Skip to main content

Intro to Screen Printing

Lesson 10 of 13

Prepare for Printing


Intro to Screen Printing

Lesson 10 of 13

Prepare for Printing


Lesson Info

Prepare for Printing

This is the fun part, this is what we've been waiting for at this point. So you can see that we have another backup screen, perfectly exposed. So this is really what we're looking for is that really crisp imagery. You can see that it's going all the way through so it's basically acting as a stencil that's suspended in the mesh (mesh rustling) of our silkscreen here. So this is properly washed out and a real great example of what you should be aiming for in your home exposure. One thing you wanna keep an eye out for, and is really really common, is to see things like this. This little tiny pinhole is what this is called. It's something that, if you hold it up to light it's actually coming all the way through and you're seeing a little bit of light coming through. So it's like a teeny little pinprick. Like a little defect. Yeah, okay. Yeah, it's basically just a problem with a bubble and the emulsion, and this is pretty common, and I see a couple of them here that we're gonna go ...

ahead and cover up. So the way that you would do that is on the side that's gonna be facedown when we're printing, we'll take a little bit of this screentape, and we're just gonna cover right over that hole. And that's just gonna keep it blocked out. If you want you can also take a drop of that photo emulsion, just tack that on there, and expose it to that UV light to harden it, but this is a perfectly easy work around, and a lot of of silkscreen printers do this. This is actually a pretty common problem, just because it's a little bit tricky to get it totally bubble free. That's just part of life. That's a little bit big. Obviously if you didn't cover up those bubbles in the way you're doing-- Right, you would just see a little dot, a little dot of ink. That's right, that's right. And so essentially we wanna be careful not to cover up any of the actual imagery that we want to print with this tape, just the little spots that we want to make sure do not print. And with an image like this, if they printed, wouldn't be the end of the world. Or if we saw that they were printing as we had started, we could stop, go ahead and go turn this around, add the tape, and start printing again. So, now you can see I've got a couple pieces of tape that you can kind of see through but are not gonna affect our printing except to act as a blocker. So essentially we wanna go ahead and prep our surface that we're gonna be printing on. I like to use a little bit of adhesive, some palette adhesive which we're gonna go ahead and spray on this surface. This is the board that we basically set up, so that we'll have a completely flat surface to print. It's important to have a really smooth surface, 'cause any texture underneath your print is basically going to show up as you're printing. I think that basically what we wanna aim for is a perfectly smooth surface, and this poly-coated board is perfect for that. So I like to add a little bit of adhesive, it's not necessary, per se, for when you're printing on paper, but it just helps to kind of keep things tamped down. Adhesive is really more necessary when you're printing on fabric. You would use either a spray adhesive or something like this. I've applied a pretty generous coating here. And so Erin, just to reiterate, this is like a particleboard with almost a for-mike-a-like surface on the side? So it's totally totally flat. Okay. This is pretty tacky for printing on paper, so essentially what we're gonna do is we're gonna take-- Oh I'm gonna need to wipe my fingers, 'cause that is sticky. We're gonna go ahead and take some of this newsprint. Oh, okay. (paper rustling) Just gonna kinda tamp down some of that tackiness. We're gonna add a little bit of (paper ripping) texture the same way if you've used a piece of tape a couple of times, it wouldn't be as sticky anymore. Got it. So it makes it a lower tack surface. Yeah, we're gonna just take down some of that tackiness here. Okay. If you were to use it at full strength, what would happen? Would it pull some of the emulsion off? No, what's gonna happen is your paper is actually gonna be between this and the screen, so what would happen is your paper would just get stuck. Ah, got it. So we wanna make sure that we're able to lift the paper off of the board. You definitely don't need to use an adhesive, I like to just because it keeps your paper from moving around. This is still pretty tacky. And if we've decided that it actually is still too tacky, what we can do is take a wet cloth or a spray bottle with water. (water sprays) There we go. And you can just go ahead and spray that down with water. And this particular adhesive that's on our bonus materials list, comes right up with water. So will what you're doing now leave a little bit of that tack on the surface, or do you have to spray it again? At this point we're just gonna go ahead and wipe that off entirely. And start over. Okay. So that probably would've been a level of tackiness that would've worked great for printing on fabric. For printing on paper we need a little bit less. I like the analogy though that you used, the piece of tape that's been used a few times, so maybe the tacky level of a lint roller, perhaps? Yeah, that's even probably pretty strong. I think we're really just looking for slightly sticky. Got it, alright. Maybe a surface of your shoe after you've been walking around on public transportation for too long. Okay, let's see. Just add a little bit there. Okay, that's more the level that we want. (paper smoothing) Okay and I'm seeing a little bit of lint from our paper towel, but that shouldn't be a problem. Okay, so now that we have a little bit of adhesive on our palette here, we're gonna go ahead and get our registration figured out. So essentially we wanna make sure that we're setting the paper down in the same place every single time. For production printing, when you're printing more than one copy of the thing that you're making, you wanna make sure that you have registration marks, so you know where to lay the paper down, and the screen is gonna land in the same spot, and you just keep printing, move the new paper over, and start printing again. So, some other prep that we're gonna need to do before that, you can see that we have our clamp hinges here. And we're gonna go ahead and screw our, or place our screen just right on top of those clamps. (clamps scraping) Lift that up, and tighten this down. So these hinges are cool, they're completely adjustable to various thicknesses, correct? Right, right exactly. And if you had a bigger screen, you might