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Screen Printing: Introduction

In this blog post, we'll show you a behind the scenes look at our Eco Friendly form of screen printing.  Instead of screen printing chemicals we use a PVC-Free Self Adhesive Permanent Vinyl from Eco Friendly Crafts.  Using our product blanks, we'll show you how to screen print simply and safely.  This technique can be used for printing a one-color print multiple times.  

Materials

Materials:

**Screen with 110 mesh count

**Squeegee 60 durometer

Hinge Clamps

PVC-Free Self Adhesive Permanent Vinyl

Screen Printing Ink

Painter's Tape

Transparency Roll (I’ve had mine for a while and don’t remember where I got it - look for a thick, transparent material large enough to cover print area and substrate)

Transfer Tape (I am reusing a plastic transfer tape in this post but will soon be switching to the paper tape linked here so it is recyclable)

Permapaque Marker

Scraper

Weeder

Ruler

Scissors

Chip Board (I’ve used mine forever and it’s from a picture frame, just make sure it’s fairly thick and smooth - don't use cardboard it will leave an unwanted texture in your print)

Option 1: Craft Knife

Option 2: Cutting Machine (i.e. Cricut)

**Squeegee and Mesh:

Squeegees are measured in durometers where 60 is soft, 70 is medium, and 80 is hard.  Mesh is measured by thread count; threads/inch.  The higher the number, the more threads per inch and the tighter the weave, thus making it harder to push the ink through.  A higher thread count also allows for more detailed designs.  110 mesh count is standard and deposits a good amount of ink.  This thread count combined with the softer squeegee (60-65 durometer) allows more ink to pass through with less pressure and strokes, which is great for a lower detailed print on fabric.  Make sure your squeegee is long enough to pass over your entire design evenly with an inch or two extra on each side.

Directions:

Cut Your Vinyl:

Cut design from vinyl by hand or use cutting machine with vinyl side up.  Either way, make sure your design is mirrored.  Leave a border of vinyl around your design.

Cutting by hand:

I enjoy cutting by hand because it is a bit more involved. It’s important to slow down and appreciate the craft; cutting by hand definitely allows you to enjoy the process.  To cut by hand, print your design on computer paper, mirrored, and tape it to the vinyl side, then cut it out by tracing with craft knife - apply light pressure so you cut only through the vinyl and not the backing (the Slice tool is perfect because it has a shorter blade).  When cutting by hand, cut from inside of design first and work your way out so you don’t cut part of the design off.  It is also important to cut your finer details first and larger elements last.  Weed as you go especially for more intricate designs.  You want to weed out the parts of the design that you would like to be ink and keep the vinyl in place where you don't want the ink to pass. Cutting by hand takes more time, but it is a very therapeutic process.  You will receive a rougher, handmade look to your print.

Cutting by machine:

If you have a cutting machine such as a Cricut or Silhouette feel free to send your design to your cutting machine for a quicker cut.  Use setting for vinyl, place vinyl side up.  Make sure to mirror your design.

Cut vinyl

Once cut, weed out the parts of your design you would like to be ink.  Keep the rest of the vinyl in place to block out the ink from passing through the mesh.  

Weed design

Attach Vinyl to Screen:

Apply transfer tape to vinyl side and remove back liner carefully making sure you don't loose any elements of your design. 

Apply transfer tape

Remove back

Apply transfer tape with your design onto the outside of your screen.  Use the scraper on both sides of mesh to ensure all elements transfer.  Carefully remove transfer tape.

Apply to screen

Cover exposed mesh surrounding the vinyl with painter’s tape on vinyl side to prevent unwanted ink transferring onto substrate.  

Painters tape to exposed screen

Set Up Transparency:

Place screen in hinge clamps.  Hinge clamps should be screwed into your table to hold your screen in place.  My first hinge clamp is 9” from the left side of my table with 6.5” between my two hinge clamps.

