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Stencils and Squeegees:

Also known as Silk-Screen and/or Screen-Printing

Scott Kolbo and Dongchun Yoon. Crossing Gene Collaboration. Ink Jet and Serigraphy



The exciting world of screen printing begins with a screen and a squeegee. Serigraphy is essentially a stencil process. The open areas of the stencil print, and the closed areas remain the color of the printing substrate (paper, fabric, etc). It is possible to use ink based on oil, rubber, acrylic, or vinyl in contemporary Serigraphy. In our shop we use acrylic, water based, ink because its easy to clean up and non-toxic. The ink is squeegeed through the screen (the closed areas of the screen become the white or paper colored areas of the print, and the open areas of the screen may be printed in any color you choose to mix). A monotype is an image created using a printing matrix, however rather than repeating the same image over and over, the artist creates a unique, one of a kind, print. It is possible to create monotypes with serigraphy. The screen is used as a non-repeatable matrix for this process. It is possible to use paper stencils on the back of the screen, tape, or any other non-permanent stencil to block the ink from being squeegeed onto the paper. If you are interested in a more painterly look try painting screenprinting ink on the screen and printing it (do this quickly before the ink dries out or you will be purchasing another screen). The most effective way to create a monotype with serigraphy is to draw on the screen with a water-based crayon or pastel. The drawing you create will be transferred to the paper via transparent base that is flooded over the image and then printed. Put thick marks on the screen with the watercolor crayon and let it dry (it is also possible to use charcoal and graphite with this method, or you can paint watercolor or gauche on the screen). Once the water based material is dry you are ready to print. The secret to creating a good monotype with serigraphy is mastering the flood

Prepare both sides of the screen using duct-tape or packing tape.

Serigraphy Monotype




watercolor crayon

conte crayon

Paint watercolor/guache on the screen

Watercolor crayone




stroke. A flood stroke is essentially pushing ink over the screen without pressure - thus flooding the stencil but not forcing the ink through. To execute this technique correctly pour practice once or twice with an empty screen. Pour a bead of transparent base across the bottom of the screen. Rotate your squeegee blade so that it faces the front of the screen. Use the blade of the squeegee to push the transparent base forward over the drawing you created. This will flood the screen and the moisture from the transparent base should activate the water based media and slowly dissolve it into the base. You will need to flood the screen multiple times (the exact amount will vary depending on the thickness of your drawing material and other factors - so practice!) Once the screen is flooded and the drawing is dissolved you should position your paper underneath the printing area of the screen and pull the print. Use a lot of pressure and go back and forth several times if needed. The image you created on the screen should now be suspended in transparent base and transferred to the paper. Clean your screen out immediately with water and DO NOT let the ink or transparent base dry in the screen. Once the transparent base is dry it is possible to add other monotype layers to the print or to print other images over it - enjoy.

Tape off an areas you do not want to print, and position your paper underneath the screen

Mix up transparent base with a few spoonfulls of retarder..

watercolor crayon

watercolor Pour bead of transparent base across the top of the screen conte crayon




Squeegee Transparent base Flood

Screen Flood the screen several times and allow the transparent base to loosen your drawing....

Pull the print with a good deal of pressure

Clean up the screen and squeegee with water - BEFORE the ink dries in the screen.

watercolor watercolor crayon


conte crayon


The first print pulled will be the richest/darkest

The second, third, etc. prints pulled will be ghost prints of the first - much lighter and less rich


Using Drawing Fluid

Using Drawing fluid allows you to make positive marks - much like in traditional painting/drawing processes. Drawing fluid is water soluble stuff (kind of like soap!) that you paint on the screen. The places on the screen where you make marks with the drawing fluid become the open parts of the stencil, and the non-marked places are covered with emulsion and become a closed ink proof barrier. Put the drawing fluid on as thick as possible. After the drawing fluid dries, coat the screen with an emulsion that is not water soluble - if you are using Ulano TZ light sensitive emulsion you must harden the emulsion before you wash the drawing fluid out. Once the emulsion hardens, wash the screen and the screen filler will dissolve, leaving a stencil through which to squeegee ink. If you are working from a drawing secure it to the table and then lay a sheet of clear plastic on top. Place your screen on top of the plastic and then use the drawing beneath it to guide you as you Draw with the drawing fluid. Use the blue Speedball drawing fluid to paint onto the screen. The image that you create will duplicate exactly as you see it, not reversed as in other processes (Intaglio, Lithography, Relief). Allow the drawing fluid to dry completely. Once the fluid dries you must coat the screen to create the stencil you will print through. Follow the directions for hardening the emulsion carefully or you will have to do everything all over again. It is possible to put the drawing fluid on with a variety of implements. You can sponge it on, stamp it, use a calligraphy pen nib, etc. This can be an extremely painterly and expressive way to build up an image. Feel free to experiment, and remember that you can also apply the emulsion as a white mark and skip the blue fluid altogether. This is called working reductively 112

Secure your image or proof to the table with the clear plastic over the top. Place the screen in the hinged clamps. This will allow you to lift the screen from the image if necessary with out ruining the registration.

