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My Adventure into Screen Printing

So I have seen a few people use silkscreen prints to create amazing prints on clay. I wanted to give this a go but being me I didn't like the idea of using a design anyone could get a hold of. I like everything to be me and my design.

So a year later and after lots of research, I decided it was not going to happen but then I found an easy way to create a screen print. Without the complexity of making a screen print from scratch.

How? I used my Cricut machine to cut a vinyl stencil and then bought a cheap screen. I then stuck the stencil on the clay.

I choose a simple design as knew anything too complex and intricate wouldn't work with the vinyl. So I choose a spot design because of the collection of Ice Cream Sundae so I thought it would be alike a sprinkle effect on top which I liked. So then I proceeded. With paint, glitter, mica paste and gilded leaf.

Wow, I loved it! I loved the possibilities. I loved the effect. Once the collection was done and launch it kept on my mind. I wanted more. More options of design and more intricacy.

Research. So I dived straight back into research and found a kit online. EZ Screen. From America which made me a little uneasy. But after lots more reading I took the plunge and ordered.

This kit basically comes with everything you need to print and expose a design in too photosensitive silkscreen and thus creating a silkscreen stencil.

So now probably the reason you clicked on the article.

How to make a silkscreen print?

Ez Screen had a really great Youtube video on how to use the kit. As a dyslexic who struggles to read instructions was very helpful for me.

So with the video as a guide, I started.

Attempt 1:

1. Printing the acetate;

The first thing that is needed is to print a design on specially coated acetate. I had drawn some flowers into my sketchbook and then digitised them onto procreate and then made them into a pattern.

So I printed this on to acetate.

Mistake 1: I meticulously went over the print settings but then neglected to check the scale.

So the image was very small on the corner. But I was hoping it could still work.

Design I created for the screen print. Floral print hand drawn and digitalised in pro create
Design I created for the screen print

2. Exposing the screen;

Then it is time to expose the screen. Still being guided by the video. I have a lamp I got with the kit but it was a gloriously sunny out so I decided to use the sun to do the exposure.

I clipped it into the exposure unit. Which is effectively a piece of glass and a piece of black felted card. I used a piece of cardboard to protect it from the sun on the way in and out of the house, as guided by the video.

I set the timer for 2mins and lifted the cardboard. Once the time had elapsed I replaced the cardboard on top.

Adding the acetate and silkscreen to the exposure unit. For screen printing
Adding the acetate and silkscreen to the exposure unit.

3. Water emersion;

Once I returned to the house I removed the silkscreen and submerged it in water. I left it there for 15mins. I then returned I gently shook the screen and then washed it while brushing the screen. At this point, I was worried as I couldn't see much. I lifted it to the light I could see a faint pattern I then left it to dry.

Submerging and washing in water the silk screen. To wash of photo sensitive layer silk screen printing
Washing the silk screen

Submerging the silk screen. To wash of photo sensitive layer silk screen printing
Submerging the silk screen.

4. Testing the stencil;

I returned and I could see that it didn't look right. But I tested it anyway. And yes it was a big old fail. Nothing came out.

Mistakes and reflections;

I made a few mistakes I decide as I was thinking through the process.

  1. Printing- I printed it way too small.

  2. Lines- The lines need to be thicker

  3. The bathroom where I submerged it in water was way too light

Trying again;

Fear not this is not the end. As I had previously mentioned I am obsessed. I reflected and I don't let mistakes stop me from trying again.

I had another beautiful day of sun and an empty schedule for the day so I took my moment.

This time I made 100% sure the print settings and the lines were thicker. I repeated the steps above. I put the acetate and the silkscreen in the unit. I was exposed to the sun. I took it to a now very dark bathroom, I submerged it in water and left 15mins.

Drying (in a dark room) the silk screen for making a screen print
Drying (in a dark room) the silk screen

When I returned I knew this was it! I could see a light version of the image. In the video, they say ghost image. I then shook it a little and washed it which brushing. While doing this I could see the image becoming more clear. I held it up to a little light I had in there so I could at least see a little. (I am way too clumsy to be pitch darkness!) and I saw the line was as good as they were going to get.

I left it to dry and then let it dry in the sun to set which I will admit is a step I left out the first time but it wouldn't have made a difference to the outcome.

Testing! I then had the fun part of testing.

I stuck it down to some card and got my acrylic paint. I then scraped it down the stencil. I then got distracted so a few moments, which was a mistake because acrylic paint dries fast so when I removed the stencil it had stuck somewhat to the paper. But I could see the design had mostly worked. I could see potential here.

Silk screen ready stuck down and ready to use. For silk screen printing
Silk screen ready stuck down and ready to use

I then wash the stencil and let it dry. I tried again. I did not let myself get distracted and once I brought the paint down the stencil I was quick but careful to remove the stencil.

Success! It looked so great. there was a few little areas that weren't perfect. but I can see maybe those lines should have been thicker still but I can confidently say I can repeat this process. I couldn't be happier.

Screen printing Test 1- I got distracted and stuck to the paper
Test 1- I got distracted and stuck to the paper

Screen Printing Test 2- Success a good print and result. A successful print
Test 2- Success a good print and result. A successful print

What's next?

I will design a print and create a screen print for my next collection whether that's this summer or next Christmas that remains to be seen. But the possibilities are endless and I can't wait! So keep an eye out for some amazing prints coming soon!

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