Introduction: Screen Printing Tutorial Part 3: Printing an Image
This is the third in a series of three screen printing tutorials, in which I will describe the process I use to create the hand printed items for sale in my Etsy shop, The Dog House. Over the course of the tutorials I will show you how to use a photograph to create a screen printed product, using the example below.
This specific tutorial will show you how to make a print of your image using the screen you created in the second part of this tutorial.
Step 1: What You Will Need
- your printing screen
- screen printing ink in a colour of your choice (I use Speedball Fabric Screen Printing Ink, which is non-toxic & requires heat-setting.)*
- a piece of sponge (I use wedges of cosmetic sponge, which are cheap & durable.)
- old newspaper
- the product onto which you wish to print you image (in this case a women's organic cotton T-shirt), pre-washed & dried
- cold running water
- an iron & board
Step 2: Printing Your Image
Lay flat the material onto which you wish to print your image. If, as in this case, it is a double layered item (e.g. a T-shirt), make sure you place a good layer of newspaper between the 2 layers so that the ink does not seep through onto the back layer on printing. Then position your printing screen on top of the material so that the image lies where you want it (in this case, in the middle of the chest area). Dip your sponge into the screen printing ink so that one surface is lightly coated. Then, holding your screen firmly in place with one hand, dab the sponge repeatedly onto the screen with the other. This will push the ink through the tiny mesh holes & onto your fabric.
It is best only to apply a thin layer of ink, otherwise the resulting image may be rather 'blobby'. Experience will tell you how much pressure you need to apply in order to create a clear, crisp image (I often make a test print on a scrap piece of material first). Once you have dabbed ink over all areas of the screen, lift the screen off, being careful not to smudge the image by dragging it sideways across the fabric.
Step 3: Adding Finishing Touches
At this stage you may choose to use further screens +/- inks to embellish your image. In this case I used a separate screen (but the same ink) to add some text to my image. You can also use further screens to print additional colours onto your image (it is best to let each colour dry thoroughly before applying the next, & to print lighter colours prior to printing darker ones), but I personally prefer to leave my images in monochrome.
Once you are happy with your printed image, carefully remove the newspaper from behind the fabric (it may have started to adhere to the fabric a little if you have taken a long time over your printing) & hang your item up to dry for an hour or two.
Step 4: Cleaning Your Screen
Rinse the ink off your screen, sponge & hands using cold water. It is important not to use warm water, as this may cause the ink to set (thus clogging up your screen & preventing further use) & / or the glue on your screen to melt. Once you have cleaned your screen in this way, leave it to dry thoroughly then store carefully. It can then be used again & again to make further prints of your image.
Step 5: Setting the Ink
Once your print is completely dry, the ink must be heat-set in order to make your image permanent. This can be done by simply ironing the material on which the image is printed on a medium-hot setting for 3-5 minutes on each side. Now your printed item will be resistant to machine washing at up to 40 degrees C, dry cleaning & ironing on a cotton setting.