Wednesday, 22 July 2009

No-fuss printing

A quick way to 'screen print' in a small space without a silkscreen. It's stenciling, really, but then so is screen printing, if you think about it.

You'll need a flat surface for the (fabric silkscreen) ink and a credit card. Yes, credit cards can be useful!

A stencil. Mine is cut from acetate; thickish paper would also work, but won't last as long. This stencil is a cross shape because it's also a nifty registration device. If I line it up just so, the prints end up neatly arranged in a geometric pattern. (Smug, me?) The design needs to be small enough for you to hold down with one hand.

Hold the stencil down firmly, and scoop up some ink with the credit card. Scoop generously!

Pull the ink lightly across the stencil (keep holding the stencil down - I let go to take the pic). Don't press too hard, otherwise the stencil will move, or ink will bleed under it. You can swipe across it a few times to cover it properly, adding more ink each time. Because it's not covered by a silk screen, you can see whether you need to add more ink - phew!


Perfectly printed. Peel the stencil off carefully.


I did some 'proper' screen printing today too, and .... I just don't know what I'm doing wrong. Apart from not having an expensive squeegee and clamps to hold the screen. I do love this design, and it sells well, but printing it is a nightmare. Perhaps it's simply too big? I printed 8 prints to get 4 good ones, and while I'm the kind of person who'll painstakingly touch up a print with a paintbrush, I know that isn't cost-effective. With block printing I get variations in the print, but they're all good prints. With silk screening, there's just good prints and bad prints, nothing that could pass for 'interesting variation'.

Another concern is the amount of water needed for clean up, and the amount of ink wasted. The ink that stays behind on the screen ends up being washed down the drain, along with enough water to keep a small garden going for a few days. Is there a more practical way to clean up?

Perhaps silk screening really does only make sense for large quantities?

39 comments:

patricia said...

No practical advice here because I've never done any silk screening (something I plan to change soon), but I love the design. The use of the credit card for a small design is genius!

Chigger Hill Cottage said...

Wonderful!

darkpigraph said...

wow, i must say, extremely resourceful of you to make it work. After years of screenprinting i've developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with the medium and i'll concur that, yes, it may seem wasteful and is probably best suited for longer runs - the amount of setup that you need to do is only really worthwhile if you can get a lot out of it. But you really seem to have sidestepped a lot o the headaches! Credit card! Genius! :D

Cristina said...

Only one word
FANTASTIC!!!!
Thank you for sharing a easy way to print, maybe i will try...

daisy janie said...

me oh my - that is all sorts of incredible and clever! can't wait to try it out. no screenprinting advice, but I can totally see how that teatowel design would *not* lend itself to imperfections...lots of fine detail.

Rachel@oneprettything.com said...

The result is really beautiful and I love how easy it is! Very inspiring, I'll be linking.

L'Atelier said...

no advise for silkscreens- i have never done one, been dreaming of it for ages though.
love your tutorial, is used to use phone cards as a mini squeechy. love your very clever line up methode...

Marisa said...

Very clever! I've been really wanting to do some screen printing for a while now, but have been deterred by the space and preparation it needs and the mess it makes. Now I'm thinking: Start small and simple. Thanks, great idea :)

Heather Moore said...

Beautifully done!

I agree with you about screenprinting. You make so many mucky prints that it's only when you've done lots that the good one outweigh the bad - unless you're very, very good. And the cleaning up etc is a pain.

Anja said...

I don't know if this is helpful, but here it is anyways. I think if you are using a stencil in screenprinting you might want to try using freezer paper (perhaps you know about freezer paper already? here is a tutorial:http://www.neitherhipnorfunky.com/?p=106)It is thinner than acetate and can last longer than paper stencils. There are also special sticky films for this purpose, but for short runs you can also use plain paper. These books might be helpful too:http://www.amazon.com/Lotta-Prints-Anything-Potatoes-Linoleum/dp/081186037X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248288623&sr=8-1 and http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Printmaking-Techniques-Art/dp/076240258X/ref=sr_1_26?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248290798&sr=1-26. The second book gives good examples of stencil screenprinting! Whew! Man I have alot of potential printing energy, I need to turn it into kinetic!
Hope this info is helpful.

Jesse said...

A thinner stencil could well solve some of the problems! I haven't seen freezer paper here, but apparently drafting film works well, so I'll try that next. Thanks!

Yardwork said...

Well, you can't wash and re-use freezer paper. It's an all-in-one-sitting type thing. And used without a silkscreen, it's really a one-shot deal if you ask me. You can wash and re-use the acetate stencils if you are careful. At least that's what I understand.....

Thanks for the tutorial. Does it have to be silkscreen ink? Can you use just fabric paint?

Jesse said...

You can use fabric paint - the stuff I use is sold as both, depending on what you ask for at the shop.

Good point about the freezer paper and re-using it. Acetate is quite tough.

Lori said...

Oh! If it wasn't 10:24pm I'd be running out to find some acetate to try this... I do have freezer paper... maybe I'll just give it a go...

Beautiful prints and thanks for the inspiration!

Pinktulip said...

Hi Jesse! These are great tips, thanks! I have some stencils and will be trying this soon with some of my fabric paint. Love the result.

ibb said...

Just beautiful. You do it look so simple.
Thanks for the tips.

The pattern is beautiful.

mizu designs said...

Your credit card 'squeegee' and registration method are both pure genius Jesse!

