Basic Skills | Make a Silkscreen

If you know me than you know I’m all about printing on fabric. One of my all time favorite methods is silkscreening and once you get the hang of it, it can open up a world of custom possibilities. For me, the most basic and useful technique to making your own screen is by using Screen Filler. As long as you have blank screens on hand, a jar of screen filler, and a couple of paint brushes, you can have a custom screen made up in a matter of hours. I did this tutorial while I was making dishtowels for a friends wedding shower so the design I chose is a bit insane for the method. Usually with something including lettering and with this level of small detail I would highly recommend the photo emulsion route but alas, I came up with the idea too late and with no time to order supplies. When starting out with this technique I suggest a simple design, trust me, it’ll go a lot quicker. If you’re interested in making dish towels as I did, make your screen and print your fabric using this tutorial and then head over to my Linen Dish Towel Tutorial to finish them up.

Have fun and let me know how it all turns out!

Materials:

Tools for Printing:

1. Print out the design the correct way with no mirroring and at the exact size desired for the finished print. Center the image on the underside of a blank screen and tape in place. With a pencil, trace around the image.

Step 1Step 2

2. With the screen filler and paint brushes, carefully begin painting around the image on the underside of the screen. Paint in all the negative space (the parts that are NOT going to be printed) over the entire screen. Let dry.

Step 33. Once dry, give the screen a second coat. Periodically hold the screen up to a strong light source to look for pin holes in the screen filler that can let ink through where it isn’t wanted. Let the second coat dry.

Step 44. Give the screen one last look to make sure there are no pin holes left and that none of the screen filler appears too thin on the screen.

5. Use the block out tape to tape up the back of the dry screen leaving just the area with the image exposed. Use a soft cloth to burnish the tape onto the screen really well so it won’t easily come off.

Step 5

Printing

1. Cover the work area with a drop cloth. Before printing the screen needs to be primed with ink (called “flooding the screen”). Set the screen down on scrap fabric and place a line of ink at the top of the screen with a spoon.

Step 6

2. With one hand hold the screen down firmly (it helps if you have a partner to hold the screen but is certainly possible by yourself) and with the other place the squeegee blade above the ink and drag the ink down over the screen with the squeegee at a 45 degree angle to the screen. Make as many passes as necessary to completely flood the image with ink. Carefully lift the screen up off of the scrap fabric.

3. Begin printing on the final fabric the same way as with the first print but only make 2 passes (adjust as needed based on how your prints are coming out) and keep adding ink as it runs low on the screen.  Lay the prints out to dry and then heat set the ink according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Wash your screen out IMMEDIATELY when you’re finished printing. You do not want the ink to dry in the screen so move somewhat quickly while you’re printing and wash the screen immediately.

Finished printSilkscreening is tricky, there is no question about that, but don’t get discouraged if things aren’t perfect the first time. I’ve been silkscreening for years and I still have off days where nothing seems to turn out right. I can tell you all the steps you need to know but it’s a skill you have to get the feel of and you have to keep trying.

So relax, have fun, and keep going!

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