Using Drawing Fluid and Screen Filler to Print a Design onto Fabric

Using Drawing Fluid and Screen Filler can create a semi-permanent design on a screen, allowing you to print multiples of your design without stencils, over several sessions if you like. This is not a photographic technique so there’s no need for a light source, a computer or a dark space. This makes it accessible to so many more people. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a video or read on for instructions.

Speedball Drawing Fluid and Screen Filler are designed to work with one another. The Screen Filler works as a block to stop ink from going through the mesh. Drawing Fluid is designed to resist the Screen Filler and is washed out before printing. This creates an area of open mesh that will allow ink through where the Drawing Fluid was applied.

Begin with a design on paper. Lay the screen flat on top of the design so that the mesh is against the paper. We are using a 43T meshed screen which is perfect for printing onto fabric. Use a soft pencil to gently sketch the design onto the mesh.

Next, flip the screen over: we are going to work on the back. The mesh should now be off the surface of the table. Pour a little Drawing Fluid into a pot. It’s best to decant it rather than dipping your brush into the bottle to avoid contamination and spoilage.

Use a small brush to fill in the design on the screen, using the pencil lines as a guide. Note, we are painting the area that we eventually want to print with our ink (the positive design). The design should look backwards at this point as we are working on the back of the mesh.

The Drawing Fluid is quite viscous so it can be tricky to get sharp corners and very fine edges with a paintbrush. We can adjust the edges later if needed.

Wait for the Drawing Fluid to dry completely.

When the Drawing Fluid is dry, use parcel tape to mask off a rectangle around the design (still on the back of the screen). This is to use less Screen Filler which would be wasteful but is also a little time consuming to remove from the screen at the end of the project.

We are now ready to add our Screen Filler. The Screen Filler will be used to block all the negative space around the design and stop the ink from going through. Working on the back of the screen still, pour a line of Screen Filler onto the tape above the design, making sure that the pool of Filler is slightly wider than the rectangle of open mesh around the design.

Use a squeegee to pull the Screen Filler down the screen to cover the design. Hold the squeegee at a 45′ angle for best results.

Use a spatula to scrape any excess screen filler from the tape so that it can go back into the pot.

Wait for the Screen Filler to dry completely.

Now it’s time to wash the Drawing Fluid from the screen. Use a shower or garden hose to rinse the screen until the Drawing Fluid has all come out.

Wait for the screen to dry again. When it is dry, touch up any edges or gaps with Screen Filler if needed. Leave to dry again.

Use parcel tape to cover the edges of the screen to stop ink from going through any areas of mesh that we don’t want to print.

Lay your fabric onto a padded surface and pin it down if necessary. Place the screen on top. Use a spoon or spatula to place a generous line of ink above the design.

Hold the screen still with one hand. With the squeegee in the other hand at a 45′ angle to the mesh, drag the ink gently down the screen.

Leave the ink at the bottom of the screen. Return the squeegee to the top of the screen and drag down again, pressing more firmly this time.

Peel the screen from the fabric and place it back down in a new spot (or replce with a new garment). Be careful not to place the screen on a wet print. Use a hair dryer on the wet prints if necessary but be careful not to let any ink dry in your mesh. You will need to work quite quickly.

When you have finished printing, scrape any excess ink from the screen and put it back into the pot.

Use a bucket of cold water and a soft sponge to clean the screen on both sides. Remove the tape and rinse again.

The screen can be used again for more of the same design or cleaned using Speed Clean and hot water to remove the Screen Filler.

For this project you will need:

  • Speedball Drawing Fluid
  • Speedball Screen Filler
  • 43T screen
  • Soft pencil (8B or similar)
  • Pot/ jam jar/ palette
  • Small paintbrush
  • Parcel Tape
  • Squeegee
  • Fabric Screen Printing Ink (like this Gold ink)
  • Fabric or garments to print onto
  • Padded surface
  • Pins (if necessary)
  • Bucket of cold water and a soft sponge
  • Speed Clean to remove the Screen Filler

Meet the Maker: Olu Oke

Hello! My name is Olu. I’m an illustrator, printmaker and skills-based tutor. I use a variety of printmaking techniques including Screen-Printing, Photopolymer Etching, and Gocco.  My favourite processes are lino cutting and letterpress.  I own far too many printing presses, machines and books… although can you ever really have too many of those things?

