We sent our social media manager Sarah an early Christmas present in the form of our brand new Screen Printing Kit – a collaboration with our friends (and screen printing experts) Print Club London. We know Sarah has a creative side (and some clothes that could do with a little ‘jazz’ing up) – here’s a record of how things went…
I’ve always fancied myself as a creative type, and the idea of the beginner-friendly Screen Printing Kit from Luckies and Print Club London seemed like it was right up my street!
It’s not got the risk of injury like lino cutting (tiny sharp blades, anyone?) and it has the added bonus of being reusable over and over. This is a key element for me because no matter my intentions I always manage to fluff something up at some point, regardless of following the instructions to the letter.
I love print tees, that’s the whole point of getting this kit, but it meant that I dodn’t have a single plain tee to print on! Fortunately for me my local charity shop had some suitable tops so not only do I get to feel creative but smugly eco-conscious too. (I recommend it)
Disclaimer: this is not a ‘How-to-use’. This is more of a how to use, mess up and realise it’s all ok, restart, achieve excellence and quit while you’re ahead.
This involves unpacking the box and preparing your work surface with newspaper to protect it. I don’t have any newspaper but I do have a stack of yellow pages which I merrily rip up and delicately lay down instead. I unpack the box and everything is present and correct. I’m really impressed at how many vinyl templates come with it.
This is where you fetch your secondary items. Make sure your sink is clear for washing the screen when you’re done, get your bits you’re printing on (I chose tee shirts), you may want a spare thing to test print on too.
Masking tape, scissors and cardboard are useful. You should probably prep your items by inserting some cardboard in under the layer you’re printing on, to stop it soaking through to the other side.
Plan your design. I did not have any super artistic ideas of my own, although I quite fancied the idea of a cassette tape like they show in the instructions. No, I will resist and use the templates provided to prove I can get all the way through without covering myself in ink and frustrated tears.
The vinyls will block the ink so whatever design you apply to the screen will be the inverse of what prints. I say this now because like me, you will get confused a few times while your brain tries to compute what it’s looking at. (I choose the heart and scroll motif.)
Steps 4 & 5
If you decided to create your own graphics, here is where the instructions describe how to go about getting it onto your screen. As I’m not doing this, I’m skipping to….
Where you peel off the vinyls, marvelling at how shiny they are, and stick them to your screen. Luckily the one I’ve chosen is wide enough to allow for the fact that I’ve put it on wonky. Don’t throw the backing paper away as they’re reusable.
By the time I’ve got the heart design on my screen, I’ve decided to add the word ‘jazz’ and a star to the scroll section, which I get to doing immediately.
Steps 7 & 8
Keep flipping the screen over to see what it looks like, and to see if you can spot any unwanted gaps in where the vinyl isn’t quite stuck to the mesh properly. There’s something very satisfying about smoothing those little bubbles out.
…. Is for people who want to test their printing which I am far too excited to do, so I skip to…
Which is the part where you lay your fabric out (don’t forget to place some cardboard beneath/inside it), and then figure out where your screen needs to be in order to print where you want. Do I want a collarbone, nipple level or belly level print? Where are the prints on my favourite tees? They tend to be a little higher, so I opt for a little higher on my top too. (Look at me being logical and stuff.)
Splodge ink onto the end of the screen furthest away from you, and spread it across the width with the wooden spatula provided. It’s getting very real now and I’m feeling pretty pleased at how smoothly it’s going.
Steps 12 & 13
Lift the screen slightly and use the squeegee to spread the ink thinly across the mesh towards you.
Hmm. I can’t seem to spread all the ink in all the gaps, I must need more ink. Nope, still not covering the gaps i can see. More ink. And more ink. More. More. Then, I realise what’s happening on the other side of my screen….
Ink is oozing out where it will be printing, and it’s only because I’ve kept the screen at the angle away from the cloth that it hasn’t turned everything black!
Hecking PANIC. I scrape what I can back into the ink pot and run with the screen, swearing, into the kitchen, where I wash the screen and remove all the vinyls, and leave everything to air dry.
Sulking, I sit on the sofa with a coffee and angrily devour more Dairy Milk than strictly necessary.
Strop over, I fetch a hairdryer and gently dry the screen and the vinyls. Pro tip: don’t use a high heat on the vinyls otherwise you’ll distort them. Please don’t ask me how I found that out.
Everything dry once more, I repeat the above and try again. So, where were we? Ah, yes.
This time I apply ink around the design and squeegee across rather than down, so the ink has less far to travel. And it seems to work!
Steps 14, 15, & 16
Get yourself prepared because it’s Go Time!! Replace the squeegee to the starting point, place the screen flat (I also splodged some more ink on), and scrape the squeegee across to make the print.
I’ll put my hands up to squeegee-ing from several different directions as I had two areas that were just having none of it- and it was fine. Removing the screen to see my design was The Most Satisfying Thing Ever.
I repeated the printing process on two more tees, and then I think I got a bit ink merry to the extent that both Z’s in ‘jazz’ came away from the screen and stuck to the tee i was printing on. I took that as a sign to quit while I was ahead.
When you’re done, scoop any excess ink back into the jar, waste not want not and all that.
Get your tools cleaned, pronto. You do NOT want your ink drying on the mesh of the screen. Remove the vinyls, wash and leave to air dry, and then replace them on the backing paper for use again another time.
While removing the vinyls, I left water running over the screen so it didn’t dry out, and vinyls safely off I then gave it a good clean with a sponge. It’s normal to get some design ghosting or staining of the mesh so don’t fret if that’s the case for you.
After about 6 hours, the ink should be dry on your designs. Flip ‘em inside out and iron on the reverse for about 5 minutes on a medium heat. No steam, mind. I popped a tea towel inside the tops just to play it safe, as I didn’t want to risk a rogue bit of ink transferring but it was all fine.
This is a super fun kit. You don’t need to be an artist, you just need to be good at reading instructions! And, at the rate you’ll enthusiastically be churning our prints, you’ll probably need friends willing to wear them. Good luck!