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.

TROUBLESHOOTING

BLEEDING

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.

PATCHY OR UNEVEN PRINT SURFACE

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!