Monday, June 6, 2016

Silk Screening SUPER Simplified

"Design On-the-Fly" Silk Screen Tools

Okay, so we don't normally have silk screen emergencies, but play along with me here. This is one of the most fun posts I've done in a while.

All through June I'm playing with methods of printing, and friends keep asking me, "When are you silk screening?" I had intended to do this toward the end of the project, but because I thought it was one of the more expensive, and technically involved methods. But when I got such fun results from using a lowly spud in the first posts, here and here, I thought, "How can I super simplify this so it's accessible to nearly everyone? How do I take away the dark mystery of silk screening?" 

Are You Ready?

My frame was a wooden embroidery hoop, and not of the best quality--what I'd call very basic. I rummaged through old fabric for some sheer polyester or nylon I'd bought 15 years ago to make curtains, and later decided against. I can't tell you how many threads per inch or any details. It's sheer curtain fabric. 

*Nota Bene: Silk screen fabric comes in different thread counts. I've seen 80-200 dpi (dots per inch) with 110 being fairly common to find in stores or in ready made screens. Higher dpi's are used for printing on silk or very smooth surfaces for fine detail, and lower dpi's for rougher textures where more paint would need to be used to cover and fill it in.

I tightened it in the hoop as well as possibly without stripping the screw, and started laying strips of 2" masking tape around the perimeter.

*The off brand masking tape I bought was $2 for a large roll, made in the USA, whereas the name brand was over $4. I was skeptical, but this tape works much better than the 3M blue tape I'd been using. I purchased it at our local Pat Catan's.

Don't laugh because it's not pretty. This was a quick business. Four pieces of tape covered it leaving an off kilter square. Make sure the tape runs up against the sides of the wooden hoop, and there's no reason to trim it.

Now flip it over, and line up the tape to match the outline of the 'window' you created. Smooth it together, sandwiching the sheer fabric between the tape. Ideally, one tapes a screen the day ahead, but mine was just minutes before.


My creative juices were not yet flowing as I focused on the technical stuff. I needed a stencil for this screen so I resorted to a simple snowflake cut from cheap printer paper from my recycled paper stack. When I unfolded the snowflake, I ran a dry iron over it to smooth it flat again.

The water-based paint, Plaid Simply Screen, was in my stash. Screen paint is available in most craft stores, and here I would recommend getting screen paint. This type paint is made to stay workable slightly longer, and the right viscosity to go through a screen. An old hotel key was handy, and I though it would work. You'll see I needed to remedy that.

To make a test print, I placed scrap paper on a hard table surface, and the snowflake cutout on top.

I centered my make-do screen on top of the snowflake. The flat part of the screen should be down, and you should be looking into what would be the backside of an embroidery piece. 

Experienced silk screeners will tell you right now that my stencil was too big for the small opening. I knew, but for the sake of our experiment I still tried it. Ideally, you should have more space between the outer edge of your stencil, and the edge of the tape on your screen.

To prime your screen: Lay a healthy line of paint across the bottom edge of the screen in order to prime your screen. Use the long edge of your card or your implement to move the paint to the top, and then back down to the bottom. You should be able to cover the entire stencil with the width of your tool.

(I also realized at this point why silk screens are all rectangles. A flat squeegee with a rubber edge is the chosen tool to drag paint across a screen. Normally you use an angle of about 45 degrees, and both hands for even pressure. Depending on the material you're printing on, you might make 1-2 passes, up and back, more or less. While the room card would have worked well for a smaller stencil, I had to make two passes to entirely cover the design, and get it to print. I had to scramble again!)

 I looked closely at my test print on paper, and it wasn't stellar. I wasn't sure if it was because the stencil was fresh, I was using fabric paint on paper, or too thin of computer paper as a stencil. I pressed on. 

This embossing template/stencil was handy, and I had just purchased it on clearance. The whole package was fairly stiff, but yet I could flex it. I had a squeegee!

Would you believe it made a clean print on my practice muslin? Woohoo! Time to print while the paint was still wet.

Here's the view from underneath the screen as it laid against the fabric. You can see where it picked up some paint as it touched another wet portion of the print. I was using purple on purple so one wouldn't notice if there was a little ghost print, but you would want to be more careful on a light color.

Nah...but great considering the wild process!

Would I use this process again? In a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, a smaller motif with little hearts are next on my list for another day. It's cheap, it's handy, and it's done. Nothing stopped me from having a quick printing thrill, and from you enjoying the ride.

Now think of a nice Speedball Fabric Printing Kit from Dick Blick.  A nice frame with 90 degree corners, a regulation squeegee, paints, etc. If you don't want to dream up your own set up, you can get one ready for you.

Parts of it are hard science, but there are places we can push the envelope if we don't have a purchased set up. The process is closely the same, but, of course, there are many more details to make your printing professional. 

May I also suggest Creativebug as a wonderful source of videos and classes to help you get started. There's nothing quite like watching someone who prints professionally to teach you. I prefer this to taking a live class because I can watch them over and over until I've gotten the hang of it. Creativebug is an excellent visual resource for learning printing of all sorts.

Did you realize just ONE subscription gives you every class?
Drawing, painting, knitting, sewing, crafting, holiday ideas, a section just for kids--all available when you are. I do my best work from my arm chair at 4:30 a.m. Give their test trial a go, and get a class to keep for free!

And if you've hung in with me through this crazy post, I promise to have some more regulation silk screen printing here tomorrow.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Be brave, and try something NEW!

Don't forget to sign up your own #BraveQuilter 

challenge for June.


Cut&Alter said...

So lovely to see that it can be done with things you have to hand. I have wanted to screen print for years but have always been put off by the expense and 'formality' of it all. I love how you have showed it is accessible - I can see myself trying something similar with the girls this summer. Thanks for sharing your process.

evaj said...

Tack Julie för din länkning och inspiration du ger oss på Visa och Berätta måndag!! Kram Bambi

Julie Bagamary said...

Thanks for the simple version. Definitely worth a try.

Julie Bagamary said...

Thanks for the simple version. Definitely worth a try.

Julie said...

The only element you have to consider is keeping the screen fabric taut enough to not distort the image as it's being printed. I've also considered using a snap lock embroidery/quilting frame, but am not sure I could keep the fabric tight enough.

Watch for another blog post soon where I'll show you how to use the frames from inexpensive prestretched canvas, and convert to a silk screen. It's working great right now, and definitely a less expensive, though more conventional approach.

Julie said...

You are so welcome, Bambi. Varsagod.

Julie said...

Julie, I almost didn't publish this thinking some might see it as a debacle. OTOH, super simple things help me visualize what's going on. If I can isolate the process from the tools--I'd never used a silk screen, but knew about embroidery hoops, the room card for the squeegee, etc., it sticks in my mind better. And for on the cheap with kids, it's quick and cool!

Stitchin At Home said...

Julie you are having way too much fun and making it simple enough for anyone who wants to give it a go.

Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts said...

I agree - you are having WAY too much fun!! It's like finger painting for adults. :) Looking forward to more of these posts.

Kate said...

How fun to figure out a fun and easy way to do the screen printing without a huge investment in materials. I really like the purple on purple print.

beth s said...

Looks like FUN!