Screen printing is a process used by artists and printers. By the 1600s it was a highly-developed art in China and Japan, and it gradually spread to Europe. It had gained popularity in England by the early 1900s and has been used in advertising since the 1920s. It became popular in the 1950s because emerging Pop Artists wanted a cheap and easy way to mimic the bright bold colours and repeatable nature of adverts that were all around them. Screen printing is a difficult technique to master. My advice is not to try and master it. Instead be willing to make mistakes, get covered in paint and experiment! You’ll be surprised by the interesting effects you can create.
Mesh curtain fabric
Assorted fabric and paper
Make your screen
Spread your mesh curtain fabric out on a clean, flat surface.
Take your picture frame and lay it on top of the fabric.
Cut around the frame, leaving a generous border all the way around (about 12 cm on each side is plenty).
With an adult’s help, hold the frame steady. Start folding the fabric over the frame and staple gun it in place.
Pull the fabric taut and staple all around the frame, leaving no more than 3 cm between staples. When you’ve finished it should feel like a drum. If your screen is wrinkled or saggy it won’t give you a good screen print, so you need to make sure it’s smooth, taut and wrinkle-free. Leave the corners flappy for now.
Fold the corners in on themselves, roll or tuck as much of the excess as possible and then staple in place with a staple gun. Add a couple of extra staples for good luck.
Give the corners another trim.
Place lengths of strong duct tape around the inside edges.
Cut a little slit in each corner and tuck in.
Do this on each side. This will help protect the screen and keep it working for longer.
We’re starting with an open screen because this kind of screen printing is the simplest and most versatile.
If you haven’t already, make sure your space is protected with newspaper or plastic sheeting. Printing is really messy!
Cut out some straight-edged rectangles of thick cardboard. These are going to be your squeegees.
Spread your fabric/paper out on the table and masking-tape it in place to stop it moving. If an adult can iron the wrinkles out first, that would be a good move.
Cut out some shapes and arrange them on the fabric. We’re going to try and build a burger – Corita Kent style!
This screen is one I made earlier (I’ve always wanted to say that).
Place your screen face down on top of the cut outs.
With a teaspoon, spoon some acrylic paint on the top of your screen.
Holding the screen in place with one hand, pull the squeegee down the screen with the other to cover the cut outs with paint.
Carefully lift the screen. The cut outs will probably stick to the front.
Don’t expect perfection. This is definitely a growth mindset activity! Mistakes are there to be worked with.
Repeat the process a few times, then wash the screen thoroughly. Get all the paint off and leave it to dry.
While that’s drying you can make some more templates for your burger.
For this layer we want to put colour inside a shape, not around it.
Draw a simple shape on some thin card. This is going to be lettuce.
Carefully cut it out to make a stencil.
Making sure the print and screen are both dry, place the stencil and the screen on top of your fabric. Carefully spoon some green paint onto the frame (only where you need it) and pull it through with a fresh squeegee.
Don’t forget to wash the screen when you’re done and definitely before the paint begins to dry!
I made another template for some tomato slices, and this time I taped it to the surface of the fabric to make sure it didn’t move, then used the screen as before.
Here’s the finished burger print.
What will you make?
How about an AQUILA patch for your jacket from our Custom Jacket make which you can find here?
Be sure to send us photos of your super-duper screen prints for a chance to appear in our AQUILA News pages in the magazine!
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Words and photographs: Hi-lo Piccolo.