have a bigger board and have these placed a little further from each other, but it's basically just a way so you can lift the screen up, put it back down in the same place every single time. So one other thing we're gonna do is talk about off contact printing. It's important that the screen isn't resting right directly on the surface of the table, because essentially what will happen is the ink will not be applied exactly correctly. Oh, I'm still a little tacky. We wanna make sure that we're printing off contact, which means that the screen is maybe elevated just a little bit off of the surface. And that basically allows us to have a flooded screen - we're gonna pull the squeegee with the ink across the surface to flood the surface and fill it with ink. And then we're gonna do a second pass, which pushes the ink down from the surface of the screen onto the paper. So we wanna make sure that we're printing off contact, so that that second pass really is super crisp, and there's not gonna be any wiggly lines, or any sort of movement of the ink that we must do. So what do you do then to assure that it's not flush with your surface? Right. So we're gonna go ahead and use-- (tape peeling) these little pieces of foam core. Ah, okay. And we have little triangles cut out here that are basically just - thank you, printing assistant - that are basically just gonna go on the corners of the printing side of our screen. I'm gonna be really economical with my tape usage here. And, stick that there. So, on the printing side, the flat side facing me, we're just gonna secure that corner, right there, tape it down. So they're just little triangles of foam core. What would you say, this is about a quarter of an inch, maybe? Yeah, I feel that is probably the max. Going flush against the inside, okay. Yeah, exactly, you wouldn't wanna use anything that was too much thicker than that. And you could probably do something even a little bit thinner, like if you had a washer, or like a little piece of tag board that you could fold over a couple of times. Something like that would also help you print off contact but might be a little bit thinner. This should be okay. Perfect. So now, we're gonna go ahead and we're gonna add the tape to the edges of the screens. So you can see that the emulsion doesn't go all the way to the edge of the frame, and that's because the scoop coater by necessity needs to be a little less wide than your frame. Otherwise it wouldn't fit in. So we wanna make sure that we cover this part of the area of the screen with tape, so that our ink doesn't get through and dirty the bottom of our press. So I use this nice, low adhesive screen tape that doesn't leave any residue behind, which is really nice. We're gonna go ahead and go through this process. And this is sort of something that you get better at with-- Oh, bye! I got it. Live printing, ya'll. (laughs) This is something that you get better at with time, you just kinda wanna lay it into the groove there. Get it as flat as possible. Secure that down. And you're gonna do this then obviously on all four- On all four sides. Okay. And I also like to get a little tiny piece in those little corners there. Okay. Just to make sure it's really secure. (scissors cutting) Have you be my tape holder. You got it. So the trick is getting it in there without too many little bubbles. Easier said than done. A lot of these processes just, they become second nature after you've been printing for awhile, but when it's not perfect and you're first starting out, don't be discouraged. The same way that I was saying in the darkroom, that troubleshooting is sort of par for the course, there are gonna be little areas of troubleshooting throughout this process, so please don't be discouraged. I think that it's really important, especially for printmaking that has so many moving parts, so many different steps that you're trying to learn, and the learning curve can feel high, but it's just really important to not give up and try again. The materials that you purchased for this will allow you to try several times, and so if it's not perfect the first time, don't worry about it. I've messed up more screens than I can count. It's such a good point, 'cause honestly I think with any craft or making process, it really takes practice. Mm-hmm. I know as a kid taking music lessons, you just wanna be able to play whatever the instrument is without having to practice, and it just doesn't really work that way. Even as an adult. Oh yeah. It's so true. And I wouldn't want anyone to see this and think, "Oh, well gosh, you know, that looks really hard, I don't even wanna try and begin," because I think even when you have things go wrong, there's still possibilities for pulling really nice prints, even when the conditions aren't ideal, even when you've kind of had a problem with one step or another. Don't feel discouraged, 'cause we've all been there. Really. It's a great point. . Yeah. So now I'm just cutting these real tiny tabs, tacking those down in the corners, just to keep ink from coming through. Now you mentioned wanting to get the bubbles as much as possible out of the tape, what's the rationale for that? How would it affect it? So you can come and see here, I actually have a little bit of a bubble. What will happen, is the ink can kind of travel through that little channel, and get through and get our screen a little bit dirty on the inside, where we really don't wanna see the ink. Okay. And that can happen, you kinda just wanna take the back of your fingernail and smooth it down. But getting it as flat as possible is really kinda what we're aiming for here. Alright, we're almost done taping. Printing is coming soon. This is what's so great about printmaking, is it really is achievable at home, it really is something that you can learn to do yourself. And the satisfaction that comes after all of these processes finally seeing your printed work in hand, is just, it's a special moment. Okay so now you can see we have that totally taped up along the edges, So that's gonna be protected from ink coming through. And now we're gonna go ahead and worry about the registration, which I referenced before. We have that same plastic mylar template, the acetate that we used to expose the screen. We're gonna go ahead and lay that down, face up, on top of the press here, the little press that we've created. And we're gonna tr-- Oh my gosh! What! That's really unusual, I laid it down almost in exactly the right spot. Perfectly aligned. Generally - that's really unusual - generally you're gonna have to move this piece of acetate back and forth and get it to line up, so that you know exactly where the imagery is gonna land, but dang, that's pretty well centered. I love it.

