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

EQUIPMENT

  • 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

METHOD

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.

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.

TIPS

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

Slamseys Sketchbook Challenge. 2

SHADOWS AND SILHOUETTES

As I printmaker I have found that sometimes reducing an image down as simply as you can, can help you to understand they key features of the subject – often these shapes are very striking and really highlight the elements that make the object instantly recognisable. This is particularly useful when using layering techniques to ensure that the design never gets too complicated.

some ideas

Draw simple silhouettes of animals and objects
Layer outlines of objects one on top of the other
Place several objects together and draw the whole shadow
What happens when you look at them again from a different angle

I have decided to work on some ideas I had during my recent trip to Canada. Although I didn’t actually get to see any first hand, there was a lot of moose and bear iconography in shops, galleries and even product packaging. I’ve been wanting to create some of my own designs inspired by my trip, so the Slamseys Sketchbook Challenge is a great excuse to do this!

Slamseys Sketchbook Challenge, shadows, silhouettes and outlines

PRINT IT

I think that these designs will make a really cool screenprinted series. I’ve decided to work on a small scale at first, using an embroidery hoop as the base for my screen. Especially when I am experimenting like this, I really enjoy the flexibility that using the embroidery hoop offers, rather than the larger aluminium screens. It’s also much less wasteful and allows me to quickly repeat the design over and over again. This is a great idea for printing your own gift wrap or even printing on fabric. By using contact paper I can even keep my stencil to use again in future projects without having to re-cut it.

Moose head Screenprinting at Slamseys

I love that with this method of screenprinting you get these unpredictable variations creating interesting effects.

Moosehead variation,

I’m also keen to experiment with the reverse of my stencils, but for this I need to be able to create a clear edge, so I am moving to my larger aluminium framed screens but still keep my printing on quite a small scale.

Aluminium screen ready for printing, with moose

One of my favourite techniques (although not at all seasonal!) is using talcum powder to create a fabulous snowy background. I learnt this when I was completing a printmaking course at Gainsborough House and happily it works on canvas and on paper.

Moose, screenprinted onto paper and fabric, slamseys, essex

For now I am just experimenting with colour, sizing and texture and printing on fabric tote bags as well as papers, but I think this would make a great four-colour print series for our Winter Exhibition at Slamseys.

*  *

Screenprinting is one of my favourite printmaking techniques as it’s so easy to set up at home. For families looking for inspiration for the summer holidays we are running a fun stencil screenprinting workshop aimed at ages 10-14. Keep an eye on our workshops pages for details of our other printmaking workshops.

Thermofax Printing

Thermofax is one of my favourite methods of printmaking. I like it because firstly it’s very quick and very simple, but also because despite this it gives great results.

Butterfly Thermofax printing at Slamseys Art Month, Essex

One day I will own my very own thermofax printing machine, but new machines cost about £1,000 and old machines, although sometimes cheaper, can be a bit of a handful to keep in working order. At the moment I get my screens from a company in Northamptonshire – you can either design your own, or choose from a large selection of their premade screens.

Ammonite Thermofax printing at Slamseys Art Month, Essex

Thermofax works in a similar way to traditional screenprinting, but is effective on even a very small scale. Your design is burnt into fine mesh which allows the ink to move through the screen. Using a lightweight squeegee, you push the ink through the burnt design to produce your print – simple!

Abstract Thermofax printing at Slamseys Art Month, Essex

This morning I have been playing around with my new screens and I can’t wait to start printing some new project ideas – I’m thinking about customising our Slamseys Art aprons, printing some new cushion covers to give my old sofa a new burst of life as well as printing a series of original prints to hang at home.

I love how each one is an original print and you get slight variations in the thickness of the ink. I’ve been using simple black ink this morning, but you can use any colour in your projects.

Thermofax printing at Slamseys, Essex

Learn more about thermofax printing at our Thermofax Screenprinting evening (part of the Slamseys Art Month).