Screenprinting is one of the most common forms of printing and involves passing ink through a ‘screen’ which has been stretched using a frame and a stencil. Screen printing was first introduced in China nearly 2000 years ago when they used human hair which was stretched across a wooden frame. A specially made stencil was then affixed to the frame and the screen printing process could begin. As the years progressed, the process of screen printing evolved and the Japanese used woven silk which is why sometimes screen printing is known as silk screen printing.
While the basic technique remains the same, innovation and new technologies have transformed the way in which screen printing is conducted today. The stencil and screen form a fundamental part of any screen printing process as these determine the final image. Instead of applying print from a plate or block, the ink is passed through a mesh (screen) onto the paper underneath. Screen printing is often used in fine art because of its ability to produce even areas of colour and it is commonly used when producing prints for t-shirts, fabrics or commercial uses such as banners and signs.
Tools for Screen printing
In order to produce the screen print you need;
A screen – typically a wooden or aluminium frame including a mesh made from fabric
Squeegee – A relatively simple tool which is a blade made from rubber affixed to a wooden handle and this tool is used to push the ink through the mesh. Squeegees should be smaller than the frame or screen so that they can fit neatly inside.
Ink – Oil or water based are often used for screen printing but it is important to choose the right one as they do differ considerably in terms of consistency and quality. Water based inks are considered to be safer as they do not contain toxins which are commonly found in oil based inks and with modern technology, you can purchase some great quality water based inks which work just as well as the oil based ones.
Paper – Good quality paper with a smooth surface is recommended
Screen Bed – Specialist printers will have large screen printing tables which enable the screens to be fixed enabling the screen to be moved up and down easily, facilitating the process.
Stencils – These can be designed using any type of flat material including fabric, leaves, string, paper or ribbon. Photo stencils can also be created using a photo-sensitive emulsion.
Once you have the basic tools available and set up you can begin the process!
The screen printing process is one which requires skill, patience to master and experience to complete correctly. Using contemporary techniques combined with traditional tools will enable you to create some impressive prints whether these are fine art prints, t-shirts or even posters.