Screen Print: Step Five – Printing

Posted on: September 27th, 2014
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Mixing Ink

There is a big yellow cupboard in the corner of the print room by the door. Inside that cupboard are a bunch of screen inks. You can choose from the pre-mixed ones, or you can mix a brand new colour with the tubs of ink on the bottom. Just make sure you mark the lid of the ink with the new colour. Also, make sure you are using the acrylic-based ink for paper and the fabric inks for printing on fabric. You can make your inks more transparent using extender (which is water insoluble once dry) or transparent base (which remains water soluble unless you heat set it). The transparent base is generally reserved for use with fabric inks (notice the small t-shirt on the container).


Retarder extends the drying time for acrylic-based inks, thinning the overall consistency of your ink. We use a non-toxic solution called propylene glycol. It is sometimes used in food preparation and is much cheaper than the retarder that you purchase at the art store. Add about a cap full of retarder to your ink and mix thoroughly.


When you’re ready to print and your screen is completely dry from being washed out, tape the edges where there is no emulsion. You can also tape off the images that you’re not printing. Use the brown packing tape or masking tape. Clear tape can be difficult to clean, if left on your screen for more than a few hours. Bring your screen over to the homemade vacuum tables and secure your screen with the clamps/hinges. Attach the weight/C-clamp to the frame. This will hold the screen up when you’re putting down new paper. Make sure there is a piece of acetate taped to the top of the vacuum table. When you’re ready to print, put the ink on the screen and choose a squeegee that matches the size of your image. Hold your squeegee at a 45-degree angle and pull the ink over the screen/stencil onto the plastic. This will help you register your image. Flood your screen/stencil (i.e. draw ink across your image when it is not directly against the table). Line up your paper underneath the acetate and turn on the vacuum. Remove the acetate. Position your screen down and pull the squeegee across the stencil, holding it at 45-degrees. VERY IMPORTANT – always flood between pulls so that your ink doesn’t dry out. When you’re finished with the first colour, scoop up all the ink with a card and clean your stencil using a sponge and water at the printing station, or take it to the sink in the wash out room. Tape off whatever you’re not printing next and repeating the process for each colour. Make sure each layer is dry before adding the next layer. As long as it’s dry to the touch, you’re good to go.

Categorised under: Screenprinting