Describe your printmaking process.

Loads of procrastination and a dash of hoping for the best! No, not really; my main processes are lino cutting and letterpress. With both, I start with detailed sketches. With letterpress, this means the process of setting type with different fonts is easier, although trying to make everything fit is the fun bit.

With my lino blocks, I transfer my images using a laser printer printout, nail polish remover, iron and loads of open windows. Then I carve.  If it’s a reduction print then I’ve planned out the cuts using watercolours to make sure I understand how the layers will work and what secondary colours will be created.  I’ve recently started using mono screen printing to colour in with my lino line work.  I often combine letterpress text with my linocut illustrations.

How and where did you learn to print?

Secondary School and University. I had two fantastic art teachers at school, Miss Owens and Mrs Holmes.  They taught me screen printing and linocut.  Unusually, they taught us the whole process from coating and cleaning screens to designing and cutting tessellated patterns and printing. The technicians at university, Ronnie and Brian, were the next big teachers.  They taught me about photopolymer etching and started my endless love of letterpress.

Why printmaking?

The smell of a print room. The machines. The communities.  The problem-solving. The unpredictable journey from the first sketch to the final print.  The list is endless.  I can get bogged down with rendering a ‘perfect image,’ printmaking relieves that anxiety.  At some point, it is about what the ink, the paper and the printing press, are going to do. When I print I let the left side of my brain make the decisions that are creatively technical. 

Where do you work?

I’m lucky enough to live on a boat (a big one!) and have a studio on that.  It’s a great space, with loads of natural light from the skylights, but no side-facing windows to stare out.  I’m easily distracted.  Over the years it’s got pretty packed with machines and books.  I’ve been telling myself for the past year that I need a cull, but I’m not sure that I know a printmaker or artist that actually manages to get rid of anything. 

Describe a typical day in your studio.

My days start early, about 5am.  I plan the day, go for a walk and get breakfast and school stuff ready. After the school drop off, I get into the studio at about 9:30am.  I tidy up my space, putting everything in order so that I can mess it up again. I’ve usually organised my day into 3 to 4 tasks.  If I’m carving or printing a block this takes up the whole day.  If I’m illustrating then I tend to bounce between that and admin like lesson planning and answering emails.  I’ve found that I can only listen to drama radio plays, or podcasts when I’m carving. Every other task, including printing, is done in silence. On a good day, I can get about 6 hours of work done.

How long have you been printmaking?

I remember doing my first linocut in Year 9 at secondary school… Man, don’t make me tell you my age!  Hummm, so I’ve been printmaking for about 34 years.  Oh, it was hard answering that!

What inspires you?

LIFE!  I know, I know it sounds corny but it’s true.  I draw a lot from observation.  So, I sit around watching people (sounds creepy but I promise you it’s not). I get to listen to conversations and finishing them off in my head or turning them into stories that become illustrations. Also, the nonsensical ramblings of my kids are constant sources of inspiration. 

What is your favourite printmaking product?

Caligo inks. Because I live on a boat, all of my waste goes directly into the river.  These are the most eco-friendly inks I’ve found.  3 years ago I had to overhaul all of my art products. So, no acrylics down the sink. That stuff has to be flushed down the loo into a tank, so I limit their use.  Caligo has freed me from all of the chemicals when I relief print.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

I had to really think about this question.  Even after all of these years, I’m surprised that my large hands can create the work that I do and there is always room for improvement. I won’t pick one piece of work, but rather the last 3 years.  Where I fell off the edge of the world to complete my MA in Children’s Book Illustration.  With the support from my partner, family and friends, I’m most proud of completing this massive undertaking.  It has totally changed my work and practice.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

You can see my work on Instagram, and my website. This will be where you will (eventually) be able to buy my work.  When I get the shop up! Which should happen soon… promise I’m not procrastinating!

What will we be seeing from you next?

