- Hair dryer
- Textile Screen Printing Ink
- Craft stick or plastic spoon, to spread ink onto the screen
- Squeegee or plastic spreader, ideally you want to use a size that is slightly larger than the image size.
- Fine mist spray water bottle
Before you start here is a check list of things to prepare:
- Have a basket or box at the end of the table to pool your printed fabric into.
- Get your hair dryer plugged in and make sure you can reach all areas of the fabric. You may need to use an extension cord.
- Have a small side table set up for a place to put your screen when it is not in use and also for the ink and squeegee. It's handy to have some wet wipes or paper towels nearby as well, just in case. On this table, place something for your screen frame to rest on so that the screen is not setting directly on the table. When it is filled with ink you want it to be elevated a bit. I usually use some sponges or other small items that are spaced for the frame to rest on. Keep your water spray bottle here as well.
- Have some test/scrap fabric set up for testing the design (optional).
Decide on the color of ink you want to use. I am using Versatex in my examples. There are many other brands out there, so use one that you like. I placed dabs of ink on my scrap fabric to see which one I liked best. I decided to use the one on the far left.
Place your frame in the first position on the printing surface and align it with the markings. Place a line of ink across the upper area of the screen. Pull your print and lift up the frame. Note, you can pull a first print on a piece of scrap fabric if you desire.
Moving to the left, skip the next set of marks and align the frame to the third set. Pull your next print and then skip the next space. You are going to print every other space down the length of the printing surface.
When you have finished printing every other space, take your screen to the side table and place it so it is elevated above the table surface. Very lightly spread the ink over the entire design area on the screen so that there is a somewhat even ink coating across the design. I sometimes use a smaller plastic spreader for this. Don't push hard with the spreader. You are not trying to push the ink through the screen, you are just trying to cover the design. This is called flooding the screen. The reason for this is to help keep the ink from drying in the design area of the screen. Then holding the water bottle about 12 or so inches above the screen give it one or two quick sprays to mist the ink.
Now grab your hair dryer and apply some warm/hot air to each print down the length of the printing surface. This will help the ink dry so that you can print the spaces in between without the frame picking up any wet ink from the fabric surface. I typically rotate the dryer in a circular pattern about six inches above the print for a count of around 15 to 20 seconds. Do this over each print you pulled. Lightly touch the ink on the fabric to see if it feels dry. If you see some on your finger, apply more air.
Now align your frame in the remaining spaces on the print surface and pull the rest of your prints.
Again return the frame to the side table and repeat the flooding of the screen and misting with water. Also repeat the drying on the newly pulled prints.
You now need to roll out more fabric onto your print surface. Remove all the pins that are holding it in place and pull the fabric down to the end so it pools into the basket.
Stop pulling the fabric when you reach the last print you pulled. Align the edge of the last print with your vertical tape line.
Smooth out the fabric all the way down the printing surface and align it along the bottom horizontal tape line. Re-pin so it stays flat. You can now continue printing. Repeat all the steps above, printing every other space, flooding/misting the screen, drying the prints, etc.
This is the sequence you will follow until you have printed the entire length of fabric.
When you have printed the entire piece of fabric, don't worry about using the hair dryer to dry the last prints on the print surface, these can air dry while you take care of more important matters.
You need to get the screen cleaned as quickly as possible. First I scrape any ink still remaining on the screen and squeegee and put it back in the ink container. I then remove the temporary tape that is holding the screen to the frame. I only want to wash the screen and not the frame. I don't want the frame to warp eventually from getting washed. It will have some areas of ink on it and you can wipe away any excess but eventually the frame will become stained with many colors of ink. That is okay as it doesn't affect how it performs. Get your screen and tools washed as quickly as possible so that they remain in good condition.
By the time you come back to your fabric, the last of the prints should be dry to the touch. If not, go ahead and use the hair drying or just let them set there and dry.
Remember to heat set your fabric according to the instructions on the ink container or provided by the ink manufacturer. Now you have some fabric yardage you can use in your next project.
- If you see some smudges of ink on your prints, you may have picked up some wet ink on the bottom of your screen. If this happens, look at the bottom to see if you can find the problem area and wipe it with a paper towel or wet wipe.
- Don't worry if your alignment is off a bit here and there. In the long run after you cut your fabric into smaller pieces, it won't be noticeable.
- Don't worry if you have a spot here and there where the design didn't print well. That is the nature of hand printing and you will have a unique piece of fabric in the end.
- If you don't have enough ink on your screen it can be difficult to flood the screen. Don't worry about having too much ink on your screen as you can always put any excess back in the jar when you are done printing.
- Try not to spray too much water on the flooded screen. You don't want the ink to become watery. If it does your prints may look a bit smeared. Flooding and misting the screen is something that you will get better at with practice.
- If an area of your screen does happen to get dried ink in it you will start seeing some skipping in your prints. If this happens, wet a paper towel with water and wipe that area of the screen until it looks like it has been cleaned. Try your print again, perhaps on a scrap piece of fabric to see if it has resolved.
I hope you have enjoyed this series on repeat printing with Thermofax screens. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments and I will answer them there. Thanks so much for following along.