Starting screenprinting

For the past couple of weeks at Morley College we’ve started learning about screenprinting. I’ve never done any screenprinting before, and if I’m honest, it’s been a bit frustrating.

For a start, there is quite a lot of hanging around anyway – for example, waiting for screens to dry after coating with emulsion. But this has been exacerbated by the number of people on our course – 15 or so, around 10 of whom, like me, have no experience of screenprinting – and lack of facilities. So there is not enough room in the drying cupboards to put all the screens after coating with emulsion (important so that they are not exposed to light); the fans in the drying cupboards don’t work, slowing down the process even more; the rubber cover on the single exposure bed has become detached from the frame, so we need to take extra care when setting up the screen for exposure; and if both sinks are used at the same time for washing down the screens, the water tank tends to empty, meaning no or little water at a crucial time.

None of this is the fault of the tutor, Mark, who does his best in trying circumstances to shepherd 10 tyros through the technicalities. But he hasn’t been helped by the fact that the new emulsion we used to coat the screens last week has different properties from the old emulsion, so all the screens had to be washed off and recoated, or by half the screens we prepared last week being taken by other students on other courses.

Anyway, enough of the griping, and back to the process. Sticking to my turtle theme, I wanted to do a design based on photos of some of the tanks of baby turtles I saw in Sri Lanka.


I am pretty hopeless at drawing, so I traced around the outlines of some of the turtles, reversed some of them and changed the sizes, then arranged them in a circular composition in two colours.

Then I made two separate tracings, one for the orange screen, one for the black screen. The photo below shows the tracing for the orange screen – although the printed colour will be orange, the artwork has to be black to prevent the screen from being exposed to light.

And this is the screen after being exposed with the artwork and washed down.

Then came the fun part – experimenting with printing on different fabrics. There are a few photos below, showing the orange ink on cotton, fleece, organza and broderie anglaise, among others.

Sadly, you’ll have to wait a few weeks before I can show you the prints with the black layer. It’s half term next week, and I haven’t coated my screen to be able to expose the black layer next – and you know how long that will take!

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

4 thoughts on “Starting screenprinting”

  1. Hi Kim
    Lovely your turtles …. love it, well done !!
    Heard about it, but I never did Screenprinting ….seems complicated !
    I am looking forward to the endresult !!
    Silvia …..cooler here !!

    1. Silvia,

      The most complicated part is trying to separate the artwork into different colours. As an editor, I’m used to working with cyan, magenta, yellow and black separations for printing – but the printer does the separations, not me!

      Glad it’s cooled down a bit in Turkey – it’s jolly cold here!


  2. Hi Kim, it is frustrating isn’t it? We haven’t exposed screens yet, but did some interesting work using paper stencils and templates, which was certainly faster.

  3. Avril,

    Good luck with your screenprinting – I look forward to reading about it on your blog. The batik work you did looked interesting. How many people on your course?


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