I’m working on three children’s book projects of my own at the moment: A Victorian Flea Circus mystery, a modern fantasy of fable invading reality and ‘The urbanites Guide to City Fairies,’ which could turn into anything at this stage. There are loads of things in the pot bubbling away and different doors may be opening for me.  I’ve got the aforementioned website to finish, the shop to put up and the MA exhibition to sort out too.  The MA Graduate’s exhibition is happening, if Covid-19 allows, from 4 – 9th September at Candid Arts Trust, London.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid!  I recently was told this and think that it’s a solid piece of advice for everything from buying equipment to planning an image. I’m one for throwing everything into the mix in a single print! To try and give an image more ‘depth’ and ‘meaning’!  But I’ve found that the images that work the best are the ones that I’ve kept simple.  Plus it’s a good piece of advice for life in general.

To see more from Olu follow her on Instagram.

Meet the Maker: Sam Marshall

How and where did you learn to print?

I studied Fine Art at the Slade for my BA but never even knew the print room existed, which is such a shame. I ended up in the media department making films instead, however, there was something about printmaking that always intrigued me so in my late 20’s I took an etching course at the Royal Drawing School, and I’ve never looked back.

Why printmaking?

I love its versatility and the whole physicality of it. There are just limitless possibilities within printmaking that I get so excited about. I’m a naturally impatient person and as printmaking is process orientated, it has enabled me to see the benefits of taking my time, not rushing and reflecting as I go. I will also never ever tire of pulling back a print for the first time and seeing what surprises it has in store. It always feels a bit like magic!

Where do you work?

I have a studio in my garden which is a dream. I lived in London for 22 years and I had a studio in Hackney for a time that I never went to, and which caused me lots of guilt (and lots of wasted money!) During my last few years in London, I just printed in my bedroom, and I was amazed at how much I could get done in such a small space.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

I’m quite disciplined when it comes to my working day. Spending 4 years at Art school, where I was pretty much left alone for the whole time meant that I had to develop an ability to structure my own time and work independently. I get up and go for a run with Marple in the woods, listen to a podcast and plan my day. After breakfast I’m in the studio where I prioritise packing orders, answering emails and DM’s. I also plan and post my Instagram post for the day. Instagram is a massive part of my business and a big part of my work. After lunch is where I get down to the creative stuff – carving and drawing. At the moment, I’m writing a book about it so there is a lot to do for that. I’m pretty much always finished by 5pm which is Marple’s teatime. I sit down with a cuppa and post my daily story. I rarely work past 5pm, I have to be strict about this otherwise I would keep working. When you work from home it’s so hard to switch off so for the past few years, I’ve been working on setting boundaries and ensuring that I have time off. It’s still a work in progress though!

How long have you been printmaking?

I started printmaking when I was 29, I’m 46 now so umm – 17 years.

What inspires you?

Oh goodness, pretty much everything!  I consider myself a storyteller so it’s my everyday life that inspires me. I always have my sketchbook with me, on the lookout for interesting incidents or landscapes. My work is autobiographical, it’s the way I process and make sense of my life – it’s a bit like a visual diary. For example, when I was in my 30’s I undertook a 3-month period of internet dating. I found the only way to get to grips with the experience was to draw each date and this ended up turning into a series of etchings called ‘A Box of Dates’.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

It must be Pandora, my Gunning etching press from Ironbridge printmakers. I saved up for it for a year and was finally able to treat myself earlier this year. It has transformed my practice. Before, I was using an old A3 press, and it was so hard to get the right pressure for my linocuts but now they are pretty much perfect every time. The best purchase I’ve ever made (apart from Marple of course!).

What have you made that you are most proud of?

I think it’s my Japan series. I took a solo trip to Japan in 2019 for 3 weeks, it was a totally wonderful and completely overwhelming experience. When I got back, I wanted to document the whole trip to commit it to memory and to share it with others. I ended up making a linocut for every day I was there, telling a daily story of my adventures.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

I have an online shop that can be found on my website.  

What will we be seeing from you next?

As I mentioned earlier – I’m writing a book!  Bloomsbury Publishing approached me in January to see if I would be interested in writing a book about linocut.  After collecting my jaw from the floor, I said yes, and I’m now fully immersed in the process.  All the projects start with a drawing, something I’m passionate about.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

I’m often asked, ‘how do I find my style?’ and my advice is to draw. We often lose confidence in our drawing ability at an early age, we’re taught that if it doesn’t look like what it is we are drawing, then it isn’t any good. I truly believe we can all draw, we all have our own unique way of mark-making – like our handwriting. Through drawing, I think we can discover how we see the world. So my advice is to try and ignore the self-critical voice in your head that says you can’t draw and get out there with your sketchbook and pencil and see what happens!

