Screen Printing. I’m learning more so I can teach you more.

One of the most popular posts on The Art of Doing Stuff has always been my How to Screen Print at home post. People are stunned, shocked and amazed that you don’t need a whole workshop or studio to screen print your own tee shirts. Really all you need is an adventurous spirit, a bit of guidance and what I like to refer to as a screw you attitude.

Of course there’s gonna be people who tell you that you can’t do things. That it’s impossible or at the very least hard. A select few people (I’m sure you know some) have an unparalleled knack for making things seem way harder than they actually are. Also. Who cares. So what if something is a little bit hard? So what! You know what’s easy? Eating pudding. Eating pudding doesn’t even require chewing. You put it in your mouth, mush it around a bit to feel like you’re doing something then squash it down your throat. Pudding. Pudding is good and pudding is easy. But this website is not for pudding eaters. This site, The Art of Doing Stuff, is for people who want a little something to chew on.

Besides most things aren’t that hard.  They’re just scary.

Let’s talk about screen printing shall we? First off, it’s not incredibly easy. It’s not pudding.

But it really isn’t very hard either. I mean, I taught myself the basics of it  through a bit of research and a bunch of trial and error. Some guessing was thrown in there just for fun too.

Even though I successfully screen printed at home, I wanted to learn more about it and get a better understanding of some of the more advanced techniques and principles. So this January I started a semester long Screen Printing course at The Dundas Valley School of Art, a local independent art school. It’s the same place I took a couple of photography courses when I wanted to learn how to take a photo without giving myself a migraine.

So welcome to my class.  Where none of my photographic skills are at all evident.

First allow me to introduce you to our instructor Laura.   She also manages the Print Studio’s Facebook page where you can see some of the work I’m doing and the (much better) work of others.

 

laura-3

 

Laura heads up the Printmaking department at The Dundas Valley School of Art.

 

class

 

Here’s the funniest thing about the entire class.  See that sink in the middle of the room?  It’s the big white thing with pipes running to it.  Yeah, it’s made out of wood.  And shockingly after our instructor Laura painted and sealed it, it works perfectly fine.  Do not be surprised if you see me creating a wood sink in the future.  See?  There you go. A perfect example of a thing that most people would say NO, you can’t, you shouldn’t, it won’t work, it’ll be too hard.  Blah, blah.

Screw you and all that.

 

tee

 

Everybody’s working on something different and everyone is at different levels.  Some of the people in the class have taken the course before and they’ve come back to work on more projects.  At the moment I’m working on converting images to grayscale so I can print images that are only one colour, but look like they’re several colours.  Like my cleaver above.  Turns out I got it wrong, lol. It happens. The image is too fine, the dots too small, so when it’s printed it looks too solid.  I have to adjust it in Photoshop.

Grayscale you see, is when you take an image and convert it in Photoshop so that instead of being solid, it’s actually made up of tiny dots (like pixels).  The closer the dots are together and the more of them there are, the darker that portion of the photo looks.  So the handle of my cleaver has a lot of dots close together, while the blade of the cleaver has fewer dots that are further apart.  It looks like it’s made with a few different shades of gray and black, but it’s all just black dots at different distances, fooling your eye.

So now I’ll try again at home to get my dots right.

Here some of my classmates are at the actual printing table.  They’ve come up with the image they want to print, have made their screens and now they’re actually doing some printing onto paper.

 

checking-print

 

 

 

apes

 

The first print we all did was a plain, one colour print to get used to the motions and pressure we needed when printing.  Once you get that done you can graduate to prints with a few colours or placements.  You’re allowed to experiment.  You’re allowed to do just about anything actually.

For instance I had no idea you could do anything like this with screen printing.

 

colourful-cuddles

 

It’s colour gradation.  Or something like that. I got so excited over the technique that I had to make room in my head for all the excitement by forgetting the proper name for it.  I actually forgot my own name for a while and Laura the teacher can confirm I made some sort of barking sound when I saw the results the first time.

To do this sort of thing instead of using one colour, you put dots of colour along the screen and kind of wiggle your squeegee as you run the colour across.

rainbow

 

 

 

A couple of us tried this technique. That’s JoJo trying it herself on her rainbow print.  She didn’t bark.  She, like most people, is refined enough not to make animal sounds when she gets excited.

 

rainbow-colours

 

Here’s her final print.

 

hedgehog

 

JoJo desperately searched the city to buy a hedgehog recently.  Every pet store she went into said No.  They had no hedgehogs.  She then came to class and made this print.

