Troublesome Screenprinting

Moosehead variation, screenprintin at slamseys art, essex

Although I think that screenprinting using stencils and embroidery hoops is the best and easiest thing ever, it is all too easy to have imperfect prints. There’s a number of different issues that can arise with screenprinting and I see them all in our printmaking workshops. While I think they often add an interesting abstract quality and reiterate the handmade nature of the print, there are a couple of problem areas that arise that have simple solutions.



Bleeding refers to when your printing ink escapes under the stencil causing a smear or smudge on the print. This can be caused by a couple of different things…

1. Too many passes with the squeegee
A common issue amongst beginners is a need to keep passing squeegee over the print to ensure that the whole image has printed, however once you have pushed ink through once, any more ink has nowhere to go and is likely to spurt out the sides of the stencil.

SOLUTION: Try to only pass the squeegee over the print one or two times, using a confident, but not heavy hand.

2. The printing ink is too runny

SOLUTION: If you are using a mixture of acrylic and screenprinting medium, add more acrylic paint to thicken the ink you are using and use less medium when mixing future colours.

3. The stencil and or screen is not fixed firmly enough

SOLUTION: Make sure the screen is as taut as you can get it by tightening the embroidery hoop and pulling through the screen. If your stencil is gaping, it may be too big for your screen so try using a smaller stencil or a larger hoop. You can also use sticky stencils like contact paper, or use pritstick to temporarily glue the stencil to the screen.


1. Insufficient ink on screen so that there is not enough ink to cover the whole surface of the screen

SOLUTION: Spoon a little more ink onto your screen – there should be a small amount left over after each print.

2. Ink drying in the screen 

SOLUTION: You need to work reasonable quickly with screenprinting to ensure this does not happen. If your inks persistently dries before you have had time to finish your print run, you might need to add more printing medium to slow down the drying process.

3. Blurred edges on the print can be caused by moving the screen on the page whilst printing

SOLUTION: Hold the embroidery hoop firmly with one hand and use the squeegee in the other, do not move the screen while it is on the paper and lift up in one smooth motion.

Remember that your net curtain screens will deteriorate and fray over time. They may also be punctured by unexpected sharp objects on your printing surface (like staples). If you notice that the surface of your screen has holes or that the mesh has become uneven, it is time to replace your screen.

I hope this helps with some common screenprinting issues.

Happy printing!


How To … do Simple Screenprinting

Simple stencil screenprinting, how to, Slamseys Art, Essex

The first of my new five week printmaking short courses began last Friday with Jelly Printing, or gelli printing or monoprinting or whatever the official term is. This week we moved on to basic screenprinting using a variety of stencils with an embroidery hoop.

The greatest thing about working on this small scale is that being lightweight it is a printmaking process that is open to everyone. When running workshops using my big aluminium frames, some people have struggled to apply enough pressure to get a reliable print and have been disheartened that all the time they spent making their stencil has been wasted. By contrast, when using an embroidery hoop it is much easier to push the ink through the screen and if it does all go wrong you can just rip it off and start again knowing that you only spent ten minutes cutting the stencil.

Here’s a brief How To to get you started…

Screenprinting, an introduction, Slamseys, Essex pg

Screenprinting with an Embroidery Hoop


  • A small embroidery hoop
  • A circle of net curtain, cut a little bit larger than your hoop
  • Waterbased screen printing inks (or acrylic mixed with medium – I like Daler Rowney System 3 or Speedball)
  • A plastic spoon
  • An old credit card or lightweight squeegee
  • Craft knife
  • Newsprint, freezer paper, contact paper or copy paper for your stencils
  • Brown tape
  • Copy paper, kraft paper or card to print onto


Prepare your stencil

  • Lay your embroidery hoop on top of your newsprint and trace the inside circle and cut out.
  • Leaving at least a centimetre around the edges, tear or cut out abstract shapes from the middle of the circle. Do not overlap shapes and remember that anywhere there is a hole will be printed.
  • Assemble the embroidery hoop with the net curtain stretched as tight as you can.
  • Attach your circular stencil to the outside of the hoop with brown tape, making sure to tape all around the edges to that no ink can leak out the sides.
  • You can use a craft knife to cut stencils out of freezer paper, contact paper, newsprint, card & various other materials – each will give a different effect

Prepare for printing

  • Mix your inks according to the instructions on the bottle – The consistency must not be too runny otherwise it will cause bleeding of the image.
  • Organise your printing papers into a neat pile so that it is easy to access.

Print your design

  • Lay your embroidery hoop stencil side down on your paper
  • Spoon about a tablespoon of ink onto the screen in a place where the stencil is blocking the screen.
  • Using your credit card, squeegee the ink across the screen, with a confident but not too heavy hand until you have moved the ink across all of the stencil. The squeegee should be held somewhere between a 90 and 45 degree angle
  • You are aiming to make as few passes as possible, while still covering the whole stencil.
  • Lift up your hoop to reveal your print.
  • You can keep printing on the same bit of paper, but just make sure that you don’t put the screen onto any part of your print that is still wet as this will cause ghosting.

Cleaning up

  • When you have enough prints, scrape off any excess ink back into your pot.
  • Peel away your stencil and leave to dry flat, you may be able to reuse it.
  • Loosen the embroidery hoop and wash out the net curtain and squeegee using warm water.

Blue Star Screenprint, at Slamseys Art

Having trouble with your screenprinting? Read my next post on Troublesome Screenprinting.

