I recently went to a screen printing class where we learned how to quickly create screen designs using stencils. After that, I’ve become a woman obsessed with screening. If my cats sat still long enough, they would probably have designs screenprinted on them. The only problem: creating a stencil requires a deceiving amount of creative problem solving. My brain hurts from thinking of how to avoid islands of white in my designs, while also avoiding cutting my fingers off with the xacto knife.
In moments of creative block on what to slice out and screen print next, I turn to the boundless font of ideas that is Dribbble to find a little inspiration.
10 Stencil-inspired Dribbble shots
This last image is an excellent example of my next section:
DIY stencil screens 😻
Feeling ready to stencil some shit and get screen printing? Check out the video to see the (sped up) process, and my step by step instructions below to get started. You’ll be making matching screened t-shirts for you and all your friends in no time.
Step 1 – Assemble your gear
- Freezer paper
- Trace paper
- Xacto knife
- A screen
- Screen printing ink
- A squeegee
- Stuff to screen onto (cards, t-shirts, totes, etc)
Step 2 – Create your design
I like to do this on the computer, but you can draw out your design too! The most important thing is that you DON’T CREATE ISLANDS of white in your design. This is admitted very hard for me to wrap my mind around. Any negative space within your design needs to be connected to the white areas as a whole in order for it to work.
Step 3 – Trace
Print out your design and lay a piece of trace paper over it. Trace over the outline of the entire design using a soft leaded pencil (mechanical works best for me). Be sure to bear down enough that you leave a good amount of lead in your lines.
Then, you will flip the drawn side of your trace paper down on the non-shiny side of your freezer paper. It will be backwards, and that is exactly what you want! Go back over all the lines you made from the other side of the trace paper to imprint the lead from your pencil onto the freezer paper. When you pick it up, you should have a faint outline of the whole design.
Step 4 – Slice it! (The paper. Not your hands please.)
Use your Exacto knife to cut along the lines you’ve made, being extra careful not to cut through your connectors. It helps to hold up your paper and check that the empty spaces you’re creating match the image you want to screen.
Step 5 – Time to get inked
Once your stencil is all cut out, place it shiny side up onto the item you want to print. I find it’s best to do a couple of test prints on paper the first time to figure out how it works.
Lay your screen over the stencil, and using a spoon or knife, scoop a thick line of ink below your stencil that is as wide the widest part of the design. Pick up your squeegee, and holding it at a 45 degree angle, smooth the ink up over your design using no downward pressure. This should make a thin, even layer of ink over the whole thing.
Flip the squeegee over so the ink side is down again above the design this time, again at a 45 degree angle, and pull it down to the bottom using downward pressure like your trying to scrape the ink away. ** You may want to scrape your squeegee back and forth twice when you screen onto textiles.
Step 6 – See if it worked!
Set your squeegee aside and lift up the screen. You may need to carefully peel off the paper or fabric you printed onto, but be sure to leave the stencil in place. It should stay stuck to your screen.
Voila! You have a freshly printed design. If it didn’t come out perfectly, that’s ok! The beauty of screen printing is you can do lots of prints quickly to figure out the best technique. Just lay your screen down and squeegee again and again until you get it right.
** Note: You don’t want to wait super long with ink on your screen, so rinse it out really well with water when you’re done.
Tweet us pics of your screen printed masterpieces @TheSixbees!