UO DIY: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SCREENPRINTINGApril 1, 2016
For this month’s foray into the world of DIY, we caught up with Make Good Print Co. to find out how to turn a basic tote into a customised record bag holder. Make Good Print walk us through the art of screenprinting, from coating a screen to printing your own designs. Over to you, guys…
Coating your screen
Creating a screen for printing seems like a complex process but the principle is pretty straightforward. Essentially you’re creating a stencil – ink can pass through the ‘open’ areas, and can’t get through the ‘closed’. Take a clean, dry screen and using a coating trough apply a thin layer of emulsion. When you’re done, leave your coated screen somewhere dark whilst the emulsion dries.
When the emulsion is dry it’s time to ‘expose’ your screen. To do this you’ll need a UV light source and an opaque artwork. Take your artwork, sandwich it between your screen and your light source and begin exposing. The areas reached by the light will ‘cure’ whilst the areas blocked out by your artwork will not. The amount of time you expose your screen for will vary depending on your lightsource, your artwork and your emulsion. You’ll need to experiment with this part of the process to get it right.
When you’re done, you will be able to wash your screen using a hose or shower. The areas of emulsion not exposed to light will wash away easily, the areas that have been ‘cured’ during the exposing process won’t budge. Watching the stencil reveal itself is a really fun part of the screenprinting process; it takes time to get right but you’ll know when you do!
There are a variety of different ink types and plenty of ways to mix them. Make Good Print Co. always use waterbased inks because they’re friendly to the environment and easy to work with, but this comes down to personal preference. Mix your colours however you feel most comfortable, and remember it’s better to have too much than not enough.
Once you’ve created your screen and mixed your ink, you can pretty much print onto anything. Use your original artwork to position your screen and if you’re printing multiple copies be sure to mark out the alignment using tape. Now you’re ready to print – with your screen slightly raised pour a generous allowance of ink down creating a strip along one edge. Using your squeegee, gently pass the ink over the screen. This process is called ‘flooding’ and will fill your open stencil with ink. This means you can achieve a good covering of ink with one pass. Once your screen is ‘flooded’, lower it onto your paper or fabric and using more pressure repeat the process. This time you are forcing the ink through the stencil and onto the surface beneath. There is nothing quite like the moment you lift your screen and reveal your print – it’s an instant gratification and once you’ve felt it you will want to print again and again!
The final stage in the process is to ‘cure’ your print. This is only necessary with fabric based prints – curing ensures your print won’t fade or wash away. Applying high temperatures draws out the moisture and helps the ink to set. This can be achieved with an iron, a heat gun or if you have access, a more specialist tunnel dryer. When the ink is set you’re all done – your print will last a lifetime and your screen can be re-used as many times as you want.
Often the most fun part of screenprinting is the learning. There is no right or wrong way, just whatever works for you. There is a really strong community of printers out there and plenty of useful hints and tips to uncover. Every print is unique and the inconsistencies should be embraced as part of the process. Have fun, and happy printing!