Friday, March 7, 2014

Screen Printing!

I'm going to apologize in advance for the quality of the photos on this post---I was working quickly and with hands covered in stuff so I used my phone, and now I'm working on a sloooooow computer and so i'm forgoing editing!

For this project I'm starting with these instructions.  For the most part they worked fine, though there were once again a few things that were a little unclear.  Also I fudged some things to keep it cheap.

FIRSTLY:  I started out using the directions to make a screen with embroidery hoops and mesh fabric.  The instructions just say to buy mesh fabric, but when you get to the fabric store you'll see that there are a LOT OF OPTIONS.  I ended up purchasing something that was pretty much what you'd use for window sheers, and that worked OK.  If you could find something finer it would probably be better--there were some problems with too much ink getting through the screen and making things a little gloppy.

See? It works, but my attempts that did anything finer than a basic shape didn't come out very well.

While I was searching our supply closet for tote bags to practice on, I found an entire tub of printing supplies.  No one here has any idea where they came from or who bought them, but the tub included a bunch of pre stretched silk hoops!  Very similar to these:

I decided to give those a try, and WOAH, way less hassle.  A little pricey, but the embroidery hoops were too.  I'll probably let the teens make one of each.

Step 1: decide what you want to make.  I made stencils with our diecuts and had some success with those, but of all my practice attempts (4 total), the freehand drawing turned out the best.
Here's my mysterious hoop of unknown provenance.  Where did you come from, hoop?
My narwhal went through a few different facial expressions before I got his essence right.  The drawing is on a piece of paper under the hoop.  NOW.  If your hoop has a bit of a lip to it, you want to put down the hoop in such a way that it is raised up a little.  Like, if it were a very shallow cup, you'd be putting it top down.  Is this making sense? Ok good.  Now you'll use your screen drawing fluid to drawn on your design.  IMPORTANT! You are drawing your design BACKWARDS. Mostly this isn't going to matter, but it will matter if you're using any letters. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.

Here he is!

I cheated and did the lettering lightly on the wrong side of the screen, and then covered it from the correct side.  That worked out fine.

This is the BACK of the screen.  See how you can see the lip there?

Let it dry completely. This will take a few hours unless you want to bust out a hairdryer.  I left it overnight.  When it's dry, cover the whole thing (on the same side you put the drawing fluid on) with your screen filler.  It needs to be thick enough that all the holes are plugged, but be careful not to get too much on the drawing fluid or it runs a little. I didn't manage to get a photo of this step.  I used a piece of cardboard to spread it around, which worked fine--though try not to leave any streaks--aim for a nice even layer.

Let it dry again.  I'm doing this with the teens as a two part program--one day they will make the screens (we'll dry the drawing fluid with a hairdryer and then let the filler set overnight) and the second day they'll do the actual printing.  After your filler is dry (overnight), rinse the screen under cold water.  The drawing fluid magically rinses out, leaving just the screen filler.  On the real silk screens it did leave a bit of blue dye behind.

The rinsed screen! I will do this for the teens in the days between programs.  Make sure the water isn't hot--cold was best for me. Once it's dry, you're ready to print! Yay!

To print:

If you're printing on a bag or t-shirt, make sure to put some cardboard or paper inside so the ink doesn't leak through to the back.  Put your screen where you want it, this time so that it lays FLAT and the lip faces up. Glop a bit of your printing ink at the top, and pull it downward.  I'm trying to keep things cheap, so I used a pink rubber eraser instead of buying an expensive rubber squeegee, and it totally worked great. Be wary of using TOO MUCH ink, or it will seep outside the lines of your drawing.


Here's the back of my inky screen...

and here's the front.  You can rinse the ink out afterward, though I haven't tried re-using it yet.

And here's my amazing shirt! There are a couple of areas where it could have used a little more ink, but that just makes it look screen-printed, to me.

Shirts were on sale 4 for $10 at Michels, so I grabbed a few to practice on.  For the program, the teens are bringing their own shirts or whatever to print on.

Overall I think this will go pretty well with the teens, but I'm glad I gave myself plenty of time to practice!