I agree with you re wash up hassle with screen printing. Drives me nuts actually! The only thing that makes it easier is when I use a small screen and try to guess how much ink I will use (not always possible).

As for stencil materials, I'm using drafting film at the moment and quite like it. I have found the quality of the screen (as in the silk) can affect printing. I have one good, one not so good and I can tell the difference when I print.

Freshly Found said...

Wow. What a beautiful result. I managed to get some freezer paper from my local patchwork and craft shop. I haven't tried it out yet - still on my to do list!

Jen said...

I feel the same way about silkscreening . .the clean up takes so much water, and I feel like I am wasting so much ink. I try to scoop it back, but it's still a mess.

Tracey said...

Such a pretty pattern. A spatula of the sort used for scraping the bowl when baking can be very useful for "reclaiming" ink. You can store acrylic ink mixed with printing medium in a screw-top jar (for years, I understand) so maybe this would help with your leftover screenprinting ink? And you would have colours ready to use for next time.

painted fish studio said...

great tutorial! the cross shape of the stencil is genius! i, too, hate how much water used to clean up silkscreening. I try to scrape the extra ink back into the pot, but water is still needed. and yes, a bad screenprint is a bad screenprint! there is no "handmade touch" to a
poor print. i like silkscreening but now it seems like a bad idea! :)

Sangeetha Narender said...

i envy your talent, sametime i just love it too :)
That was great tutorial and i was wondering cant we use a brush instead of using a card??

sangy
www.diva-fo-ever.blogspot.com

Jenny said...

Are you using a frame with metal mesh when you print? I have been silkscreening for years, and that is the one thing I can't live without. They are a little expensive, but they last forever and make an enormous difference. I bought 3 almost 4 years ago and am still using them on a regular basis - they occasionally need to be bleached to make sure they are clear. But with a super fine mesh, you can print almost anything.
I also use the acetate method for small print runs. Sadly though, I don't have any advice about using less water. It fills me with guilt every time I print!!
And I LOVE your work - I have been following you for some time now and your stuff is really amazing!!

hm said...

Just a thought but why not use a stencil brush for a small design. Less clean up.

Jesse said...

I'll investigate a better screen - thanks!

You could use a brush, but stencilling like this is actually faster. It also looks more like screen printing; I tend to get a ragged edge to the prints with a brush.

lula cat said...

aaah!
this is so cool!
I've always been so scared of stenciling, but this looks manageable, even for me!

Billy said...

Great tutorial, thank you!

(a compressor helps with the water waste in silkscreen cleaning, but not with the chemical concerns. We´ll just have to invent some kind of ecological ink, right?

Riggit said...

Beautiful stencil prints! I'll have to overcome my poor X-acto knife skills and try this.

My tips for silkscreening success:

Use waaay more ink than you think you'll need. You can save the excess again and again until it's all gone! And if you scrape all the ink that's humanly possibly to scrape off the screen, you cut down on resources needed to clean the screen.

OH, and do you pull the ink across the screen before laying it down on the fabric? Flooding your screen is VERY important for a clean print.

And just the other day I came across, Print Liberation, a book about silkscreening at home that's very very good!

Hope this helps!

Printed Material said...

Jezze, what about making the design into a thermofax screen? It's the same principle as 'grown up' screen printing, works with the credit card and same inks, is easy to register and clean up is quick. Just a thought!

Jesse said...

I completely forgot about flooding the screen! Thank you for the reminder.

And I'll have to do a little research into thermofax screens....

Jenny said...

I have always wanted to try using a thermofax machine - but I have never come across one. I've also heard that they are super expensive. Please post any results you have, if you get the chance to try one. I'd love to hear about it!! And I sacrificed a credit card the other night, right after I read your post about it - it works so well!! Especially for tiny prints, you don't get ink all over the place, so much better for control.

Fulvia Luciano, artist said...

Jesse,

I have been printing with thermofax screens for years. To reduce washout waste, I soak the screens in a bucket of cold/room tempterature water overnight; much of the paint, usually acrylic, comes loose on its own. I rub the submerged screens gently with my fingers, do one more quick clean water rinse and dry. Try it.

Edie's Fashion Factory said...

Wow, you make it look so easy and perfect! I just got a YUDU and making screens are turning out to be a real time/money investment. I'm gonna try some stencils to add fun detail variations to the screen designs. Thanks for the DIY! Now I've got all kinds of new ideas going.

Cristina said...

What a great idea! Thanks - can't wait to try it! One question - can you use the same type of ink on paper/card stock as well??

Kate Watts said...

Hi! I've been screen printing small runs of about 20 prints for a year or so, the things I find make the most difference is the amount of adhesive I use to tack my fabric to print onto my table, and I also upgraded to a more expensive squeegee, it took me a while to adjust (I had really crappy prints for a while) but now my quality is much higher. Using table adhesive (re positionable spray glue would probably work)means you can flood your screen up to twice before making your final pass, and practice makes perfect!!!
: ) Kate.

Jesse said...

Great tip, Kate, thanks! I wonder if pinning the fabric to a base board would help too?

lauragray said...

I am completely blown away. printing is great. I don't know what else to say.

role playing mom said...

clever, i sure do gonna try this out... thanks for the idea

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea!! I have all gear needed to get started! Thanks for sharing! Also wanted to let u know, when I paint and havent finished the paint on my pallet I cover the pallet w plastic wrap! Cheap and very effective