Craft

What is Screen-printing and What Materials Do I Need?

Discover what tools and materials you need to make your own screen and start printing your designs at home.

The word “serigraphy” (also known as screen-printing) comes from the Latin word for “silk”, sericum, and the Greek word for “to write” or “to draw,” graphé. It’s a technique that enables you to print a design onto fabric using ink and a mesh screen. You can reproduce this design onto different surfaces without losing any quality.

While this artisanal process is usually carried out in specialist workshops, the truth is that anyone can make their own screen; screen-printing is a technique that is simple enough for you to try at home. All you need are a few basic materials. Here, we explain how:

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Screen-printed T-shirt by Lucía Herrero

What is screen-printing?

First, you need to understand how the process of screen-printing works. It involves transferring a stencil to a mesh screen (which should ideally be made of silk). This screen is then stretched over a rigid, rectangular frame, which is then used to transfer the ink onto a flat surface.

The ink is applied to one side of the screen using a rubber squeegee. Pressure is applied as the squeegee is scraped across the screen so that the ink is well spread. A special varnish is applied to the areas where you don’t want the ink to pass through. When the screen makes contact with the material you are printing onto, the design will be reproduced on its surface.

Screen-printing is a printing technique that can be repeated many times: once the first model has been created, the design can be replicated numerous times without losing its definition.

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What do we need to screen-print onto fabric?

Now you understand the process, it's time to learn about which materials you need to start experimenting:

For your workspace:

- A table where you can lay out your fabric and print onto it
- A place to keep your tools, paper and test fabrics
- A place where you can put your prints/printed materials
- A bucket of water for washing your hands

Materials:

- Inks (plastisols and water-based)
- Distilled water for diluting inks
- A rubber squeegee for screen-printing (you can even use a window cleaner). We recommend that you use a softer rubber for printing on fabric and a harder rubber for printing on paper.
- A thick fabric or paper to print your design onto
- A hairdryer for drying your work
- Adhesive spray to hold your fabric in place on your work surface

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For your stencil:

- Sticky back plastic
- Geometric-shaped stickers
- Sticky tape
- A bit of nature, such as as leaves
- Cutting tools such as a craft knife, scalpel and scissors

For your silk screen:

- A wooden frame
- Screen-printing fabric for textile printing. (It should be a mesh fabric which allows the ink to pass through, although it -could also be a recycled synthetic fabric, such as muslin or organdy)
- A stapler
- Glue
- A paintbrush
- A hammer

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How to construct a home-made screen with a wooden frame and synthetic fabric

1. Cut a piece of fabric that fits the size of the frame, leaving an extra 3 to 4cm at each side
2. Fold the extra fabric over the frame. Pull it as tight as you can.
3. Diagonally staple the fabric in one of the corners of the frame. Staple along every edge of the frame and keep the fabric tense. Leave a space of a few centimeters between each staple.
4. Secure the staples in place by hitting each one a few times with the hammer
5. Using the paintbrush, apply some glue over the front of the frame to secure the fabric in place

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Silk screen and screen-print by Print Workers
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Textile screen-print by Marina Montero
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Textile screen-print by Raquel Requejo

If you want to learn how to stamp your designs onto fabric and paper and make your own screens and stencils, we recommend the Domestika course Textile Silkscreen Printing with Stencil with Festela Store.

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