Use mat board cards to keep distance between your screen and the plastic. This will keep your screen from sticking to the plastic and ruining your image.

Paint the screen filler directly on the screen or apply it in otherwise creative fashions.

Reductive Stencil

Always remember to sponge the plate with Fountain You can draw the the Screen withup dry the ink will solution. If on plate is rolled any water based media that will all your hard work. cover the entire plate and ruin wash off the screen (like this water based crayon) - but put it on THICK!

because you are slowly covering up the open stencil with emulsion.

Scoop Coating

Scoop-Coating is the process by which you apply emulsion to the screen in order to block out the areas where you dont want ink to flow through the stencil. We use Ulano TZ emulsion, which is U.V. light sensitive. It hardens when exposed to U.V. light, but it will dissolve in water if it isnt burned correctly. The emulsion is the thick green slime found in the black bucket in the darkroom/wardrobe. Pour it evenly all the way across the scoop-coater. After filling the scoopcoater, put the lid back on the bucket (remember that its light sensitive - what do you think will happen if you leave it sitting out in the light all day?). Coat the screen quickly so as not to waste the extra emulsion by exposing it to too much light. Lean the full scoop-coater against the screen, allowing the emulsion to seep against it. Slowly scrape the scoop-coater against the screen with even pressure that allows for total squeegee coverage. If you are coating over the top of the blue drawing fluid you must be careful to coat the screen in only ONE pass. The screen filler will dissolve the drawing fluid and if you make two passes, some of the places where you put the drawing fluid will fill in and not wash out, thus they will not print. If you are coating the screen for a photo process then you can make as many passes as needed to achieve a nice even and thin coat of emulsion on the screen. Use the scoop-coater to scrape off excess emulsion when you are done. Dump extra emulsion back into the bucket and wash the scoop-coater. Be careful with this little piece of equipment as dents will cause it to coat your screen unevenly. Put the LID back on the emulsion right away and put it back in the DARKROOM. You are now ready to harden the emul-

Pour the emulsion evenly into the scoop-coater.

A nice full scoop-coater...

Hold the scoop-coater up to the screen and allow the emulsion to seep against the screen.

Scrape the scoop-coater against the screen to achieve even coverage.


sion and wash out the stencil. You may paint emulsion on the screen at any time to stop out areas that are open against your will.. Just remember to harden it in the exposure unit.

Scrape remaining emulsion back into the bucket.

Wash the scoop-coater before the emulsion dries.


Wash Out

Photo serigraphy relies on a light sensitive polymer emulsion. The emulsion hardens and become waterproof as it is exposed to U.V. light, but before it is cooked it will wash away with water. You must pa careful attention to whether or not the emulsion has been hardened before you wash your screen out.... Once the scoop coated emulsion is dry to the touch, you must use the exposure unit to harden it or the water will wash it away. Place the screen in the exposure unit and turn the lights on for two minutes. Gently wash the screen to remove the screen filler or to open up the photo stencil. You will know that all the blue stuff is gone or the stencil is open if you hold the screen up to the light and can see through the screen. Any place where light is punching through the stencil will be an open place - and so it will print. Let the screen dry (you can use a fan to speed this up) then expose the screen for an additional two minutes to completely harden the emulsion. You are now ready to print.

Wash out the screen.

Be careful how much water pressure you use to wash out the blue drawing fluid. If you use too much you may blow out areas you intended to be closed....

Turn on the water here. Make sure the powere washer hose is turned on and that the power washer is getting water - if it isnt it will burn the motor out of the power washer. Also be sure to only use cold water - not hot.

When the light shows through the screen, stick a fork in it. Its done.


