the light for one hour and 15 minutes. This amount of time was what my instruction booklet directed me to do and it worked perfectly. I am not sure what would happened if you had it exposed too long, but if you don’t have it exposed for long enough you will not have a crisp image and you may lose a lot of emulsion fluid in your rinsing step that you didn’t intend to.

Light Setup

6. Rinse the screen. Using lukewarm water (not HOT, or COLD) apply a somewhat forceful stream or spray of water to both sides of your screen. I used the hose attached to my sink, but if you don’t have a hose attachment the pressure of the faucet should be sufficient. You should start to see that the opaque design of your image beginning to appear as unwanted emulsion washes away. Once your image appears crisply on the screen and the water seems to be running clear with no remaining emulsion fluid, lay your screen horizontally and let dry completely.Rinsing

7. Corrections. If any emulsion was washed away where it was not meant to, you can use a small paintbrush and the screen filler fluid, that most kits come with, to correct and fill these “open” areas. If you add any screen filler, let it dry completely before proceeding.Corrections

8. Printing! This is actually the easiest part, all the hard work is done – way to go YOU!

  • I planned to make 100-150 prints with my last screen-printing venture, so I first cleared my workspace of clutter and any animals/people that could have disturbed my creative process or the drying of my printed materials (in this example, handkerchiefs.) On my work table I laid a large piece of cardboard for my base which I then topped with a sheet of scrap paper. I then took my first handkerchief and placed it on my setup. Because I wanted my image to show up right in the center of my handkerchief, I marked on the piece of cardboard where center was so I knew where to place the two points of the square handkerchief and put a pencil mark on my screen so I could be sure to line it up each time.
  • Placing the bottom edge of the screen on the base of the cardboard, I held the screen at about a 60 degree angle from my body. Using my other hand I used a palette knife to grab some ink and spread it at the top of the screen. Using the squeegee I then, with very little pressure as to not have the ink pass through the screen, spread a even amount of ink on the screen, enough to cover my image.
  • Lining up the screen with my marks on the cardboard, I gently placed my screen on top of my first handkerchief. Then, taking my squeegee in both hands, holding it at about a 45 degree angle from the screen, I applied even and steady pressure as I pulled the squeegee towards me. Because I had a very thin text, I found that running the squeegee over the screen a second time, while it worked occasionally to make a darker image, mostly just got off ever-so-slightly, creating a blurry product. Now you can lift your screen and check out your end result! It did take me one or two tries before I got the process down perfectly. A smarter person than I would have started with paper, practicing there before jumping to my fabric, but eh whatevs. I replaced or flipped the paper underneath my handkerchiefs every other go and usually could go two or three handkerchiefs before reapplying the ink as I would start with a pretty generous amount.PrintingBlog Post Final

Other fun facts –

** If you have several different inks/colors you can do multiple layers on your prints, just be sure the surface is dry before every new application.

** As long as you have photo emulsion remover, you can clean and re-use the screen as many times as you would like.

And with that, YOU DID IT! Look at you, you superstar.

I understand this a bit wordy, but there is still a lot I probably forgot to mention– if you have any questions just leave a comment and I will absolutely do my best to answer, or when appropriate, update the post.

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3 thoughts on “Screenprinting, an illustrated guide

  1. Pingback: A bit more about SCREENPRINTING | Settling Sideways

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