How to Screen Print with Stencils

A recent addition at Of Cabbages & Kings are these handy screen printing kits. They come come in two sizes, the A4 Screen Printing Kit and the A3 Screen Printing Kit, and are perfect for printing at home with stencils. The kits contain a wooden screen (43T mesh count), a wooden square 75 shore blade squeegee and 100ml of black and 100ml of white water-based ink. Ideal for printing on tote bag’s and t-shirts, or creating your own prints and stationery on paper and card.

We’ve put together a handy step-by-step guide to get you started creating your very own screen prints.

You will need:

• A simple image to trace

• Freezer paper or grease proof paper

• A sharp scalpel

• A cutting mat

• Something to print on – paper, card, a t-shirt or tote bag

• An iron if printing onto fabric

Start by choosing a design. Bold graphic shapes work best and remember you will end up with a monochrome image so greyscale tones will not work. Something that is straight forward to cut with a scalpel also makes creating the stencil much simpler. You can draw out a design first or choose an existing design to trace. Shading in the parts you want to cut out makes it easier to visualise the finished design.

You can create your stencil from freezer paper paper or grease proof paper. Freezer paper will give you more detail and a finer edge and is available online and in some craft shops.

We are using a light box to make the tracing process clearer, but it is not essential. If your image has a high contrast you should be able to see it through the paper quite easily. It is also possible to draw your design directly onto the paper. If you are using freezer paper make sure you have the mat side up and the shiny side down.

Once your design is drawn out begin to carefully cut out the parts you want the ink to pass through. Take time over this process as neat and rough edges will reflect in the finished print. Top tip – If you over-cut you can patch up an area with tape on the reverse and re-cut. 

Once all the pieces are cut out and you are happy with the design you are ready to print. Choose a sturdy flat surface and lay down the fabric or paper on which you intend to print. If you are printing onto fabric make sure that it is ironed flat. You may also want to place a piece of card between layers of fabric, for example a t-shirt or tote bag, as this will prevent ink bleeding through. 

Place your stencil onto the paper or card making sure it is flat and that there are no creases or wrinkles. If you are using freezer paper the shiny side should face down.

Now place your empty screen over your stencil mesh down, making sure not move the stencil out of place.

Apply a generous amount of ink (as some will be absorbed by the paper on your first pull) along the top edge of your screen. 

With the help of a friend or using a firm hand, hold the screen in place so it wont slip and slide around. In the other hand hold the squeegee at a 20 degree angle from the vertical position. Apply even, but firm pressure and pull the squeegee across the screen in a downward motion. Repeat again ensuring the ink covers the whole of the design. 

Lift your screen gently off. Your stencil should now stick to the screen ready for the next print. 

Stand back and marvel at what you have created!

If you are printing onto fabric and wish to cure the ink, after it has air dried place a tea towel over it and iron for 3-5 minutes with a hot iron.

Happy Screen Printing!

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