Screen Printing with small screens
It can be a bit daunting to start screen printing at home, deciding which type of frame and the size you need not to mention mesh count, squeegees, clamps, inks and other equipment. If you want to start without too much expense, here are some screen printing tips for beginners to try on a small scale at home.
SETTING UP A PRINTING SPACE AT HOME
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 more information, read our guide to setting up A Home Printmaking Studio Space.
EQUIPMENT FOR SCREEN PRINTING WITH SMALL SCREENS
INKS & PAPER
Choose a screen printing ink with a slow drying time that won’t dry out on your screen, or use acrylic colours mixed with printmaking medium. Sketching paper is good to use for these first experiments.
INKS & FABRIC
Print onto medium weight white cotton fabric using water-based acrylic colours mixed with textile printing medium.
Use a mini squeegee or an old credit card to push the ink through the screen.
MAKE YOUR EMBROIDERY HOOP SCREEN
Embroidery hoop screens are an ideal introduction to screen printing. They’re relatively inexpensive to use and even if you move on to using larger screens you can use your embroidery hoop screen for testing inks and design ideas or embellishing existing designs.
You will need:
EMBROIDERY HOOP SCREEN Cut a circle of net curtain fabric a little larger than your embroidery hoop, lay it between the two parts of the hoop and tighten the hoop, pulling the fabric outwards so that the fabric is held as taut as you can get it.
When you’ve worked out your design, you need to transfer it to your screen. You need to block the areas of the screen that you don’t want to print, so that the ink can be pushed through the untouched areas of the screen.
Cut (or tear) your STENCIL from newsprint, vinyl (contact paper), freezer paper or copy paper and tape to the edge of the flat side of the screen using a little masking tape.
Alternatively you can block areas by painting them with SCREEN BLOCK or EMULSION PAINT (that you paint on the walls in your house). Screen block makes a temporary stencil that can be washed out but emulsion makes a permanent stencil. Mark your design onto the outside (flat side) of the screen with a pencil and paint the areas that you don’t want to print. Leave to dry and apply more coats until you can’t see even a pinhole through the blocked area. Don’t use the screen until the block has completely dried.
Clear your printing space, mix your inks to the desired colour and start printing.
PRINTING WITH AN EMBROIDERY HOOP SCREEN
Make a test print first. Place your screen, stencil side down, onto a piece of paper and spoon a small amount of ink into the screen.
Using your squeegee firmly, and with as few passes as possible, move the ink evenly across the whole of the design.
Lift the hoop to reveal your screen print.
Check the print and if it looks good, start printing onto your chosen paper or fabric. You can use this method to print repeat patterns but avoid placing your screen on the wet design to prevent ghosting.
Once you’ve mastered these small scale screen printing methods and have been bitten by the printmaking bug, you may want to move on to large screen printing.
We run printmaking workshops and courses throughout the year at Slamseys in our beautiful old timber barn where you can learn to print on fabric or paper.