Printing techniques

I currently do screen printing in my business. The designs I do are very simple (non repeating), with several colours, which I then embroider alongside, to create personalised products. I use either the drawing fluid and screen block, or a photo emulsion technique (which I find more harder wearing than the screen block).

However, as my screen printing skills are basic (and self taught) I wanted to expand my knowledge and use techniques I am not familiar with.


I watched a few online DVD's (I've recently subscribed to, as being dyslexic, I find watching easier than reading!) and read (looked at) some books on printing. Links below ...

You can see a whole blog post on Designing & Printing fabric book here.

In Printmaking + Mixed Media, I discovered the work of Dorit Elisha (and through her Orly Avineri) who both completely changed my view of what screen printing is. When I first started this assignment, I've always thought of screen printing as a method to produce clean cut patterns (often in repeats), however they both produce some beautiful mixed media designs, in which the screen printing is irregular, messy (in a lovely way) and layered, to form amazing "pictures". - I say pictures, as again I used to see screen printing as fabric design - to be used for something else, rather than a piece of art in itself.

These books have some great printing charts (different types of printing, which inks to use etc.) I'm making my own chart from all the sources I've found and will post it for reference at a later date.

I then went away and experimented with a few different methods.

Hand cut paper stencil as a resist

I took an image from my sketchbook of a building roof outline into Illustrator and repeated the line to create rows.

I then cut lines from copier paper with a craft knife, placed in position, put a screen (that I had made using some sort of organza / polyester fabric) on top, and took a print. As the cutting took forever, I only cut a few (single) rows - the idea being I would space them apart so I could print one (double thick) row with blue, one (double thick) with pink, and end up with 3 colours! However, I didn't measure it correctly (somehow I couldn't get my head around the single / double thickness), then the paper got wet felt off, so I did a few prints with just the outer stencil!

But all is good, as lessons were learnt (and I got some interesting marks that I wasn't expecting!) ...
  • If the stencil touches wet fabric, it will stick and come off of the screen!
  • Very hard to line up, as stencil was not in place until after the 1st print. But after 1st print, it;s wet, so no time to use the stencil to mark next print!

Gocco (similar to a thermofax) screen

I used the same source image as above and used Illustrator to move the shapes around and create a repeat design. 

I then burned 3 Gocco screen's, and printed a 3 colour (red, pink and gold) repeat on dark yellow fabric (I had to use the screen ink and fabric I had to hand, as I'm unable to get into work at the moment).

I learnt several lessons in the process;
  • The image nearly filled the screen, but the edges didn't come out very clear. Maybe this is because Gocco's work from flash bulbs, and the light doesn't reach the edges very well - it could also be down to old screens ... in future I need to make designs much smaller on the Gocco screens.
  • I need to practice with lining up designs better .. I didn't have enough space to mark out lines, and the images was very small, leaving little room for error!

Freezer paper stencil (& experimenting with media)

I found a box of screen printing mediums (that were past their best before date, so was unsure if they would work) they include ...

  • Pearl binder with concentrated colour (turns ink shimmery),
  • Adva 3D medium (puffs with heat),
  • Pearl binder with lustre powder, (metallic-ish colour)
  • Gloss binder with glitter (this didn't work very well - need to re-read the instructions),
  • Gloss binder with concentrated colour (turns ink shiny - seems to leave fabric sticky)

After testing each medium, I used the remaining ink to create a random print (inspired by the irregular style of the Dorit Elisha). I then added Adva 3D medium on top of the print (using stencils), then screen printed on top of that (using a freezer paper stencil) - then puffed.

I learnt that if you put the 3D medium on too thick it goes crazy and expands itself off the fabric! I also discovered that printing on the 3D medium after puffing it, results in the ink leaking under the stencil.

Acrylic resist

As the screen was made from a piece of fabric (and it didn't matter if I ruined it), I covered the stencil in acrylic paint (from the freezer paper side) then let dry and removed the stencil - leaving a negative acrylic mask on the screen. I used blues, greens and golds (colours in the original image where the stencil came from) on a black fabric, then on white - although the colour had dried by that stage so didn't come through the screen clearly.

This print came out very clear - but when  I washed the screen, some of the paint came off, so this wouldn't be very good for a permanent screen.

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