Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Low-tech screenprinting

A couple of people were keen to hear more about how I do my screen printing. I have to give a big disclaimer here - I haven't been 'officially' taught to do this. I have read several books and regarded or disregarded this info as it suited me. A serious screen printer would probably be horrified, but it works for me!

I use wooden frames which Phil put together for me. I bought silk screen mesh from Kraft Kolour and stretched it onto the frames, attaching it with tacks from the hardware shop. Paper tape was put around the edge, both on the inside and outside of the frame. You can also by ready-made screens (try Kraft Kolour*).Screen printing works by means of a resist of some form. The paint is squished through the screen wherever there is no resist. I have made my resists in two different way. The first involved Speedball Drawing Fluid and Screen Filler from Jacksons Art Supplies.
With this method, you paint your design onto the outside of the screen with the drawing fluid (for the screen shown further above I put the fluid into a bottle with a small nozzle, which I could draw with like a pen). When the drawing fluid is dry, screen filler is spread over the whole screen with a squeegee. When this is dry, the drawing fluid can be washed out with water, leaving a stencil-type idea on the screen, which can be used over and over again.

I also have a large screen which I leave blank, so that I can use it with paper stencils (the second 'resist' method I use). This is really simply - just cut a stencil from paper, and attach it to the screen with masking tape. With this method you only get one printing session out of the stencil, as it falls apart when you take it off the screen, but it is a nicely cheap way to produce a silk-screened design.The ink I use is Texcraft fabric printing ink from Kraft Kolour. I buy base paint in 4 litre tubs, along with small bottles of pigment, so that I can mix up my own colours as needed. This seemed the most cost-effective way to go - I mix up cupfuls of paint at a time, as seen in these ex-coffee jars. From these I mix up the colour of the day on a plastic plate. I have both a standard base paint, but also an opaque base paint. The opaque paint is great on darker fabrics - you can print white on black if you wish.

As you can see below, my high-tech squeegee is a tile grouter from the hardware shop - way cheaper than an 'official' screen printing squeegee. Maybe not as good, but it does the job for me.
With my screen prepared for printing, I place it on my fabric, plop plenty of paint along one edge of the image, and then smear it all over the design with the squeegee. You need to push down firmly doing this, so that the ink is forced through the fabric mesh onto your fabric or paper.
If you pick up a screen printing book from the library you will soon see that what I do here is very low-tech. I am fascinated with the idea of producing screens by developing them like photos, but am a bit put off by the chemicals (and hence also the cost) involved, so I will stick with these methods for now! Let me know if you have any more questions!
*No, I am not sponsored by Kraft Kolour, they have just given me excellent service and prices for all my dyeing and printing/painting supplies. I always receive my orders very promptly. I'm not sure if they have built up all their stock since the bushfires at the beginning of the year, but do give them a try!

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