Saturday, May 2, 2009

simple silk screening with kids (or not)

Now that I've discovered that silk screening is one of my favorite things to do, I am busy figuring out how to do it on the cheap.  Buying a pre-stretched frame is simply out of the question, them being about $25 a pop.  I've stretched the screen fabric over a frame used for stretching canvas (which worked well), and I imagine that using a thrift store frame would be equally handy.  Yesterday, with a whole afternoon unplanned and stretching out before us, I was hoping to intoduce my kids to the joys of screen printing, but, alas, had no frame of any obvious sort around the house.  While rifling through stuff in the basement I spied a scrap of foam core - Why not?  I cut a frame out of it and stapled screen fabric to it.  We had so much fun and Ava and Harry were amazed by the results.  Here is a step-by-step tutorial.  I really encourage you to give it a go.  It is so so satisfying.

-foam core
-contact paper (shelf liner)
-sharpie pen
-craft knife
-12xx silk screen fabric (you can get this online or at an art store)
-screen printing inks (also at the art store)
-masking tape
-plastic spoon or tongue depressor


1) Cut a frame out of a piece of foam core.  You can make this any size, just be sure that your squeegee can fit. Staple screen printing fabric so it is really tight.  This takes some fiddling and pulling but it isn't hard to do.

2) Have your child draw a really simple image onto the paper side of the contact paper.  You cut it out with a craft knife.

3) Peel the paper backing off the contact paper and carefully stick it to the underside of the screen (that would be the flat side facing the table) positioning it so it is centered in the window.  Smooth out any bubbles and be sure that it is flat against the screen , especially by the design cuts.  This will keep the ink where it is supposed to be.

On the inking side (the side with the foamcore frame on top) tape the window with masking tape so no ink can escape out the sides.

4) Now you are ready to print.  Gather t-shirts, blank cards, paper and whatever you want to print onto.  You can make about 20 prints before the contact paper wants to start peeling away. If you are using t-shirts, put a piece of cardboard or paper between the layers because the ink will bleed through.  
5) Put a couple spoonfuls of ink on one side of the image and then pull the ink across the screen with the squeegee.  Be sure that the ink went into all the design spaces.  You can pull the ink across a couple times, but don't do it too many times or the image will look a little blurry, not crisp.

You can see here that the ink hasn't filled all the design space, so she will have to pull more ink across.

6) Lift the screen off the print and hang print to dry.  Repeat process over and over again.  Make stationary, posters, napkins, placemats, shirts, flags, etc.  When done with image (really done, as you will be throwing it away with this method), remove from the screen, wash the ink off the screen thoroughly and save for another image another time.  We used the same frame and screen for Harry's design after Ava was finished.

Here are some cards the kids made.
and some t-shirts, too!

Note: I have posted more about silk screening so if you're interested, check out October 5th post.


  1. I'm totally doing this! I am, I am! xo

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  2. Awesome! And so easy... we'll definately be trying this

  3. Wow, Ava's design is amazing and Harry's is adorable.

  4. Awesome! I have fond memories of dad silkscreening Tshirts when I was little. Had no idea it was this easy to make your own screen. Thank you for the tutorial! Found you on one pretty thing today - and very glad I did!

  5. Very fun! This will be on our summer fun list for sure! What a great gift idea too!

  6. Oh wow - this is so inspiring - I have been looking for a low cost way to do screen printing and here you are - what a star!

  7. Thanks for the tutorial! This looks really fun!

  8. going to have to check into the cost of the screen and paint. my GS troop would love this.

  9. This is too cool! Thanks for sharing this -- I may have to try it sometime!

  10. I have had silkscreening on my mind lately--this is perfect, thanks for sharing!

  11. We did this! Super fun and great results <3

  12. Thanks for all your comments. If you post anythings that you make, i would love to check them out, so let me know where to look.

  13. Fantastic! You make this look SO easy!

  14. WOW how clever is this!!! I so want to try this!

  15. How does this method compare to the freezer-paper stencil method in terms of ease and results (with or without kids)?

  16. Thanks for all the comments, folks! To answer the mighty guin's question above, I would say that freezer paper stenciling is for when you only need one print. The great thing about silk screening is that you can make many prints from one design- and you will want to print everything you can get your hands on, trust me. I have posted more about silk screening on the cheap and easy in September, or maybe it's October. Take a peek.

  17. I just want to say, this is so great. My family used to run a t-shirt business, so this sort of thing always holds a soft spot in my heart. Good Luck, and check out my blog. I'm new to the crafty blog community and I feel a little left out....

  18. Hi, I don't know how I ran into this (maybe from sewmamasew?) but it's super cool. I like trying out new crafts, but often the initial investment is just not worth it. This makes it easy.



  20. Finally! i found a tutorial that actually looks easy! thank you! Can't wait to give it a go!

  21. Great tutorial - recently read a book on fabric art and they suggested using an old picture frame (without glass etc) as the frame and stapling fabric (glass organza) - they also suggested tracing the design on the organza and then using nail polish to block out the areas you don't want to have paint in. It was great for small designs - I love your idea about using contact paper - we'll be trying that next. Thanks

  22. Hi - II am going to teach screen-printing to elementary students in the fall and am looking for cheap easy methods. I am wondering, will the design be printed in reverse of the way it was drawn. This is especially important when there are words included. They may appear backyards.


  23. Bridget, so sorry to take so long. No, the words will not be backwards because the design faces up. The ink just goes through the design you see and appears like magic on the fabric on the other side of the screen. Have fun!

  24. This is great!! I've been wanting to do some
    silk screening but as you say, it's eXpensive.
    I'm going to get the things together for trying
    this. I wonder if I can use my printer on the contact paper?
    Then cut out that design..
    Thanks for posting, the pictures really help

  25. I've tried out this method, which looks like it would be great for teaching kids about screen printing and actually being able to do it on the cheap, but I've run into a few problems. The couple times I've tried it this way the ink likes to bleed through the contact paper and onto the paper I'm using. Did you encounter this problem or something similar?

  26. Silk screening was my favorite class in high school, I will definitely try this

  27. What a great tutorial and I liked your print too - it's cute! I have this linked to my screen printing DIY post too today, well done!

  28. This is awesome! I've taught bootleg screen printing before but I never thought to use contact paper! I've been using mod podge to block out the designs but this looks soooo much easier! Thank you!

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