Before the development of heat transfer paper, printing on materials other than paper was accomplished with screen printing. Even today many poster size prints and prints on fabric are done by silk screen printing. Screen printing can be done on many different materials including paper, plastic, fabric, wood, metal, and glass.
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How to do Silk Screen Printing

Before the development of heat transfer paper, printing on materials other than paper was accomplished with screen printing. Even today many poster size prints and prints on fabric are done by silk screen printing. Screen printing can be done on many different materials including paper, plastic, fabric, wood, metal, and glass.

The heat transfer method has the advantage of printing with high detail and in an almost unlimited number of colors. If you need high detail, for example a photographic image, you must use the heat transfer method. Silk screen printing has the advantage of being much lower in cost than heat transfer printing.

The silk screen printing method is fairly easy. It evolved from simple stenciling. For example if you want to stencil a circle, you could cut a circle out of the center of a piece of paper and then paint over the paper. But what if you wanted to stencil an "O". How would you keep the center block out in place?

One method would be to glue the stencil to a screen. The center of the "O" would be held in place by the screen mesh, while ink would still get through the screen to create the image. This is the basis of silk screen printing.

Another way to make a stencil is to cut out parts of a drawing and glue them into position on the screen. Then ink over the screen with a blocking substance. After the blocking substance dries, remove the parts of the drawing and the glue holding them in place. This leaves openings for the ink to pass through.

Originally, stencils were made of silk fabric, hence the name silk screen printing. Today screens are made of polyester and the process is referred to as screen printing. The screen is stretched onto a wood frame and held in place with staples. First the fabric is pulled tight and stapled at the centers of opposite sides. Then its stapled from the centers outward as you pull the fabric tight. Metal frames use a grove and cord system to hold the screen in place similar to window screens.

The Screen printer

You don't usually use a brush with screening printing. Instead you pour ink on one side of the stencil and use a squeegee to draw the ink across the stencil. The screen should be four inches larger on all four sides than the image that you want to print. This provides a working margin around the image to put the ink and place the squeegee. The margin is blocked out by sealing it with polyurethane coating or tape.

Silk screen and squeegee

The screen is attached to a backboard with hinges. The material to be printed on is placed on the backboard. The hinges are designed to permit easy replacement of the stencil. The hinge permits raising one side of the screen while placing ink in the lower margin area.

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