How to Screen Printing Effects

Written by steven lafler
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Screen printing is a great technique for printing graphics on T-shirts and fabric, as well as other materials such as poster board and wood. Once the basics of screen making and printing are mastered, there are several fun techniques available for special-effects printing. These include metallic inks, glitter inks, printing on dark fabrics and puff ink. By using the proper materials and techniques, you can execute these special-effects screen printing projects.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Screen printing ink
  • Silk screen frame
  • Squeegee
  • Spray glue
  • Screen print spot dryer
  • Rotary silk screen press
  • Poster board, fabric or T-shirts

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  1. 1

    Use opaque plastisol ink to print on dark fabrics. Print through an open screen mesh for best results. A mesh count of 80 to 110 is best. Hold the squeegee at a 45-degree angle and pull the ink across the screen with a firm printing stroke. Dry the print with a screen printing spot dryer, or a conveyor dryer if available. The ink must cure at 148 degrees Cor at least 15 seconds.

  2. 2

    Try the white under base technique for printing on dark fabric. Begin by spray-gluing the shirt or fabric to the print area. Print the design in white opaque plastisol ink and cure for 15 seconds with a spot dryer. Then print with an identical screen, registered to the under base, the desired colour on top of the white. Cure for 15 seconds. The result is a bright, opaque print. Multiple colour prints can be executed over an under base; be sure to cure between impressions.

  3. 3

    Puff inks are screen printing inks that expand when heat-cured. Once the design is printed and dried, the image rises about one-eighth of an inch above the print surface. The puffing agent is purchased separately from the ink. Mix about 10 per cent puffing agent into the ink and print as usual. There are puffing agents available for both plastisol and water-based inks. Do not use more puff than recommended, as the ink will break down and the print will disintegrate.

  4. 4

    Print with metallic inks in gold, silver and bronze as you would with regular screen printing inks. Use the proper mesh count recommended by the ink manufacturer; usually an open mesh, 80 to 110 count, works well. The metallic inks are a bit harder to print: Press down hard on the squeegee get all the ink through the screen. Increase drying time to 20 or 25 seconds and test for cure. Clean screens carefully to ensure that all the ink washes out.

  5. 5

    Use glitter inks to enhance a multicolour design by highlighting selected areas in glitter, or on their own for a dynamic effect. They print through very open mesh, anywhere fro 25 to 60 count. Check the manufacturer's instructions for the proper mesh for the ink. Like metallic inks, they require more pressure to print, and more time to cure and clean up.

Tips and warnings

  • When printing on dark fabric with colours on top of an under base coat of white opaque plastisol ink, the colours printing on top of the under base do not need to be opaque ink.
  • Increase your exposure time when burning open mesh screens for use with glitter inks. These screens require an extra thick layer of emulsion, thus they need a longer exposure time.

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