Another woman in the class screen printed monograms onto pillows which is such a great idea.

Along with my cleaver, I also made a print of Cuddles.  Starting with a photograph of  Cuddles, I erased the background, converted it to a sketch, traced it onto transparency and then hand finished the rest of the shading and details until it looked good.

 

Cuddles-print

 

Then I took the screen I made with that transparency and screen printed over a watercolour I had done of Cuddles.  Getting this …

 

cuddles-print-over-watercolour

 

I have a couple of more classes to go where hopefully I’ll perfect this cleaver screen of mine.  Because once it gets done, I can get on with printing up some towels and tee shirts to sell on my SHOP page.  My goal is to have 50 cleaver tea towels, 50 Cuddles tea towels and maybe a few tee shirts as well to sell.

AND once I’m finished taking my course I’ll be organizing a How to Screen Print at home live video course for all of you who want to try it but are a tiny bit afraid to do it without someone walking you through it.  By the end of my course you’ll be confident enough to do it yourself.

Because it ain’t that hard.  Any of it.

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64 Comments

  1. Barb says:

    Love this post but please tell JoJo that hedgehogs stink. My sister raised them for a while in So Cal some years ago. And they were illegal as hell at the time as well. May still be illegal, I dunno. True story though. They are cute but they stink. I’ll take chickens over hedgehogs any time. Or goats. Or a pot belly pig maybe?

  2. Nancy says:

    You must know today I darned. A dish cloth. It was crocheted by my ex mother in law when she was unable to remember how to do much else. Thank you for your Laura Ingalls ways.

    • Karen says:

      I’m there for you Nancy. ~ karen!

    • Laura Bee says:

      I love that you darned Nancy 🙂 I have slippers my Nana knit for me. Two pairs I keep darning & one is stashed away for when the other two finally are too worn out. She’s been gone since 2002 and I miss her everyday, but everyday there is something that reminds me of her & makes me smile.

  3. Tigersmom says:

    I’m obviously up way past my bedtime to be this early in the comments.

    I did some silk screen printing in high school. I remember the solvent used to remove the film off the screens destroyed my nail polish.

    We also did prints by scoring a design onto meat packaging Styrofoam and rolling ink over it and then stamping it on paper in the same printmaking class.

    I must go investigate this SHOP section. I had forgotten all about it.

    Love the angle you chose to do of Cuddles. The print is very cool. I would have barked or drooled or maybe even peed when I saw it.

  4. Auntiepatch says:

    Sign me up! I wish we had classes like that here!

  5. sara says:

    I’m just wondering if instead of ‘grayscale,’ maybe you mean halftone? or gradient? I don’t mean to be picky or rude or anything- we own/run a screenprinting shop (and we built the 4-color screenprinting presses ourselves, because we do stuff too!), and we occasionally do grayscale prints with up to four screens with different shades of gray. I guess I’m nervous that someone is going to bring his or her image in to photoshop, press ‘grayscale’ and wonder why it’s not making a great gradient for their screen prints!

    Ugh, that sounded so bitchy. I’m sorry. Do you, like, want some money out of my wallet or something?

    • Mary Werner says:

      You sounded more like you were trying to be helpful. I heard grayscale used in photography a lot and in photo shop like apps. It’s probably one of those terms that people use so much but has different meanings for pros. I’ll take some of your money – I want to buy one of her cuddles towels.

    • Karen says:

      Yup, you’re right Sara. Halftone. I misspoke. Well … for the cleaver it was grayscale, then halftone. 🙂 ~ karen!

  6. Alexandra says:

    Man, I love the “The answer is NO” print. I can relate, even though not exactly with a hedgehog, but with other things! (As we all can, I’m sure.)
    Also: The Cuddles print is great.

  7. Su says:

    Love Cuddles…

  8. Linda J Howes says:

    I think that cleaver looks awesome, but I am sure you know best. I have been wanting to do some screen printing myself, tried it a few years back but wasn’t that satisfied. Have all the equipment just need the incentive. Maybe this will provide that.

  9. Mary Werner says:

    You better make several hundred of cuddles! AndI’d like to place my order now just in case you run short.

  10. Natika says:

    Nice! One day I’d like to try this, but for now I’ll just live vicariously.

  11. Shannon says:

    This is brilliant! BRILLIANT! I have always wanted to print things on my own but was always convinced it would be too difficult or expensive. I can not wait to see your DIY video. thank you for sharing with us.

  12. Love your final print of Cuddles atop of a watercolor, wow! And the comments are great. I always learn a lot from your posts AND the comments!