Photo-Screen Printing

Photo-Screen printing involves burning an image into the green emulsion, then washing out the screen to create a stencil from unburned areas. To begin, prepare your screen as usual by scoop-coating it. Store your screen in the dark while it dries to keep it from exposure. Create a transparency by drawing on a piece of frosted mylar with opaque media (like India ink, sharpie, etc), or create a digital halftone (see the digital printmaking section of this book) and print it out on a transparency or even on typical white paper (If you use paper, you will need to rub the entire sheet with vegetable oil to make it transparent). Set the transparency on the light table, face up. Set the screen on top of the image, so that the emulsion coated screen side is against the glass. Place the felt covered foam inside the screen and secure the trapdoor down on the screen. This will require some effort, but dont push so hard that the glass in the exposure unit breaks. Turn on the lights and expose the screen for 3:00 if you are using a transparency. Expose the screen for 3:30-4:00 if you are using oiled paper or frosted mylar. To develop your screen, wash it out with a hose or with a powerwasher set to the lowest setting. This is a very delicate process. Do not try to rush it by using too much water pressure. Carefully spray the screen until your image opens up. Hold the screen up to the light to check for areas that are not completely developed. If you wash the screen too much, the emulsion that has been hardened will wash away. Once finished developing, dry your screen and expose it in the light for an additional 2:00 to assure that the emulsion has hardened. You are now ready to print

The exposure unit. Made out of a piece of glass, 4 - 500 watt photo floodlights, and a method for clamping the screen, transparency, and glass tightly together

Place your transparency on the light table, face up.

Place your screen over the transparency, centered above the lights.


Pressure Foam Screen Transparency Glass

Place the felt covered foam in the screen. It will fit nice and snug.

500 Watt Photo Flood(s)

Close the door and secure the latches.

Turn on the lights by using our darkroom timer.

Dont stare straight into the lights. They will cause those annoying purpley-green camera flash spots...


Cleaning the Screen

To clean the emulsion from your screen, use the power washer and Strip-e-do, E-Z Strip, etc. The stripper causes a chemical reaction with the emulsion and dissolves it. A bit of water pressure will remove the emulsion and make the screen clean as new for future use. Use a small amount of Strip-e-do to scrub both sides of your screen thoroughly before washing it. Make sure that the water is on and flowing through the hose leading to the power washer before you turn on the motor. If you fail to do this, the motor will burn up. Turn the power washer on by the dial on the side and wash the screen. The emulsion should dissolve with very little effort. Use ear (optional) and eye (not optional) protection. Make sure you turn off the pressure washer, Turn off the water, and put everything away neatly.

Turn the water on... Make sure that the hose that leads to the power washer is on and full of water before starting the motor.

Scrub the screen (with a Stripper like strip-e-doo) thoroughly to dissolve the emulsion.

After scrubbing with Stripe-do, power-wash-away.

Turn the power washer on here.


Printing a Screen Print

Registration Snap Distance, Squeegee, etc. Ink Begin registering your image by setting the screen in the clamps and adjusting the registration matrix approximately where you would like it. Place two or more pieces of mat board between your screen and each clamp for snap distance. It also helps to use the vacuum table to print - the vacuum hold the paper perfectly flat and provides for excellent registration. Snap distance is the small amount of space needed between the screen and the paper. If you dont have enough snap distance the ink will stick to the paper, but then stick back onto the screen. This creates a mess as you peel the paper off the screen.

Registration pins - it is also possible to use a simple 3 point registration system if you dont want to punch holes in your paper....

To use registration pins you must punch all your pieced of paper with in the same place - using a special registration punch system - then it is possible to punch a registration matrix and push the pins through the holes and line the paper up in the same place every time a layer is added....

Registration stop #2 and 3

Registration stop #1 Paper



Snap Distance

Secure the matrix to the table and register your screen to it by placing a print on the matrix. Secure the clamps. Place additional pieces of mat board under the opposite corners of the screen. Spoon ink onto one end of the screen in a nice fat line. The first print will require more ink than those subsequent. Hold the squeegee at a 45 degree angle and pull it across the screen. Use a flood stroke to push the ink back across the screen in order to keep it wet while you put a new piece of paper in the matrix. Make sure you apply even pressure to the squeegee and work quickly as the waterbased ink dries fast. If the ink begins to dry on the screen, spritz it lightly with water and run one or two prints on newsprint.

To use the 3 point registration system you must tape cards down to the registration matrix and butt the edges of your paper up against these cards in the same place for each new layer...

Spoon the ink onto one end of the screen.


As you mix ink add the colors slowly so that you dont mix up more than you really need. Waste is a shameful thing in a printshop. It is possible to add transparent medium to your colors, but for truly transparent color it is better to start off with pure transparent medium and then add color in small quantities. To test your color before you print it you can do a draw down. To do this daub a bit of ink on a scrap of your printing paper with a card and smear it down the page in as thin a layer as possible. The color at its thinnest point is about what your color will look like screenprinted.
Scrape the squeegee on the end of the screen and, with the screen lifted from your print, push the ink back to the other side. This is called a flood stroke.