Place screen in hinge clamp

Tape sheet of transparency to table.  Mine measures 19” wide x 25” long.  I tape it to the edge of the table so I can easily flip it out of the way.  You will be pulling it over your substrate and then flipping it out of the way to print.  This will allow you to register your print so you see where it will land on your substrate.  You will also use the transparency to mark your substrate placement so you don't have to remeasure for each print.

Attach mylar to table

Printing Tips:

If you don’t have enough ink nothing will push through to your substrate and you will have a dry spot in your print.  If there is too much ink it may bleed.

Practice on a scrap substrate to get the ink amount, pressure, and number of pulls correct.  It is best to practice on a material that is the same as your final substrate.

If you need to clean off ink bleed (excess ink bleeding onto your vinyl) from your screen, print a couple times on computer paper to clear off the excess ink and refresh to nice clean lines again.  Save this paper and reuse for this purpose in the future.

Make sure you are printing on a hard, flat surface.  If printing on a bag or t-shirt, place a piece of thick, smooth chip board inside where the design will be printed.  Make sure any gusset is on the back side under the chip board.

Chipboard

Pull with even pressure at about a 45 degree angle.  If printing on paper or your fabric is thin and smooth you may only need one pull with lighter pressure.  If it is more textured and heavier, like canvas, you may need two+ pulls for full coverage.  This all should be determined in your practice run on a scrap piece.

Pull at 45 deg angle

Determining the best pressure is key during your practice runs as pushing too hard will cause your image to bleed and pushing too light will cause dry spots.  Take a deep breath and find that perfect middle ground.  Practice makes consistency.

Flood your screen to start (lift screen off substrate and pull lightly to cover image on screen with ink.)  Then, starting from the far side, pull with medium pressure.  Pick up the squeegee and place it at far side and pull again, if needed.  Sometimes I will flood the screen between pulls without lifting it off the substrate.  I have seen screen printers push the ink through the screen (start from side closest to you and push squeegee down the screen).  This is your personal preference and however you are comfortable depositing the ink.  Play around during your practice prints - trial and error - until you are comfortable and your prints are consistent.

Flood image

If unwanted ink is being deposited onto your substrate check the vinyl side of your mesh.  Is there a hole in your vinyl?  Cover with painter's tape.  Is there exposed mesh between your vinyl and painter's tape?  Add more tape.  Is the vinyl bubbling any where?  Try to press back onto mesh - you may have to remake your screen - ensure your vinyl is lying flat against the mesh when you initially transfer it to avoid this.  

Print:

Place substrate under screen.  Pull transparency over substrate and tape in place. 

Mylar over substrate

Pull screen down and add a line of ink to the far side of the ink side.  Lift screen slightly and flood with ink.  Place screen on substrate/transparency.

Line of ink on screen

Print image onto the transparency. 

Print on mylar

Lift screen and adjust substrate under the transparency so the image falls where you would like it.

Mark substrate

Using your Permapaque marker mark your substrate placement directly onto the transparency so you don't have to remeasure every print.

Align substrate under mylar

Practice printing on a scrap piece that is the same material as your substrate.

Practice

Once ready for your final print, align your design onto your final substrate using the transparency.  Flip transparency back and print onto your substrate.  Continue printing as many times as you'd like using the transparency to align your design and substrate.

Align subsrate

Print on bag

If Printing on Paper:

If you are printing your design onto paper, use the transparency paper to line up your print and make sure it is landing where you'd like it on your paper.  Flip the transparency out of the way and use tape to mark the corners of the paper.  Now your paper is registered for the rest of your prints.

Paper print

Clean Up:

When finished printing, use your squeegee to clean excess ink off screen, scrape it off squeegee back into ink container.

Remove tape, save and reuse if possible.

Rinse screen and vinyl.  Remove vinyl from mesh and recycle.

Wipe transparency clean.  Use a magic eraser to remove the marker.

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