Super Dirty Screenprinting

How to make your own screenprinting masterpieces sans YuDo or any other fancy equipment!

[From original blog post] Somewhere on the scale of “Activities I cannot get enough of”, somewhere between ‘eating chocolate’ and ‘lasercutting’ ranks ‘screenprinting’. Three summers ago at the Three River Arts Festival in Pittsburgh, PA I was introduced to the art. Soon after, every week I religiously trekked to the North Side to AIR (Artists Image Resource) to partake in open studio nights. I made sheets, napkins, cards, coasters (these cork coasters are a weekend staple in my family’s living room where we enjoy coffee and the newspaper – their designs are my own, my architecture projects to be exact!), and one too many t-shirts (note: this is the opinion of others, of course I hold court with the opposite opinion). Since my love affair began I’ve introduced many people to the art with much success. Even my super non-artsy friend Amanda claims that she is good at this (and she is!). Others have made shirts for their teammates and printed canvases for their parents and my favorite is a couple who printed their own wedding invites. Lovely!

Unfortunately I don’t live in Pittsburgh anymore or within 30 miles of any place half as awesome as AIR so I had to learn/invent the cheap and dirty way to screenprint (aka this DIY tutorial). So, three reasons I think you’ll love this art form and especially this technique: The possibilities are endless. The supplies are so cheap you’ll feel no guilt over taking up this craft once in a year or even once in a lifetime (although, I do warn you, this is ADDICTING!). Once you make a template you can wash it and use it over and over and over and over and you get the point!:


VERY fine mesh fabric (think sheer window panels, not tulle, look for remnants at JoAnn’s);

one stipling (foam or bristle – I prefer foam) brush (mind you: if you anticipate falling hard for this technique, then one will just not be enough!);

one pencil; mod-podge (this is essential, nothing else will do it’s job like this baby will!);

one plastic LARGE embroidery hoop(my preference is plastic – and pink);

paints (I tend towards fabric no matter what material I am printing on to,but of course any acrylic will do you fine [secondary parenthesis: I once tried to use nail polish because I didn’t have another version of this sparkly, pretty color and while it took beautifully to the paper, it pretty much ruined my fabric template. Not exactly a time efficient process when you have to remake the template after one use, eh?)!;

LASTLY: the object-du-jour that you’d like to make all gorgeous and unique


1. Use your noggin’. Design something fabulous and draw with pencil right onto the fabric (or trace something from a piece of paper if your ideas are better than your talents).

2. Place fabric (there shouldn’t be a good or a bad side of the fabric but there will be a “right side up” to your design. Lay your fabric down as you want it to appear, there is no “mirror your image” trickery in this project!) between the two rings of the e.hoop and secure in place by snapping together hoops and twisting the metal dial… Your fabric should be laying so it is NOT touching the table surface you should be working on, it SHOULD be levitating in air above the table top (if this doesn’t make sense now, start your project and I guarantee you’ll understand!). Give the fabric a gentle tug to make sure it is REALLY taught and make sure your design is centered in the hoop and that all of it is contained inside the hoop otherwise it won’t be in the print (duh!)!

3. Paint with the mod-podge all around the negative space of your design (aka the areas of the design that don’t make up the design – the negative/white/nothing space!). Sometimes I use a toothpick along with the brush to get into the little crevices of my masterpieces and be generous! – make sure to cover big margins around the design – you won’t want stray paint marks later! Make sure your mod-podge fully covers the fabric but don’t be too globby or it will peel off after a few washings. Also, an over-saturated design could become droopy and then you’ll run the risk of the fabric sticking to the table surface (oh no!). FYI, One coating should do you good.

4. Let dry. Go make up some other designs.

5. Once dry, remove the hoop and reposition so that the fabric IS touching the table once secured in the hoop (the design should still be facing “right side up” the way you intend it to look on the finished product. Again, you’ll need to make sure all of your design is within the hoop’s circle and that the fabric is taught. FYI, the mod-podge can be facing up or down.

6. Lay the hoop and fabric ensemble on the material you chose and stiple away (stiple means you take a bit of paint on the tip of a foam or bristle brush and dot the paint on the material through the screenprinting fabric using an UP AND DOWN motion NOT a sweeping motion. You’re not painting a canvas, your simulating the process of screenpainting and you only want the paint to be pushed through the holes of your design. If you begin to sweep, stop yourself! You’ll run the risk of moving the hoop and fabric around or of pushing paint sideways. No good!). Dip your brush in paint and cover your masterpiece. A little paint goes a long way here. FYI, You can be a bit messier than you can in traditional screenprinting environments – you ca get the paint all over the mod-podge and it won’t transfer!

7. Pull the hoop/screen away from your newly decorated object and sigh a big sigh of relief because you didn’t just ruin that shirt by making a big red blob! YAY! Let the object dry and go wash your screenprinting fabric. The paint will slid off and the mod-podge will stay put so you can reuse this screen over and over and over to your heart’s content!

8. Wear/hang-up/carry around your brilliant design on your chosen material and be happy knowing that your project cost pennies to the kits out there today and to the studio price you could be paying to share squeegees and emulsion fluids with strangers!

{PS>> How I made those coasters above using the traditional method at AIR: First, I built this bench by hand, from scratch in a wood shop. Then I took a photo of it. Then I uploaded the photo, changed the image from a jpg to a bitmap so that it only read in black and white pixels (see those tiny b&ws, yup, that’s it!). Then I printed the new image on a sheet of transparency paper and put that paper on a screeprinting, emulsified screen under a specialized screenprinting lamp for a few minutes. Once the image was burnt onto the screen, I stuck my cork coaster underneath, pulled the ink through the screen with a squeegee and VOILA! Coaster! Now you know both ways!}

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