  13. jainegayer says:

    I love the Cuddles print and her colors. I like the wooden sink too. Who knew!

  14. SuzyMcQ says:

    Do your talents never cease? Just when I thought I might read an Academy Awards recap today, instead you give us a chicken’s butt, lovingly executed. Hedgehogs instead of bejeweled actresses….thank you!

  15. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    GREAT POST!!! I love screen printing, my youngest daughter does it.

  16. Patti H says:

    I love screen printing. Haven’t done any since I left teaching many years ago. We used laquer film or cut/torn paper in the classroom. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn how to use photo emulsion. I so wish I had a local resource to use. So many ideas…

    Oh, and that wooden sink! Love, love, love!

  17. Vicky says:

    Chicken Butt. Perfect angle shot!

  18. Erin says:

    Hey Karen,
    Terrific job on the mixed media Cuddles! It’s lovely.

  19. marilyn says:

    i will buy a cuddles tshirt..i want one i dont want to make one

  20. Tracy Wasser says:

    Totally different topic but, I saw you in the Arizona Republic today!

  21. Ok, that Cuddles print is AMAZING! And I think you’re going to have to make a buttload of t-shirts… I am certainly going to have to buy one! =)

  22. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY..I already love the clever towel you sent me and now I can buy some more stuff!!!!..I gotta sell some junk on eBay!!!!…Woo-Hoo!

  23. Steven Davis says:

    Are you looking at doing color separations?

    If you have access to In Design, I think it has that function. There may be done open source options or free older versions of the software.

    Registration is the key.

  24. Pam says:

    Is it weird that I now have a craving for pudding?

  25. Maria says:

    Love the fluffy butt cuddles picture. It is very hippy dippy groovy and free. Also really like the hedgehog.

    75% of doing anything is being willing to fail, fail big, try again, fail bigger.

    I taught myself woodworking because I wasn’t willing to spend $30,000 of my precious dollars to get new faces on the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. I built four cabinets for the bathroom to make the bathroom sink, a toilet surround storage center and a storage cabinet on top of the bathroom sink. I also built a kitchen cabinet, installed new counter tops, refaced the bottom cabinets, installed back splashes and built a wall. With a door in it. And built glass front cabinet doors on the old carcasses. Total cost including the table saw and special dado blade? $2000. I’ve also built and installed counter tops and cabinets in our den, built a chicken coop because I was inspired by yours, a dog house stand, a rain break for the back porch and a stand for the chicken waterer. All because I was willing to buy big pieces of wood and reduce them to sawdust until I learned to do it. Right now I am breaking apart pallets to salvage the wood because I want a corner cabinet and a jelly cabinet and hey, free wood. I’m also making a table and chairs for the new grandson but not out of pallet wood.

    Like Karen says, Get Your Mess On Ladies!!

    • Lynn Johannson says:

      Go Maria! I too am buying power tools and making lots of sawdust. I get the results I want and don’t have someone else “fixing” layout or design because not doing it my way is easier for them.

      I propose sending poor Karen pictures of our projects, failed or otherwise. With much thanks to Karen, we are doing stuff and not afraid to fail!!!!!!

      • Maria says:

        whenever I read the address for the website before I’ve had my coffee–theartofdoingstuff.com–I usually read it

        t HEART of doing stuff.com

        I propose that Karen is the heart of the empowered (pun intended) woman. She’s certainly inspired me.

        Raise your screwdrivers in a cheer if you agree!

        • Lynn Johannson says:

          PERFECT! Maria, you’re a genius! The heart of doing stuff! Why did I never see that? Karen, you were talking about looking for a new name…. This sure fits how I feel about you and your blog. What do you think?

          Raise your screwdrivers to Karen!

          • Karen says:

            Thanks Lynn, lol. But no, I’m definitely not looking for a new name. Omg no. I’m redesigning the look of the site, not renaming it. But thanks for the raised screwdriver! ~ karen

  26. Rondina says:

    You need to sell Cuddles t-shirts. That’s beautiful.

  27. Katie Schneider says:

    LOVE!

  28. Jody says:

    That is so cool. I love Cuddles butt. I love Cuddles colours. I know I’ll love Cuddles screen printed on a tea towel.

  29. Liz says:

    not sure if I missed a post… but is this lovely print a tribute to Cuddles, or is she still with us and maybe just your favorite?

