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Printmaking

Screen Printing Fundamentals: How to Print the Eco-Friendly Way

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Screen printing is a fun art form that you can do at home. Traditional techniques, however, can be harsh on both you and the environment. Luckily, there are alternative products and practices out there that will make for safer printing. This tutorial will show you one way to print while lessening your environmental impact. Have a look!

Supplies

What you need for eco-friendly screen-printing
  • An eco-friendly fabric to print on. I'm using 100% organic cotton.
  • A sheet of 100% recycled printer paper.
  • Writing utensil.
  • Masking tape. Scotch Greener is made from 56% renewable resources.
  • Reusable spoon or spatula.
  • Reusable screen printing frame.
  • Clamps or another person to hold down the frame while printing.
  • Squeegee.
  • Water-based screen printing ink.
  • Ink retarder or vegetable glycerine.
  • X-ACTO knife (or box cutter/Stanley knife).
  • Cutting board.
  • Resealable cup or jar.
  • Newsprint.
  • Natural hand soap. Nature's Gate makes a great one.
  • A soft scrub brush.
  • Iron.

The squeegee I'm using isn't the best quality, but it gets the job done for smaller projects. I recommend squeegees with a wood handle because they're more comfortable and make a much nicer print. Try to use reusable tools so less is thrown away. Water-based ink only requires water for cleanup, but I've found that softly scrubbing with natural hand soap can help cut down water waste.


Step 1: Draw Your Design

Use your writing utensil (like a pencil or felt-tipped marker) to draw a design onto the printer paper.

Draw your design

Step 2: Cut Out Your Stencil

On your cutting board, take your X-Acto knife and carefully cut out the areas you want to print through.

Cut out your stencil

Step 3: Wash and Iron Your Fabric

Pre-washing is always good to do with your fabric before printing to remove any coating and prevent shrinking after the ink has been applied.

Wash and iron your fabric

Step 4: Mix Your Ink

In the resealable jar, mix one teaspoon of retarder or veggie glycerine with every three tablespoons of ink. Add more if the air is dry where you are, but remember that the more glycerine you add, the longer your print drying time will be.

Vegetable glycerine is a convenient substitute for retarder because you can get it from any wholefoods/natural health store and it's 100 per cent natural. You can even moisturize your hands with it! The resealable jar will allow you to store the leftover ink for later projects.

Mix your ink with veggie glycerine

Step 5: Mask Your Screen

Put your frame screen-side up on the table. Position the stencil on the centre of the screen. Without taping the stencil down, add strips of tape to the screen - just around the stencil area. You want the stencil to overlap the taped area by at least half a centimeter.

Mask your screen
Tape around the stencil area

Step 6: Ready Your Screen and Stencil

On a piece of newsprint, centre your stencil face-up on the fabric you want to print.

Place your stencil on the fabric

Position your frame screen-side down onto the stencil. Centre the stencil inside the mask.

Lay your frame onto the stencil

Clamp your frame down so that it does not slide while printing.

Clamp down the frame

Step 7: Squeegee the Ink Through the Screen

Apply a line of ink onto the screen, just above your stencil.

Apply a line of ink to the screen

Place your squeegee above the ink line.

Hold your squeegee at a 45-degree angle

Hold the squeegee at a 45-degree angle towards your body. Push the squeegee down firmly and slide it toward you. A thin layer of ink will get pushed through the screen, then through the stencil, and onto the fabric.

Push the squeegee down and pull towards you
Push the squeegee down and pull towards you

Step 8: Remove the Screen

Unscrew and remove the clamps. Gently lift the screen. Your stencil will be stuck to the screen, and your fabric might too. Slowly peel your fabric while leaving the stencil attached to the screen.

Remove the print from the screen

Step 9: Hang Your Print to Dry

Let your print dry on a drying rack, a clothesline, or just a piece of newsprint. Drying time varies on the humidity and temperature in the air.

Hang your print to dry

Step 10: Make More Prints if You Like

If you would like to make more prints at this stage, print away! Change the newsprint if any ink went through your fabric. Lay down a new piece of fabric, center your frame on top, clamp it all down, and print using the same squeegee technique.

If you are going to be making multiple prints, be careful that the ink does not dry on the screen. You will have about 20 to 30 minutes of safe printing time before your ink might start to harden.


Step 11: Clean Up Eco-Friendly Style

Scrape off any ink remaining on your tools and screen. Return the ink to the resealable jar.

Scrape extra ink off of the screen

Peel the tape and stencil off of the screen.

Remove the stencil and tape from the screen

Wash your screen with water, the natural hand soap, and soft scrub brush. Try to use as little water as possible.


Step 12: Heat Cure the Ink

In order for your print to be permanent, you will have to cure the ink. Once your print is dry, iron the printed area on the highest setting for at least four minutes.

Iron the printed area to heat cure the ink

You did it! Now you have a freshly screen-printed piece, and you made it with care for you, your wallet and the planet!

Done!

What do you think? Are you going to use this technique? Have any eco-friendly screen printing tips? Let us know in the comments section below!

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