To see more from Sam follow her on Instagram.

A Quick and Easy Fabric Paint Project

Handprinted Fabric Paints come in loads of colours and are so easy to use! Here’s a quick, easy project that’s great for adults and kids alike. Read on for instructions or scroll to the bottom for a video.

Cotton fabrics are best for fabric painting. This project uses a heavyweight cotton tote bag but you can use garments, homewares or lengths of fabric if you prefer. If you’re painting onto a thin garment, you may want to put some scrap paper in the middle to stop the paint from going through onto the back.

Choose three colours. We have chosen Sea Green, Dusky Rose and Cloudy Blue. Spoon a little of each colour onto an inking tray or palette. Select a fairly large round brush. Dip the end of the brush in one colour…

…and then rest the lower part of the brush end in the second colour.

Press the brush onto the fabric and give it a wiggle to loosen the shape a little. We are almost using the brush as a stamp to create a petal.

Reload the brush with paint and continue to add petals.

Select a smaller round brush and use your third colour to paint leaves around the flowers. You can use the handle end of the brush to add dots of paint to the centre of the flowers.

When the paint is completely dry, use a hot, dry iron to heat set your design.

For this project you will need:

Meet the Maker: Clare Morgan

Hi, my name is Clare, a printmaker and teacher based in Derby. I am a compulsive creator, obsessed with the process of printmaking. I have used many different techniques over the year’s, but the figure always seems to be a constant subject matter in my work. I love to create empowering figurative artworks that encourage reflection, empathy and calm.

Describe your printmaking process.

Most recently I have been using lino printing, this was a result of having to find a way of printing from home. I hadn’t worked in relief since university but ordered myself some supplies from Handprinted last spring and gave it a go. It was quite a transition from the screen printing I had been doing for the previous 2 years, but changing the process gave me the creative freedom I needed to push forward with new ideas. It feels like it is one of the best things I could have done for my practice.

I started to explore reduction printing first, carving one plate working from light colours to darker ones to bring the image to life.  My experiments then led me to use a combination of techniques, cutting the plates into pieces so that I could use contrasting colours more easily, alongside areas of reduction.

Right now I prefer to make a detailed ‘key plate’ using a very fine Pfeil tool before adding blocks of colour with an additional piece of lino, using reduction.

How and where did you learn to print?

I first discovered printmaking at art college 20 years ago! I adored the print room, the smell of the inks, presses and huge drying racks, it was just such an industrious space. I continued to explore print at university while studying fine art, mostly collagraph and screen printing. It wasn’t until I left university and started to create at Green Door Studios (an open-access printmaking space in Derby) that my print practice developed further. I began to learn about a wide range of processes, such as aquatint, etching, mezzotint and waterless litho, I continued to develop collagraph and loved intaglio processes, often working exclusively in monochrome, which is very different to my work over the last few years!

I am thankful to have had such a good introduction into printmaking, to have learnt about editioning, inks, papers and the studio set-up and what makes good practise, this knowledge had shaped my approach to printmaking.

Why printmaking?

I was hooked by the process, the preparation; tearing the paper and creating plates to the methodical process of printing. The discipline and patience involved with the creation of work excite me. There’s also an element of unpredictability, and the thrill of the reveal is always so worth it! I love that after the initial more creative parts such as the design and the creation of stencils or plates, the final stage is process orientated. There are rules, it uses different thought processes to the creative parts of art. It is an action, is repetitive and can feel quite mindful. I find joy in those studio days.

Where do you work?

I currently work from my home studio in the attic, it’s a small space but perfect for lino. I also use the open-access space at Green Door Printmaking Studios when I need more equipment or space.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

I usually have had ideas in my head for a while by the time I get to the studio. I often use photoshop to create some mock-ups. I like that I can move things around, explore different compositions and change things quickly. I can invert these images so that they are reversed (as printmaking is always backwards) and use these designs to base my plate on. They always shift from the original plan slightly as I begin to carve, as the carving is quite an intuitive process, and I am definitely in the flow.

