here's one I made earlier :: screenprinting

Katie | May 8, 2011

I recently had the great pleasure to spend an evening at The Make Lounge on their Screen Printed Textiles workshop. I first tried my hand at screenprinting at the Print Block in Whitstable, during the Oyster Festival and I’m starting to think I might have caught the bug!

Screenprinting ink

We started with a demonstration from the lovely Helen Rawlinson who led the class. (Forgive me if this post is a little repetitive of my previous screenprinting post; I felt I’d learnt more, so I thought this was worth sharing.)

The stencil

Screenprinting is based on the premise of ink passing through (a screen and) a stencil to print on the fabric or paper below, so the stencil is always where you start. We were working with the simplest form of screenprinting, using paper stencils. Helen placed her stencil onto the canvas tote bag and positioned in according to where she wanted the final image to appear.

Taping the screen

She placed the screen over the area to be printed, screen-side up and taped off the area that was to be printed, creating a frame for the stencil.

Taping the inside of the screen

She placed the screen (carefully because the paper stencils stick to the screen through static, so once it’s put down, that’s where it will be when you print) screen-side down over the stencil and tote bag and taped the inside of the screen to match the tape on the outside. The outside is the side that creates the outer printing edges, so on the inside the tape should be slightly further out than on the outside.

Screenprinting ink being applied to the screen

Helen then liberally applied screenprinting ink to one end of the screen using a spatula.

Squeegee-ing ink across the screen

With a glamorous assistant(!) to hold the screen in place, she dunked the squeegee in the ink to ensure it was covered, placed it behind the ink and at an angle of 45 degrees, leaning onto it, she pulled it down across the screen, flooding the screen with ink, creating a pleasing ‘squee’ noise that explained the onomatopoeic “squeegee”.

Removing excess ink from the squeegee

The process was repeated before Helen used the spatula to scrape the excess ink back into its pot.

Lifting the screen off the print

She then showed us how to carefully lift the screen off the print “opening it like a book” from right to left. The stencil clings to the screen and so comes off too.

Cleaning up!

And then everything is cleaned with soapy water, the stencil going into the bin. If you want multiple prints, you have to do them from the same screen.

Sadly, I was too excited about getting cracking with my own prints to get a picture of Helen’s finished tote bag – sorry Helen!

Image for my stencil, ISOTYPE design by Gerd Arntz

We’d been asked to bring along pictures that we might want to make prints from, so I’d brought this lovely ISOTYPE design by Gerd Arntz.

My stencil

To create my stencil I carefully cut out the image with a scalpel, removing the sections I wanted to be printed and keeping the sections I wanted to stay white.

Inserting lino into the bag

I then inserted a piece of lino into the bag, to make sure the ink didn’t seep through to the other side. If you’re printing onto a single sheet of material or paper, you just place this underneath to protect the work surface.

Screen laid over stencil

Then I positioned the stencil on the bag where I wanted it to go, and put the screen, screen-side up, over the top, so I could see where to tape it.

The taped screen

I taped off the printing area on both sides of the screen. In this case, because I was printing a negative image, the taping was particularly important because the ink would print right up to the edges of the tape, so the tape was forming the shape of the printed area.

The flooded screen

I flooded the screen with ink as Helen had shown us (unfortunately there are no photos because I couldn’t print and shoot at the same time!) and carefully removed the screen to reveal…

Finished ISOTYPE tote bag hanging up to dry

… my finished bag! I hung it up to dry, finishing it off with a hairdryer and then just had to iron it on a low heat for a couple of minutes to fix the ink when I got home.

I also tried another design – this time a positive image.

Birds on a wire

I started with a fairly classic silhouette of birds on a wire, and again carefully cut out the image with a scalpel.

My stencil

This time, because I wanted to print a positive image, the positive image was the bit I discarded; keeping the white spaces around the birds and the wires.

I went through the same process, choosing this lovely vibrant blue colour.

Blue screenprinting ink

And here is my finished bag, pinned up above my desk at home for inspiration…

Finished tote bag

You may also be interested in:

Further reading for the especially geeky:

Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

Follow Katie on Twitter or Instagram.

See more of 's Posts


  • Won’t the dye eventually lose its colour over time, or if left in sunlight or put in the dishwasher?

    • The higher the concentration of dye in the solution, the less colour is lost. There seems to be a point at which the moisture is fully absorbed back into the air, leaving the particles of dye in the ceramic body unable to move and so the colour/ pattern is fixed

      Sunlight doesn’t seem to affect the colour; I had a few test pieces sat on the window sill in direct sunlight with a line of tape on them to see if sunlight did anything and nothing happened. The test was conducted over the few months so am not sure about longer term exposure

      The pieces are decorative so wouldn’t need to be put in the dishwater but I did test them, one with a sealant on and one without, and there wasn’t any change – although I left some tiled pieces I made in the rain and the dye moved around again and became very vibrant

      There is lot of science behind the process, most of which I don’t fully understand and sometimes doesn’t make any sense – could talk about it for hours but I’ve tried to be concise!

  • Kuo

    this is such a cool process. did your friend emma come up with this on her own?? that’s incredible! also, i was watching the video while listening to “Goodnight, Travel Well” by the Killers, so the video was very dramatic for me haha

    • Thank you and yes – the process came from trying to dye everything, even the studio sink!

  • The technique is so pretty and natural. Thanks for sharing.

  • Fer

    Wow! I love your work. Congratulations!

  • Christine Lynn

    I like the watercolour effect on the pieces. They look very natural because they don’t look like they were painted. By using the dye to colour the pieces, is it safe to use the bowls and cups for dinnerware?

Follow us
on Instagram