Screen Printing for Beginners

Screenprinted bag with bees and honeycomb with text Screenprinting tips for beginners

Screen printing favours bold designs with big blocks of colours, that are applied in layers to build your design. These guidance notes are for screen printing with stencils, which makes it easy to print at home. If you haven’t tried screen printing before, you might prefer to start with a small screen that you can easily make yourself, before committing yourself to buying large screens. You can find instructions for making and using a small screen in Screen Printing with Small Screens.

It’s important to have plenty of space to work when printmaking with areas for preparation, printing, storage and drying. When screen printing, you should have access to a sink for washing out ink from your screens and squeegees. For tips and ideas for setting up your workspace read A Home Printmaking Studio.

You’ll need a wooden or aluminium framed screen with a mesh count of 43T or 77T, clamps to fix your screen in place on your workbench, a squeegee that is wider than your design by at least 5cms, a sheet of acetate, inks and paper or fabric. We recommend Wicked Printing Stuff for screen printing supplies.

Cutting out a stencil for screen printing

Pick a design that uses two colours, separate the colour layers and cut a stencil for each layer. Print dark colours over light colours for the most dramatic effect and consider using a ‘solid’ or ‘supercover’ ink for your second layer. For your first try at screen printing, use a design where it won’t matter too much if your layers don’t quite match up.

Fix your first stencil to the screen, leaving space at either end for your ink well. Use newsprint to cover any other exposed areas of the screen so that no ink can leak out.

Clamp your screen in place and tape your acetate to the workbench under the screen. Your first print onto acetate will be your registration guide.

Spoon out a well of ink across the top of your screen, covering the width of your design. Place your squeegee behind the ink well and pull towards you, you may need to do two passes to completely print the image.

Registration for screen printing

Slightly lift the screen and use the squeegee to flood the ink back across the screen, before fully lifting the screen to reveal your print on the acetate.

Making a two colour screen print of leaves and berries

Lay your printing paper under the acetate, making sure it’s in the correct position, flip the acetate out of the way and make another print. Repeat until you have the required number of prints.

Once finished remove your stencil and wash out the screen with water to prevent screen blocking. When the first colour is dry you can repeat the process to complete your design.

We run printmaking workshops and courses throughout the year at Slamseys and these notes are designed for our students as a reminder of the techniques covered in the Screen Printing courses.

Find a printmaking course HERE