I was 7 months pregnant during a record-breaking heat wave when I had an overwhelming urge to take a screen printing class. I felt invigorated and empowered riding the train into center city on the first day of class with big ideas of all the brilliant things I would be creating.
As I confidently swung open the classroom door, I saw a room full of 20 something students dangling from rows of high set stools. The seats were at elbow level and about the diameter of a bread plate. I wondered how I was going to shimmy my very pregnant self way up onto said stool without injuring myself or others.
I made it! Lord help me to not drop my pencil….
Moral of the story: Anyone can make really awesome stuff.
Here’s what you will need:
Drawing Fluid(I use all Speedball Printing Supplies)
Stencil or print-out of design
Screen Printing Frame with 12xx mesh (cost $15-20 and can be found at fine art supply stores and Michael’s just started carrying smaller sized frames)
Screen Printing Ink
Small jars and a small plastic spatula
Grease Lightning or screen cleaner
Here’s what to do:
- Gently trace your design onto the screen using a soft lead pencil. (A hard, pointed pencil could puncture the screen)
- Shake up the bottle of drawing fluid (the blue stuff) and pour a small amount into a paper cup. Using a paint brush, paint over your design. (If using text, be sure to reverse the image) Allow to dry.
- Shake up the Screen blocker. (the orange stuff) Spread a thin layer at the top of the screen. Using a squeegee or a piece of cardboard, quickly swipe the squeegee and fluid across the screen. Try to get a nice, even thin coat.
- Once dry, wash the screen. Rub the blue painted area gently, under running water, with your fingers as it washes away. This is the area that the ink will seep through and paint.
- Now you are ready to print. In a cup, mix your paint with a small amount of water to thin it out. If paint is too thick, it will not only be stiff when applied to the fabric, but it will also clog the holes in the screen. It is better to have a thinner consistency and do several squeegee swipes than to have one big thick coat of ink.
- Using a spoon or spatula, scoop the ink in a line across the top of the screen as in the picture below.
- Using your squeegee, quickly swipe the paint down to the bottom of the screen, covering all of the exposed painted areas. Now, swipe it back up top again. Do this 3-4 times.
- Pull the screen away from the fabric and set it down on the next area to be printed.
You can make up to 30 prints from the same screen, but move quickly, because the paint will start to dry in the screen. If this starts to happen, wash the screen out, let dry, and go for a second round.
This technique of swiping the squeegee is just a matter of practice. It is great fun once you get the hang of it, and you can achieve some really beautiful results while expressing your creativity. If you get stumped, feel free to ask me any questions.
Washing your screen: it is very important to wash your screen immediately after you are done printing. I use grease lightning cleaner, but they sell special screen cleaner for double the price. Wash all the paint out and give it a gentle scrub with a soft bristled brush.