Screen Printing Tips From ScreenStretch Clients
At ScreenStretch, we love seeing the end results that our many satisfied clients enjoy when using our products. As well as seeing some of the excellent finished designs, we like to see and share the process. Screen printing is accessible, affordable, and offers a creative outlet. It brings communities together, while enabling people of all ages to have a go at printing posters, clothing, textiles, and more. Share your creations with us on Instagram @screenstretch.
Here are some tips curated from our followers, to hopefully help you improve or optimise your screen printing results. If you think we’ve missed anything, let us know, send us details, and we will try to incorporate your input into a future post.
Design is everything. Not only does this mean creating something appealing, but it must be a clean and clutter free design. Too fine a detail means that ink bleeding out of the template will ruin the finished design. Try to make sure that you use simple shapes and that negative spaces are not too small or detailed.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but always be prepared to hold your hand up and rework a design to ensure that you get the best results. Instagram user @helenrawlinson created a great looking design template, but the negative space between the trees and sun was too thin, causing a space that was too busy for the screen printing technique. Back to the drawing board, and we’re eager to see the edited version.
Fixed system screens or self-tensioning systems, wooden or aluminium frames, mesh made from traditional silk or less expensive polyester fibre; there are a lot of choices when it comes to buying a screen printing frame, and a lot of the decision of which screen to buy will come down to personal preference, but it is important to use good quality frames.
It is possible to re-cover your own frames, or you can use the Screenstretch professional frame re-covering service to ensure the best possible results without having to buy new frames for every design, but the most important factor is that the screens are good quality, sturdy, and do not have blank areas.
@SheffieldPrintClub run regular workshops, ranging from beginner to more advanced screen printing techniques, and they have a regular requirement for high quality screen printing frames.
Ensure The Quality Of Your Emulsion
Emulsion creates a frame around the image that you’re printing, and it creates the negative space around and within your template design. Emulsion is photosensitive, which means that it reacts to light. Once the emulsion is applied, it is left to dry. The template of your design is placed on the screen, and the whole thing is exposed to light. The light causes the emulsion to harden onto the mesh screen, except where your image template blocks the light.
Once the screen has been exposed, spray it with water to remove the emulsion under the template but leave it on the rest of the screen, creating your templated screen that is ready for use.
Poor quality emulsion will not react to light as expected. It also means that you will need to coat the mesh with more emulsion, when the aim is to get as thin a layer as possible.
No matter how high a quality of emulsion you use, if it isn’t kept in the right conditions, another problem experienced by @helenrawlinson, its quality will degrade. It won’t react to light the way it should, and it can negatively impact the finished image. Get good quality emulsion and follow instructions on the bottle to preserve it for as long as possible, to save having to buy brand new emulsion every time.
Mix Your Emulsion
A lot of screen printing emulsion, especially the Diazo emulsions, come with separate emulsion and photosensitizer. The two need mixing together before they can be used, but they are the most affordable emulsion, making them a very popular choice. Once the two ingredients are mixed, the emulsion should last for a few months when kept in the right conditions. The emulsion and the Diazo photosensitizer are measured to give the best possible results. Even if you only plan on using a portion of the emulsion, you should mix the full amount and store what’s left.
Always follow the instructions on the bottle, including leaving the mixed ink for the allotted time, usually an hour. Leaving the ink allows it to settle so that any bubbles and impurities disappear. @one69a, which offers educational workshops and courses on screen printing, shared an image of mixed emulsion that is being left to settle, and while it is an important step, the ink looks incredible during the settling process.
Regulate Dye Levels
Whatever dye and ink you use, ink cost will be one of the highest costs associated with your screen printing efforts. One way of minimising this cost is optimising your ink usage. You need to ensure that you get reasonable coverage so that your logo or design prints properly but using too much ink is not only cost ineffective, it can also ruin the finished result.
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Screen printing is a very efficient way of regulating the amount of dye printed onto fabric. Here the heavy weight linen that my fern cushions are printed on, has 6 pulls back and forth with the squeegee for the fern green, but only 4 pulls for the finer outline. Unlike a printmaking squeegee which is square ended, a textile squeegee is rounded to enable more dye to be pushed through the screen and into the fibre. The textile dyes used for these cushions are Procion dyes, valued in the textile industry for their high wash and light fastness on cellulose fibres. Once the linen is printed and dried, it’s steamed to fix the dye and then washed. The dyes and craft skills I use for printing all my textiles, ensure that my products are robust, have the soft handle of the linen, are fit for purpose & will last for many years. . . #textiledyes #madetolast #slowmovement #hamdprintedtextiles #thecraftofprintedtextiles #ferns #ferncushion #craftswoman #cushion #pillow #holeandcorner #makersmovement #textilecraft #camberwellschoolofartandcrafts #devonguildofcraftsmen
The optimum amount of ink you need to use depends on a number of factors including the quality of the dye, colour of the substrate and ink being used, your screen printing experience and, according to @sampickard_textiles it also depends on the material that you are printing on, while finer lines require fewer passes than block colours. Practice really does make perfect, and you will hone your screen printing skills, with every successful and every failed printed product you make.
Sampickard_textiles also reminds us of the importance of using the right tools and equipment, deploying a round ended textile squeegee, and specialist Procion dyes that have been designed specifically for use on textiles.
We’ve all heard tales of people using the oven, hairdryers, and other warming devices to help cure their finished screen print. The drying process is relatively labour free, but it takes time; longer, in fact, than creating your next silk screening masterpiece, which leaves a backlog, unless you slow down production or speed up the drying process.
Unfortunately, however, there aren’t really any shortcuts to the process. Home remedies tend to lead to poor results, at best, and we would never advise putting your screen prints in an oven or microwave – it’s dangerous. Really! Don’t try it at home.
If you only print a few t shirts or cushion covers a week, leaving them to dry naturally shouldn’t be a problem. If you conduct regular print runs, though, you can create a drying rack, which enables you to dry multiple items in a relatively small amount of space.
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The Kiss. Next step after the vacuum table, after pulling a fresh print it needs to be left to dry on the rack. @larricartpaul here for the #rpaf #instatakeover look out for this new limited edition hand pulled silkscreen print on my stand 31 at the fair. … #serigraphie #screenprinting #handmade #meettheartist #inmystudio #limitededition #printmaking #londonart #artfair #vintageinspiration #isthislove #johnpurcellpaper #buyart #madeinlondon #artistoninstagram #meetthemaker #artprocess #behindthescenes #printprocess #screenstretch #thekiss #kissing #turquoise #patterns #love #printisnotdead
@royspeopleartfair is an artist-run art fair in London, connecting buyers directly to the artists responsible for creating the work. They regularly create screen prints so have a need for volume drying and use a drying rack in their efforts.
Flash drying applies heat from infrared or quartz bulbs to speed up the drying process. When buying a flash cure unit, do ensure that you check the style of heating that is used and whether it is applicable to the type of printing you conduct. Some units utilise quartz bulbs that are designed specifically for use with white inks, for example. When using any flash cure unit, don’t try heating too hot or too quickly. If you heat the ink too much, it can lead to cracking of the ink.
As well as offering a screen printing t-shirt, @squeegee_and_ink offers bespoke printing services, including screen printing t shirts. In this video, you can see them quickly applying heat from a curing unit that will reduce the time it takes for the colours to dry and optimising the time it takes to fully print a garment.
We love seeing how our customers use the products we sell, and especially love to see the finished items. Follow us on Instagram @screenstretch and share your photos, videos, any tips, and other screen printing information you have.