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Screen Printing: Printing with a Silkscreen

In our last Art Tip, we looked at making your own screen using the photo emulsion process. Go check it out on our website for reference. But now, it's on to printing!

Finished silkscreen stencil
Masking tape
T-shirt, or other fabric for printing
Silk screen fabric ink
A piece of foam board or cardboard that fits inside your t-shirt
A squeegee

Prepping to Print
Before you do anything with ink, you need to block off the bare areas of your screen. Use the masking tape on the inside of the frame (sometimes called the squeegee side) to tape over the edges around the hardened emulsifier, and any other spots where you don't want ink to press through.

Put the foam board or cardboard piece inside your t-shirt to stabilize it; the fabric should be straight and smooth over the board, but not stretched. It's also a good idea to secure your t-shirt to your work top so nothing accidentally slides around during the inking step.

Printing the Art
Now it's time to ink your design. Spread your ink about two inches above your art completely across the width, and use the squeegee to slowly, firmly and with strong, solid pressure, push the ink down and over the design. Push the squeegee up, down, side to side, to fully press the ink through the design and onto your t-shirt (or canvas bag, or whatever you're printing on). Slowly pull the screen away from your t-shirt, and let the shirt dry.

Tip: You can adhere the ink to your shirt more permanently by using an iron on its hottest setting to make the fabric color fast a washable. Let the ink dry for two hours, then iron over the top of the design on the hottest setting for about a minute. This will set the ink into the fabric.

Clean the Screen!
Screen printing ink dries pretty quickly, and if you want to use the same silk screen again, then you need to wash it out with cold water immediately after printing so that none of the ink dries in the design.

Tip: Done with your design for good? You can use your screen again! Use an emulsion remover to take the hardened emulsion out of the screen. Then you can create an entirely new design using the same screen.

Now, wear and enjoy your custom screen printed t-shirt with pride!