Hold the squeegee at a 45 degree angle, press firmly, and pull smoothly across the screen.

Use a draw down to test out the color you intend to print before you start printing


Screenprinting Registration:

The best thing about screenprinting registration is that once the paper is marked and punched all you have to worry about is the placement of the screen. Start with a clean piece of paper and punch it at the top or bottom with the two, two-hole punch registration system. If needed (to avoid putting holes in the nice paper you just bought) it is possible to tape longer pieces of paper to the actual printing paper. These extensions should be taped on and then punched all at once. The punching process should always take place before any printing is done on the paper, or else your registration will be off and impossible to correct.

The two, two-hole punch is simple to make and it will solve a lot of registration problems. Just line up your paper and punch it.

It is easy to purchase two hole punches like these at any office supply store. Find a way to secure them to a flat surface and you have a punch system for CHEAP! Once the paper is punched you just need to purchase some registration pins, tape them onto a flat surface, and lock the paper into place by putting the p ins through the punched holes. Now the paper will always be in the same place and you just have to adjust the screen from layer to layer.

Once the holes are punched in the paper it is easy to keep the paper and screen in the same place. This assures that you have good solid registration.


Process Color Screen Printing

Process color registration is a mechanical method for reproducing photographic images in screen printing. You can make a process screenprint out of any digital image (duotone, tri-tone, four-color, six-color, etc). For our example we will talk about 4 color process printing. Start by printing out color separations in a digital imaging program like photoshop (see the digital printmaking section). Make sure you print these separations out with registration marks onto transparencies (or oil them up if you print them on paper). Set up the registration matrix and punch your paper (registration is of ultimate importance in color process printing). Burn a screen with the yellow transparency and set everything up for printing. Make one or two yellow proofs (on cheap paper) and stop printing long enough to cover up the registration marks with tape (this will give you several proofs to use for registration but your good prints wont have those extra marks in the margins - if you plan to cut the paper down to make a bleed print then you dont have to sweat this...). Print the rest of your edition in yellow. Clean the screen and burn your Magenta transparency onto the screen. Use a pencil to darken the registration marks on the yellow proofs. Put the yellow proof into the registration matrix and lay the magenta screen over it. Carefully line up the registration marks on the yellow proof with the registration marks on the magenta screen. When everything is perfectly lined up tape down the registration matrix and clamp the screen into place. Print the magenta screen over the yellow proofs and make sure the registration cross hairs are lined up. Stop printing long enough to tape over the registration marks on the magenta screen and then print the rest of the edition. Repeat this process for the Cyan and Black layers and you should have a reasonable reproduction of the digital image. 122

Print some registration proofs and then tape off your registration marks.

Use a pencil to darken the yellow registration marks so you can see them trough the screen.

Line the Magenta screen up with the pencil enhanced registration marks on the yellow proof.

Print the magenta layer over the yellow one.

This is what the yellow and magenta layers look like when printed together (youll notice all the orange created!)

This is a completed 4 color process screen print. C, M, Y, K.


Troubleshooting Serigraphy
Gwish: This term describes the tendency an incorrectly printed serigraph will have to push ink out beyond the boundaries of the open stencil and create ugly, thick, runny looking squished looking areas of ink. This can be avoided by paying attention to the snap distance of the screen, and proper use of the squeegie. if you place an open area of the stencil too close to the taped edge of the screen (or too close to the registration pins) the ink will have a tendency to gwish... Detailed areas of screen will not print: the amount of detail you will be able to print is in large part dependent on the realtive coarseness of the mest. A coarse mesh (100) wil have large openings between the threads and will not allow too many fine dots. A fine mesh (we generally use 230) is great for detail but will sometimes fill in while you are printing. the key is to keep the screen moist and to pay attention to your flood strokes. It is often best to skip the flood stroke when printing detailed screens and just work quickly. The other factor to consider is the hardness of the squeegie and the sharpness of the blade. You will get more detail from a hard (80-90 durometer) squeegie with a sharp edge. Difficulty blowing out screen: Screen exposure is is dependent on three things - transparency, light source, and emulsion. If you are having difficulty blowing out a screen check to be sure that your transparency is opaque and adequately block the light. Check on your light source, are all the light bulbs working? Replace all the bulbs if needed and re-expose the screen. Also check on the emulsion. Is it old? Has the screen been in the darkroom for a year? If the screen is hard to blow out you might have exposed it to the light for too long and if you re blowing everything out too easily then you might not have exposed the screen long enough.