How To… Find Inspiration

As the summer holidays are shortly to end, I’ve been getting prepared for the next round of workshops coming up at Slamseys. I think of September as the start of the new year and so it seemed a good time to launch our new printmaking short courses. First up we have two five-week printmaking courses where we explore and experiment with different types of printmaking including mono-printing, variations on screen printing, drypoint, lino & more. Getting everything ready has got me thinking about how to encourage new students to come up with ideas for their printmaking projects.

Thornback and Peel Pigeon & Jelly

Last (school) year a lot of my projects had a focus on nature and animals because I was working towards our 2015 summer theme of ‘the natural world’. After months printing owls, leaves, stags & bugs I feel like I’m ready to move onto a new topic. I know that next summer’s arts events will relate somehow to food and kitchens, although nothing firm has been decided yet, but I’m wondering if I can link this idea with my new printmaking projects.

I definitely find it easier to come up with design motifs when I have a broad theme like ‘nature’ or ‘food’ in mind, as it focuses my attention when I find there’s too much to choose from. How you choose your theme is up to you – below are some ideas for searching out inspiration and ideas.

Printing inspired by The Natural World
Printing inspired by The Natural World


  1. Be inspired: Research and visit local galleries and art centres, houses and gardens, to see what exhibitions and events they have on. Use some of the topics explored by those artists to develop your own ideas.
  2. Scrapbook: Flick through magazines and newspapers – tear out anything that stands out to you and put it into a folder. It could be something tiny or the overall idea of something. If you keep all these ideas together you can refer back to them at a later date and see what develops. See if there are any themes that repeat themselves throughout your collection. Make use of free websites like Pinterest – you can pin all of your ideas onto different boards, which is a great way to bookmark websites to visit again, or keep design ideas close at hand. The only downside to this is that you don’t then have a hard copy to work from, so make sure you print out any ideas that you know you’ll want to work from in the future.
  3. Record: When you next go out and about, make sure you take your sketchbook or camera with you to jot down and capture ideas as you go. The drawings and ideas don’t have to be perfect or fully formed – they’re just there to remind you for later projects.
  4. Time: Make sure that you allocate yourself time to develop your ideas – great design ideas don’t happen all by themselves so make sure that you spend time doodling and practising designs. Often once you’ve tested out a few ideas in print you’ll know how you want the design to progress.
  5. Experiment: Finally – don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s unlikely that the first thing you print will be perfect, so play around with the design, experiment with colour, add textures and alternate techniques. Think of each design idea as a project, not as a finished thing.

You might like to work on several different themes at once and may even be surprised at how they can come together. For example designs by Thornback & Peel mixed rabbits with cabbages and pigeons with jelly.

Here’s a few of my favourite print designers to get you started, look on my Pinterest boards for more ideas.

  1. Thornback and Peel
  2. Angie Lewin
  3. Jessica Hogarth
  4. Andrea Lauren
  5. Sally Payne
Angie Lewin Hedgerow Design

Fabric Printing

I’m taking a little break from the Slamseys Sketchbook Challenge this week as I’ve been having too much fun with fabric printing. I’m putting the finishing touches to my lesson plans for the new Fabric Printing 5 Week Course that will be running at Slamseys next year. This of course means that I need to get experimenting, playing with a range of inks, printing techniques and fabrics – and what fun I’ve been having!

Yesterday I packed up my various thermofax screens, lino plates, embroidery hoop screens and jelly plates and took them all over to Granny’s house. My Granny is an expert quilter and has experimented with basically every kind of fabric paint, pens, crayons & more. She also has a wonderful collection of Indian woodblocks from her recent trip to India. I wanted to pick her brain about fabric designs and play with all her stuff!

Earlier in the week I’d created some backgrounds on my fabric scraps – using a mixture of natural inks made from raspberries (although this smelt great, it wasn’t very effective and I’m not sure how it’s going to hold out in the wash), and a watercolour technique with textile inks.

Thermofax fabric printing, Slamseys Art, Essex

At Granny’s I overprinted these with my thermofax screens, layering  the colours on top of each other. I love thermofax screen printing – and on fabric the results are even better than on paper. Basically using a thermal copier, designs are burnt onto the screen which allows the ink to be pushed through the screen and onto the fabric waiting below. The best designs are thin, detailed ones as this process isn’t very effective for big blocks of colour.

I used a mixture of waterbased block printing textile inks and screen printing textile inks. Some fabric inks can feel quite crunchy when they are printed, so I played around with diluting with just a little water and mixing the two different types together. As both were waterbased they mix well together and print nicely on a variety of fabrics. They also have a strong opaque quality, which allowed me to print over the background, keeping clear designs.

The main aim of this session was experimentation and unfortunately I’m firmly in the more is more camp so I think I may have overdone it on my layering. If I was doing it properly I would make some changes – starting with the larger screens and lighter colours, and then building up the strength of the colour at each stage.

Finally, I used some of the woodblocks to add some final embellishments, printing with the block printing ink, which you simply sponge onto the surface of the block.


When printing on fabric you need to check that you have set up your space before you get started. We started by rolling out an old yoga mat to act as a base for our printing – the yoga mat had a slight give underneath the fabric we were printing on, which really improves the quality of the print. Over the top of this it’s a good idea to lay down some newspaper or a pieces of scrap material as some of the prints you make may seep through the fabric onto the surface below.

Apple Natural raspberry dye, Little Bird linocut fabric stamp, Rabbit stencil screen print. Moose Markel Marker stencil
Experimenting: Apple Natural raspberry dye, Little Bird linocut fabric stamp, Rabbit stencil screen print. Moose Markel Marker stencil