Class Description

Screen printing is a popular, fun and creative way to apply your designs to new materials. The idea of taking on a creative outlet can be daunting for illustrators, artists and creative business owners but with Introduction to Screen Printing, Erin Dollar will walk you through the entire creative process with a DIY workflow, making it accessible and approachable for anyone.

Erin Dollar is the talented textile designer and printmaker behind Cotton & Flax. Join her for this beginning class on the art of screen printing, and you’ll learn:

  • How to create a bold design and transparency that will translate well to printing
  • What materials and tools are best for beginners
  • How to work with photosensitive materials and create a dark room in your space
  • Best practices to prepare your screens for printing on paper

Erin has applied her art to a wide variety of patterns and mediums, blending fine art and fine craft to produce fresh and vibrant designs. Learn proper printing techniques and take advantage of her streamlined process for screen printing. Empower yourself with this new skill set and bring this versatile and dynamic craft to your creative space!  



Wow, that was a great course. Erin is clear, engaging and encouraging. I would loooove to see a follow up course with her that explores some of the more advanced silk screen printing techniques that she mentions in the last segment. Great job!

Marsha Law

Erin is such an outstanding instructor. She's just so confident with her topic and with her ability to communicate. This class helped me realize that I'm not ready yet to start screen printing, which in my opinion is just as important as recognizing when you are ready to try something.


Great beginner course. Helpful terminology. Hope Erin provides a follow up for more complex printing (textiles please). Many thanks.

Explore More Free Classes


Enjoy the free classes? Get 2000+ more Classes and watch it anytime, anywhere.

Get The Pass