Our guide to screen printing

Our guide to screen printing

First published date April 07 2014 Amended date May 27 2014

Remember when you used to use stencils as a kid to draw pictures? Well there is an even cooler use of stencils: screen printing. This artistic technique uses stencils and paint to transfer drawings and designs onto things such as t-shirts, tea towels, paper and other canvases. Taking a screen printing course will teach you how to make kooky, everyday items and bold pieces of art.


What is screen printing?

Screen printing, also known as serigraphy or silk printing, is the process of pushing ink or paint through a woven mesh stencil onto a canvas, to create a desired image. An image is first drawn onto the mesh and then certain areas of the mesh are covered with an ink blocking substance so only the image is printed onto the canvas. Nearly anything can be used as a canvas (or substrate) with some of the most popular being; wood, t-shirts, fabric, posters, cardboard and paper.


What will I learn?

On a screen printing course the first thing you will learn is how to make your own stencils, these can be made from either your own designs and drawings or an image you have selected to use. If you want to create your own images then a fine art course could help you to improve those skills. Make sure your designs are simple; screen prints are all about being bold and standing out. You will then learn how to create a screen printer with your stencil and how to apply with ink or paint. The best thing about a screen printing course is that it will be extremely hands on; you will be asked to bring in your own canvas such as a t-shirt or tea towel and you will then receive one on one advice from your tutor to help successfully print the design onto it.

After learning the main techniques of screen printing, you will also learn some of the theory behind it. Basic colour and mixing theory will teach you how to choose the best colours to make your design stand out, you will also learn about different designs, design placements and fabric suitability.


A pop art sensation

During the 1960s, screen printing was made popular by the pop art movement, with some of the most famous artists of the time using the technique to create their works of art. The rising popularity in the 1960s is often most credited to pop artist Andy Warhol. Warhol’s most famous piece of work may be the screen printing of Marilyn Monroe named the ‘Marilyn Diptych’. Despite this, screen printing can be traced back thousands of years ago, to Japan, where the art of Katazome involved using a stencil to dye patterns and images onto fabrics.


Create something unique

Screen printing can be used by manufacturers or artists, but more importantly it can be a technique used by anyone. Have you ever wanted to make your own t-shirts? Then look no further than a screen printing course. Designing your own t-shirts will give you a unique and original appearance and you can even make a bit of money by selling them to friends and at your local market. An extra fashion design course will give you a good eye for t-shirt design.

You could also use your new skills to make a thoughtful present for a special person in your life. You could create a cool design on a t-shirt or apron or you could print a heart warming message on a tea towel. Gifts that are homemade are better than any gift you could possibly buy.


Careers in screen printing

Once you have taken a course in screen printing, both, creative, and practical jobs will open up for you. On the creative side you could become an artist or fashion designer. You could also design your own merchandise such as aprons and tea towels and become self employed, setting up a shop or website. Making these yourself would be more cost efficient so make sure you enrol on a knitting or sewing course. The more practical career route could be working for a large manufacturer screen printing t-shirts; there will be less creativity in this job as you will be printing set designs.


How to make your own screen printer

  1. Find a wooden photo frame.
  2. Get hold of some old net curtain or buy some from a local shop, making sure the holes in the fabric are relatively small, not large.
  3. Stretch the net curtain over the wooden photo frame and staple it down.
  4. You can then tape around the borders of the frame to make sure the net curtain is neat and not poking out.
  5. Hinges should be used to attach the wooden frame to a flat surface, a wooden board is best. This helps to keep the mesh in place and make it easier to lift the screen frame.
  6. You are now good to go. You can start using your artistic flair to design stencils.

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