How to Silk Screen for Fun and Profit

If you want to learn how to silk screen, here is a step-by-step guide.

| January/February 1980

  • 061 how to silk screen - 02 create photo negative
    PHOTO 2:: Lay photo sensitive film emulsion side down on flat white paper, then place your acetate sheet on the film. Make sure the letters/image are reversed. PHOTO 3: After exposing the film to sunlight or a high intensity lamp, wash away those parts of the  emulsion that were covered by your letters. The pattern has been transferred to the film.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - fig a, b, c
    FIG A: A silk screen printing board with pin-type hinges for easy removal of the frame. FIG B: Method of securing fabric to one side of a frame and stretching it tight to the other. FIG C: "Z" tabs made of paper enable you to position each piece you're printing in the same position under the stencil.
    ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 061 how to silk screen - 01 letters on acetate
    Positioning your letters or images on a clear acetate sheet is the first step to creating a screen.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - 03 apply design to frame
    PHOTO 4: Position photo design on screen, with letters/image reversed. PHOTO 5: Turn frame over and blot the inside of the screen to remove water and fix the stencil to the screen.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - 04 finish screen preparation
    PHOTO 6: After stencil dries, peel off the acetate backing. PHOTO 7: Apply glue block-out over parts of the screen not covered by your stencil.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - 05 applying ink
    Method of using a squeegee and screen to applying ink to paper.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - 6 first pass completed
    A Stoneware Pottery flyer after the first pass.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - 07 preparing for a second pass
    Positioning a flying for a second pass with a different screen and different color of ink.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - 09 completed flyers
    Completed versions of the Stoneware Pottery flyer.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - 08 putting Z-tabs in place
    Taping Z-tabs in place so other flyers can be positioned for a second pass.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT
  • 061 how to silk screen - 10 cleaning a screen
    PHOTO 13 & PHOTO 14: Method of cleaning away the design on a screen so the screen can be used for something else.
    RICHARD SCHMIDT

  • 061 how to silk screen - 02 create photo negative
  • 061 how to silk screen - fig a, b, c
  • 061 how to silk screen - 01 letters on acetate
  • 061 how to silk screen - 03 apply design to frame
  • 061 how to silk screen - 04 finish screen preparation
  • 061 how to silk screen - 05 applying ink
  • 061 how to silk screen - 6 first pass completed
  • 061 how to silk screen - 07 preparing for a second pass
  • 061 how to silk screen - 09 completed flyers
  • 061 how to silk screen - 08 putting Z-tabs in place
  • 061 how to silk screen - 10 cleaning a screen

When potter Susan Shutt set out to publicize her semiannual stoneware sale, she wanted to have an attractive color flyer to pass around ... but couldn't afford the commercial printers' prices. So Susan turned to silk-screening—a type of stencil printing that's used to produce posters, street signs, drinking-glass designs, labels, and personalized T-shirts—to create a high-quality color ad on heavy paper at an economical cost.

The printing project was a definite success. Sue's handmade announcements attracted hundreds of customers, and she sold enough pottery in one day to keep her little self-operated business going for another five months!  

If you'd like to cash in on this creative way to print, too, you'll find that the costs for supplies and equipment will run somewhere around $20. Better yet, all the items you'll need are available at art supply and hobby shops! Here's what you need to know how to silk screen.

Frame and Fabric

The silk screen, itself, is nothing more than a wooden frame with fabric stretched tightly across its face. The devices can be bought (in a variety of sizes) ready-made ... but you can also build one out of appropriate lengths of knot-free, 1" X 2" wood strips which are doubled on each side, lap-jointed at the corners for strength, and varnished to reduce the chances of warping.



The size of your screen's frame will depend, of course, on the size of the design you wish to reproduce. At a minimum, you'll need 3 1/2 inches of clearance between the outer edge of your artwork's stencil and the frame. This "freeboard" allows the screen to flex as you print.

You'll also need a printing board (a piece of plywood or particle board will do) that's about three inches larger than your screen. This plank should be hinged to the frame at one end, using pin-type door hinges that permit easy removal. Then, to guarantee a smooth printing surface, tape a piece of poster board or untextured mat board over the wood.

Lane_1
1/21/2009 2:12:24 PM

This is a great article. I will be following it in detail soon when i attempt my first screenprinting project. My only wish is that the images were larger and, preferably, embedded within the text to which they refer. Pictures really help me a lot, but these are so teeny that I am having a hard time telling what is going on. But thanks for the great information. lane







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