    • Karen says:

      She’s still with us Liz! She hasn’t laid an egg since her episode but she’s till alive. I do however believe she’ll probably be the next chicken to die and in all probability it could be within the next 6 months or year based on how long chickens generally live. So you’re kind of right, I did want to find some sort of way to have her live on because she’s been such a big part of not only my life but this site. ~ karen!

  30. Hey Karen, love the screen printing! – I did a course a few years back, but in my course, all the images we produced were hand-cut from litho paper (like stencils). I really wanted to get to the point you did with the cleaver, or even the complexity of Cuddles’ rear end – surely this was not hand cut from litho paper?!? HOW did you get your image from original drawing to print ready?? (Is this going to be a “Tune in next time…” answer?). Also, what does it say about me if I love to eat Créme Brulee? Short of knawing on a loaf of uncut Biscotti, there’s not too many desserts that consume more energy than they give out!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Fiona. That’s the sort of thing I’d cover in the course when I have it. It’s a Photoshop skill as opposed to a screen printing skill. ~ karen!

  31. Tora Geirs says:

    LOL I could not stop myself from laughing wen reading your post LOL you are funny I like that. I also love this post and the photos and how you did. Looking forward to see more about this screen printing. Thank´s for sharing.

  32. Mary Kay says:

    I. can’t. WAIT.!!! I loved our silk screening class when I was in high school and can’t wait to try it again!!

  33. This is freaking awesome!!!

  34. Robin says:

    LoVe what you have created with “Cuddles”

  35. Shauna says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ll want to take your class. I’ve been curious about screen printing for some time now, but I don’t have the patience to research and figure everything out on my own. I want to be lazy’ish and just have someone else do the research then teach me. So, this is perfect.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Shauna! I’m just figuring the course out right now. I have to decide whether to offer the course really cheaply and have it be just instructional. OR to try to put together small kits for everyone so you’d get the whole kit you need to start immediately with me as I instruct. Obviously that would increase the cost. Thinking …. 🙂 ~ karen!

      • Shauna says:

        Maybe instructional with a link after someone signs up to a site where they can just buy a starter kit? I know kits can be around $200 for everything, and not sure I would want to invest in the stuff before I’ve decided whether I want to put the time into doing it. Others, however, may be ready to learn by doing and can purchase the starter kit ahead of time and do it along with you.

        Just food for thought.

  36. Holy batman, I totally want to take your video course. Can you start it. right. now?! I’m barking with excitement.

    🙂 Lynne

  37. maggie van sickle says:

    I will for sure buy a Cuddles Tee. I love the coloured print of her. That poor little hen went through a lot as did you so a Cuddles tee is fitting I think. Put me on your list please Karen.

  38. Gwen H. says:

    I would love to take your class. The print of Cuddles was cute.

  39. Jordan says:

    I’m so jealous – I remember passing by the printmaking studio at my old school and wishing I had the time to join in. Screenprinting looks so much fun. Can’t wait for that video!

  40. Ann Winberg says:

    Move over Mabel, I have found my twin! They say we all have one and I do believe you are mine. Of by the way my family thinks I have a screw loose also. Love, love love learning new techniques just because I can. Oh, yea eating pudding is over rated. You go girl.

    • Karen says:

      LOL, I kindda like pudding. But now that I think of it I probably haven’t eaten it in a decade. ~ karen! p.s. I have a chicken named Mabel

  41. Kathleen says:

    I love the idea of an online screen printing course. I’m a painter and have always wanted to learn how to do it. Your screen print/watercolour of your chicken is wonderful!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kathleen! I figured so many people I’ve corresponded with seem to be a bit too afraid to try it themselves that I’d give the course and they’d see just how easy it is. (plus I’ll make a bit of money to feed my various hobby addictions, lol) ~ karen!

  42. Alex says:

    The print of Cuddles looks awesome!!! Great job 🙂

  43. Bethney says:

    Karen, you are awesome. I really want one of those towels when you get around to selling them. And the t-shirt with the knife on it! Cuddles is right that pink is a great color. Black and white will do (say my Barred Rock girls, Johnnie and De Leau). Lime green is always fun. And of course, yellow (says my Buff Orpington Sunshine). Really, any color will do. Make them in a t-shirt too.

    And, while I’m at it, just wanted to say that Geek Love is also one of my favorite books, but noone has ever heard of it. So you can imagine my delight when I saw it on your website.

    Keep up being awesome!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Bethney! I’m always hesitant to recommend Geek Love to people, lol. It’s one of my favourites but I also know it’s definitely NOT for everyone. Glad to hear you loved it too! ~ karen and cuddles

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