I will make a proof and leave it for a day or so before deciding if I need to carve anything else away. I make colour palettes for inspiration and print these off to inspire me when mixing ink for the colour layers. I take a second plate for the colour and plan out where the colours will be going by transferring the design of my key plate onto the new plate. (I have put some videos of my specific processes on my IGTV channel) I work quite intuitively so will decide on the colours while looking at the plate, and the palettes and refine it as the reduction evolves.

My space is small so my prints get hung from the ceiling! But I love seeing them all in a row, and the room fills with the smell of the ink and it’s lovely.

How long have you been printmaking?

For about 20 years, although in this time I have explored so many printmaking techniques! I am fascinated by the process and learning new things. I love seeing how processes can influence each other, and even be combined. For example, making screen-print stencils from collagraph prints to capture texture.

What inspires you?

The recent combination of the figures and flowers that have emerged seems to be a natural progression of the idea of change. I have been fascinated with the concept of embracing the growth that can come from change and uncertainty since being diagnosed with blood cancer in 2016. Fortunately, I had a life-saving donor stem cell transplant which gave me my new beginning. This experience has shaped my approach to creating.

“The lotus flower is a reminder of the beauty that comes from change, the magic that a new beginning brings, and the seed of potential that’s buried in the most unlikely places.” – Jennifer Williamson

My artistic explorations over the last few years led me to the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi. It is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. We are reminded of this in nature which has been the main influence in this recent series of artworks. To me, Wabi-Sabi reflects the art of living, it helps me to be more present and let go of the need to have complete control – which is always an illusion. The figures show strength, hope, vulnerability and the use of colour, expression and composition act as reminders, allowing us to reflect and take from it what we need.

Working with lino, I love leaving evidence of the process, marks create life and energy. I want to share work that celebrates strength and vulnerability, acknowledging that everything is impermanent, imperfect and incomplete and that is beautiful.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

I adore the Caligo safe wash inks, I have used these to create my intaglio prints since 2005 and adore the vibrancy of colour and the fact they can be cleaned with soap and water. I was delighted to discover the relief inks when I started using lino, they are so silky, rich and smooth and I love how the layers sit over the top of each other.

I also love the Awagami papers which are so strong yet thin, and I love the history and ethos of the family-run company.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

It’s hard to choose one thing, as there is usually something from each series I create that I think embodies it. If I had to choose a piece though it would perhaps be ‘Strength’ as it was a complete experiment, my first jigsaw print and I adore it! You can find the work in progress images on my blog.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

On my website where you can see more work, buy art and get details of upcoming events and stockists.

What will we be seeing from you next?

I am looking forward to getting back to the studio to explore how I could combine screen printing and lino and the potential in that, as well as working a bit larger to capture more of the figure and movement.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

I think it would be to let go of the need for perfection, to embrace the unexpected, explore, experiment and approach creating with a sense of curiosity. Keep asking… I wonder what would happen if…  and let the process do its thing!

To see more from Clare follow her on Instagram and Facebook.em0

How to Clean Caligo Inks

Caligo Inks are oil-based but water-washable so they are a fantastic option for your printmaking practice but how do we clean up after using them? Read on or scroll to the bottom of the page for a video.

No solvents or special cleaners are needed to clean up Cranfield’s Caligo Inks. Fill an old jug or bowl with cold water. Add a little washing up liquid and mix. Use a rag or sponge to squeeze a little of the soapy water onto the inky plate. Use the same rag to wipe the plate until the ink is gone. It’s that simple! Use a dry rag to finish wiping the plate and remove any excess inky water.

If there is still a lot of ink on the roller, roll it onto a piece of scrap paper to remove excess. Alternatively, roll the roller onto the inking plate and wipe up as before. Use a soapy rag to clean the ink off the roller. Use a clean, dry rag to dry.

For your blocks, use a soapy rag to wipe ink from the surface. Traditional lino shouldn’t get too wet as it can warp.

Sometimes white ink (or yellow) can be a little stubborn. In that case, squirt a little washing up liquid straight from the bottle onto the ink, wipe to work the soap into the ink and then clean as before.