I learnt to screen print whilst I was at school, during a class that at the time was called ‘Textiles’, abbreviated from ‘textile technology’. This was a show that it was a science and not just a sewing class to ensure you were ready for marriage and your forth coming domestic responsibilities. I write like this was the 50’s, it wasn’t, it was 1999.
The lessons were always a great combination practical skills, creativity and theory. Those lesson helped me understand the structures of materials, the technology and practices of sewing, not to mention the business side too.
I loved textiles and learnt skills there that I have never forgotten, including silk screen printing and the machine skills I used to create a number of homemade pencil case atrocities.
Silk screen printing is easy to master, but also one of those crafts you just have to have a go at and learn from your mistakes. I have an A3 sized silk screen and use it mostly for printing onto fabrics and sometimes canvas.
Your first job is to cut your stencil. You can hand draw your designs or print them off, as long as it’s onto card, for sturdiness. You will see I was being extra resourceful here and used a file divider, I had no papers to file under Nov. Quite month at the office.
You will use your stencil in a sandwich between the fabric and the silk screen.
When printing on tshirts, I always like to put a hard surface inside the shirt just to make your printing surface flat.
Always tape of the area around the stencil, to make sure that you don’t print any extra areas. This is a lesson I learnt the hard way, a young gun on the circuit, thought I had nothing to loose. My own cockiness resulted in a mexican sugar skull hoodie with an additional stripe, just coz.
There are number of paints available for printing. You can by pre mixed fabric paint and use that, but I find it has a limited amount of colours and can be quite pricey. The advantage of these is you know the mix will be right and they have resealable containers.
I like to use a nifty little juice from ‘System 3’. It is called textile medium and means you can mix it with acrylic paint and it will become wash proof. You use 1 part paint to 1 part textile medium and mix throughly. I like this method as I can get the exact colour I want and the medium is great value for how many prints you can get from one pot. Once you have finished you can store your mix in an airtight container to use the left overs- it’s a good idea to date your mixes and after about a month they start to loose their flexibility and are harder to work through the screen.
Now it’s time to get printing.
Lay your screen on top of the of the stencil. Check again that only the fabric you want printed is exposed.
Put a line of paint at the top of your design and now it’s the fun bit. Make sure your screen in steady, I like to work on the floor and kneel on the wooden frame.
Take your squeegee and pull the paint over the screen and across your design.
You might have noticed my squeegee has been replace by a metal paperchase ruler (but don’t fret, a new squeegee is on it’s way)
Make sure all of your design has been coated in paint, don’t be afraid to apply some pressure, keeping your frame firm, this should create a clean result with crisp outline.
Gently lift your frame off, do this slowly as you will be able to see if you’ve missed any bits and can still lay it back down and have another swipe.
Once you’ve lifted the frame of, wash it out immediately, I find the shower is best, but watch out for any paint on the tiles!
Leave the design to dry completely. When printing lighter colours onto darker fabrics, sometimes you need to repeat the process to get a true bold colour.
Knitted fabric, such as t-shirt jersey can sometimes get an uneven effect and look a little blobby- I keep an paint brush on hand just to dab and try and even it up, cottons tend to get a much more even finish.
Once the design has dried iron on the reverse to fix the design. These type of prints, usually last about 20-30 washes before they start to crack, then you get that cool vintage look.
Any pixar fans will surely recognise this design- I knew an awesome monster who wanted to be in the best frat on campus.
Im currently working on some more stencils and will show you a multicoloured design soon.