Screen printing also is known as Serigraphy is an ancient technology of printing that applies ink or paints onto a material/textile such as paper, canvas or fabric using a mesh and a stencil. The stencil is attached to the mesh or is directly created on the mesh with a photo-reactive chemical emulsions and the ink is forcedly pressed through the mesh with a squeegee or a rubber blade. The stencil will allow the ink to pass only where the design is placed, leaving the design onto the material. The technique is an easy and simple one, offering low expenses when it comes to materials needed. This makes it a popular choice to those who wanted to express art as a hobby and for commercial or business purposes.
The stencil will allow the ink to pass only where the design is placed, leaving the design onto the material. The technique is an easy and simple one, offering low expenses when it comes to materials needed. This makes it a popular choice to those who wanted to express art as a hobby and for commercial or business purposes.
The technique is an easy and simple one, offering low expenses when it comes to materials needed. This makes it a popular choice to those who wanted to express art as a hobby and for commercial or business purposes.
This makes it a popular choice to those who wanted to express art as a hobby and for commercial or business purposes.
History of Screen Printing
Screen printing method was first introduced in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE) and then migrated to Europe in the late 18th century. This was called “silk-screen printing” because the main important material they use in the process was silk. But then, silk was relatively of high cost and was hard to obtain, the process did not gain much popularity in Europe until the time came that silk became more available as trade between Europe and Asia.
Andy Warhol was the one who popularized the process when he first used the method in printing Marilyn Monroe’s image in early 1960’s. Because his subject was a very popular personality in pop music and the materials are available, the technique has become popular in underground movements and subcultures ever since. In 1969, the rotary multicoloured printing machine was invented by an American entrepreneur, artist, and inventor Michael Vasilantone. The machine was originally invented to print logos and team information on bowling shirts. And soon was directed to print on T-shirts. And as of today, more than half of the screen printing in the US is done on garments.
In 1969, the rotary multicolored printing machine was invented by an American entrepreneur, artist, and inventor Michael Vasilantone. The machine was originally invented to print logos and team information on bowling shirts. And soon was directed to print on T-shirts. And as of today, more than half of the screen printing in the US is done on garments.
Here are the 8 Steps for Successful Screen Printing
Explained below are the steps for printing using mesh stencils made with photosensitive chemical emulsions with some helpful tips to achieve success in the process.
- Choose and create your artwork to be screen printed – To prepare your artwork or design, the best way is to have it copied on a transparency. You can have it in a copy shop. The original artwork can be directly painted onto a transparency or on any piece of hard and clear plastic. Starters should have a design which is simple and clear. Bold and thick lines are suggested because printing delicate, fine-lined designs requires a lot of work. The objective of the step is to create a film positive of the design, 100 percent black on a clear background.
- Obtain your Materials – When you have already created and prepared your design or artwork to be screen printed, next things that you’ll gonna gather and prepare all the other materials and equipment needed for your screen printing.
- Material to be printed – Screen printing can be done on a piece of paper, canvas, or on anything made from fabric – like T-shirts, bags, tablecloth, a scarf or just a piece of fabric you intend to hang as a piece of art. Just make sure that when you choose one from them, it is clean and free of dirt and dust, ready to absorb ink and/or paint.
- Screen Frame– The screen is commonly made of wood covered tightly with a fine mesh. The mesh is your screen which the ink will pass through to transfer your design onto your chosen material. It is good if one can have a metal screen on hand for it is more durable and will stand a lot of washings and printings.
- Black paper, plastic or fabric – You will use this blank objects as a surface on which you will lay your screen on to burn the image onto the screen. This flat objects should be large enough to contain the frame.
- Photosensitive emulsion and activator – Sensitizer and emulsions are two different things you will have to mix together to apply on the screen. Make sure to mix enough amount to cover your entire screen.
- Screen printing ink – It is fun for an artist to collect and choose several colors of inks and make several versions of screen printing designs. But make sure to buy enough of each color to transfer your design to your material successfully.
- Squeegee – This tool is usually made of vinyl or a rubber blade with a wooden handle. This is used to spread the ink or the paint across the mesh by pressing it to the screen.
- Prepare the frame and the screen – Create a wooden frame and cover it tightly with a fine mesh like a silk screen fabric or a gauzy nylon old curtain will do. When covering the frame, one should stretch the mesh as tight as possible to make the screen straight enabling the holes of the screen to allow the ink to pass through it evenly. And secure the around of the frame with staples.
If you want to use your screen, again and again, you should wash it thoroughly after each use. You can use a light abrasive under running water to remove clogged ink or paint from the preceding usage. Then dry it thoroughly.
- Spread the photo emulsion onto the screen – Read the instructions on your emulsion container as to how to mix it with the sensitizer. Mix the two thoroughly according to factory instructions. Make sure you mix enough amount to cover your screen.
Spread the emulsion mixture on your screen, making sure both the substrate and inkwell sides are covered well. You can place the screen on top of a black fabric or paper before pouring some emulsion mixture on the screen and spread evenly, as thin as it can. Make sure to cover all the holes. Then place your screen in a dark place, like a closet perhaps, to dry. You can have it dried overnight to make sure it has really dried completely.
- Burn the image onto the screen – Attached your prepared artwork to your dried screen and expose it all to light to burn the image and let the design to pass through the screen and be transferred to your material. Once your screen has dried, lay it down on a piece of black paper or cloth. Substrate side facing down and the inkwell facing up. Lay your prepared artwork with your design on it down facing down the inkwell. Secure it then with a tape. Lay then a clean glass on top of your artwork, the glass should be bigger than the artwork but still fits inside the frame.
*If you are using a highly photosensitive, you should do this step in a fairly dark room to keep the emulsion from reacting until the artwork is completely ready and secure in its place.
Next, expose your screen to light. You can choose whether you put a 200-250 watt bulb about a foot or two above your screen, or you can bring the screen outside to expose to sunlight and let the UV rays of the sun burn the image. The light will harden the emulsion but the area covered by the design will not harden. It may take 10-15 minutes to accomplish the process.
- Rinse the screen – After the emulsion has completely hardened, remove the glass and the artwork from the screen. And take your screen to wash in a very cold water, running one is best. The emulsion that was covered by the design flakes off as it touches the water. Gently remove it with a light sponge where the emulsion needs to be removed. After washing, you can see your design on the screen like a see-through stencil made of mesh.
- Print – When printing, secure your screen with a masking tape to avoid unwanted leakage. Place your material to be printed down on some old newspapers to protect the things underneath. If it is a t-shirt to be printed, insert a cardboard inside to protect the other side of the shirt. When you are ready, pour some ink horizontally across the top of the screen and then use the squeegee to spread the ink by pulling down, pressing it against the screen to let the ink pass through the holes of the mesh. You can now move up and down, left to right to spread the ink over the design evenly. While doing this process, make sure to held the frame tightly, never let it move to avoid ruining your work. Now lift everything off your material, be careful not to drag it to keep your design intact. The ink is still wet and will scatter and be ruined if you do the wrong move.
- Curing and clean up – To make your work last longer, wearable and washable, you should cure it once it dried by putting a sheet of greasing or tracing paper and iron it at the back of the printed side. Or you can place your printed object in a preheated oven at 400°F for just about 30 seconds.
Screen printing is an ancient technique which is a versatile one that you can practice at home. When doing this process for business purposes, make sure to use good quality materials to be printed to gain patrons. Whether you print on a T-shirt or a tablecloth, quality is always a matter needs to be considered.
When you are to use the process using photosensitive chemical emulsions, you need to understand very well each and every step to achieve a good outcome. Though failures are part of the journey, it can always be avoided as long as you can.