One of the best things about screen printing is that it allows you to print onto almost any flat surface! This week, we have been using Speedball Acrylic Screen Printing Inks to print on this gorgeous 1960s coffee table. Here’s how to do it:
Print out the design for your table top onto screen film. For our two-layer screen print, we printed out two separate layers of screen film: one for each colour. You want the design to be solid black so that no light can be seen through. Alternatively, you could draw directly onto screen film with opaque zig marker pens; this way you don’t have to do any digital processes at all!
Here is what our design looks like when the two layers are laid on top of one another:
Next, prepare your screen. Wash the screen to make sure there is no dirt or oil on the mesh. When it is dry, it is ready to coat using a Photo Emulsion Kit. Fill the Sensitiser bottle half full with water and shake until all the crystals have dissolved. Add this solution to the Photo Emulsion and mix well until it is one solid colour throughout. Pour some of the mixture into your coating trough. Tilt the coating trough against the mesh at the bottom of the screen.
When the Photo Emulsion has reached the mesh all the way along, drag the trough up the screen to coat the mesh. Use the trough to scrape off any excess and use a rag to wipe off any thick lines around the edges. You can decant any excess emulsion from the trough back into the bottle for another time.
Put your screen in a dark place, such as a cupboard, to dry horizontally. The air needs to circulate around the screen so prop up the edges with blocks. This will take a few hours or overnight.
When your screen is dry, you are ready to expose your image. We have used our beloved new exposure unit in our studio, but you can find instructions on how to do this at home here. We expose our screens for 5 1/2 minutes in our exposure unit, or you can use a Speedball UV lamp at home.
When your screen is exposed your image should look paler than the space around it. Wet both sides of the screen, then use a powerful jet of water to wash the unexposed emulsion out of the mesh. When it is all washed out, you should be able to see light through it, like this:
When the screen is dry, tape up the edges on the front and back, so that there is no open mesh anywhere other than your design.
To prepare our table for printing, we scrubbed it all over with wire wool to give the surface a key, and to remove any flaky varnish. We then cleaned and dried the surface. For a repeating pattern like ours, start printing at one end. Raise the other end of the screen up to the same height as the table top with blocks or sponges. Our table top can be unscrewed from the legs (hooray for clever 1960s designs) so we could place our table top on our print table. If you cannot separate yours from the base, get a helpful person to hold the screen in the right position while you print.
Put a line of ink across the top of your design and use the squeegee at a 45 degree angle to pull the ink through the mesh. We used Speedball Acrylic Screen Printing Ink in Peacock Blue.
Quickly dry the print a little with a hairdryer. You want it to be dry enough so that it will not be smudged when placing the screen back on top. Don’t leave the screen for too long though, as the ink will dry in the mesh and be impossible to wash out!
When the ink is touch dry, place the screen back on top for the next print. You can see through the mesh to check you are putting it in the right place.
Repeat the same process until your first layer is complete!
Leave this layer to dry. Meanwhile, wash your screen thoroughly to remove all the ink. When both the screen and the first layer of print are dry, you are ready to print the second layer. We are using black.
Repeat the same process as with the first layer, looking through the mesh to align the design and drying each print slightly before moving onto the next.
To block off any areas that you don’t want to be printed, use some newsprint. We wanted one section of our print to be red, so we used newsprint to block off the the rest of the design.
When your print is thoroughly dry, coat it in a layer of clear spray varnish. This will help the surface to be a little more hard wearing.
Here is our finished table!
You will need:
- A table top, side board or whatever piece of furniture with a flat surface that needs jazzing up
- Wire wool
- A printer and screen film (make sure the film is compatible with the type of printer you have!)
- Screen (we used an A3 90T Aluminium Screen)
- Speedball Photo Emulsion Kit
- Coating Trough
- Speedball Acrylic Screen Printing Inks
- Parcel Tape
- A hairdryer
- Clear spray varnish