Going back to School: Silk Screening 101
I have always wanted to try screen printing, but never found the time to teach myself. This winter I signed up for a class with a friend. The thinking was it would force me to set aside the 3 hours a week so I could focus on it. I haven’t quite finished the class yet, but here are some of the projects I have finished to date.
By: Janet New
We found the class through the TDSB at learn4life.ca, it was $232 including $40 of materials (frame, screening material and ink). So far I have found our teacher, Trish, to be amazing. The class is fairly open and everyone goes at their own pace. I am really interested in printing on fabrics, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.
The first project I set for myself was a birthday present for my daughter. She has asked for a book bag. I found an illustration on shutterstock.com (a fairly cheap royalty free illustration/photography site) that I liked and then added a speech bubble to incorporate “I heart books”. I wanted to make it two colours with the colours slightly misaligned. Please note that when printing a two colour piece, you should print the light colour first, then let it dry, before proceeding with the darker second colour. I found the bags at DeSerres, the small ones were $2.99.
When looking for images to silk screen, it is best to use ones with high contrast black and white. Anything with grey areas will not print as crisply. Once you have chosen an image you either need to hand draw it on to acetate or print it on via a printer to then be exposed onto your screen. I used a laser printer (make sure the acetate sheets you use are compatible with the printer you are using). The laser acetate sheets were fairly expensive at $78 for 50 sheets found at Staples (I split this cost with my friend) but the ink jet ones were cheaper.
First we made screens. They gave us four pieces of wood that had to be assembled and stapled together like a frame. Then we stretched and stapled a screen over the non-beveled side of the frame. Next we had to pour, then scrape a blue emulsion over both sides of the screen. We then stored the screens in a dark enclosed space for a week to cure.
We processed our screens. Which meant exposing our screens under a lamp with our acetate for 30 minutes (exposing time is different with each different kind of emulsion and lamp, some experimentation is required). Once exposed we had to spray away all the non exposed areas revealing our image to be printed. Please note that if you are printing type or anything that needs to be read or seen a certain way you have to expose it reverse side up. Once the screen had been sprayed we exposed the opposite side of the screen under the lamp for an additional 20 minutes. Also note that the size of my image area was quite small so I was able to expose both image areas on the same screen, and tape off the side not in use.
Finally ready to start silk screening. We attached our screens to a set of hinges that enabled us to lift the screens up after every pull (beveled side facing up). We place the surface that we were going to print on, under the screen, and gobbed on a fair amount of ink at the top of the image area to be pulled towards us using a squeegee. A note about the squeegee, these are special squeegees that you get at an art store. They should be wider than the area you are printing as you don’t want to do two pulls with the ink.
For my first layer I started with the pink pull. I printed some on a coarse watercolour stock as well as my canvas bags.
This week I was finally ready to start printing the black layer. After a few test trials, because I was printing on a fairly coarse fabric, I found that the fine detail found in the black layer of the cat was plugging up with dried ink, quite quickly, and therefore I needed to wash (and air dry) the screen after each pull making this portion of the job very time consuming.
I am really happy with the end result. Here are some photos of additional pieces that I am working on.