Printed Fabrics

I thought i’d quickly attempt to show some of you a very basic way of turning a paper design into a fabric print.

1) Creating an image to screenprint.


I’ve used this cat design from my pattern-a-day challenge. This image is going to be transferred onto a screen. It’s always safer to keep designs bold, avoiding fine lines and small details. It’s also a lot easier to print in one colour, so it’s best to design an image with that in mind.

Once the design has been finalized it needs to be printed or hand-drawn/painted onto either inkjet film or ordinary white paper. For this particular process, I printed it onto ordinary white A2 printer paper.

2) Preparing the screen


A screen is simply just woven mesh pulled tightly over a metal or wooden frame. You can get them in all sorts of sizes and weave densities. In order to get the chosen image onto the screen, the screen must first be coated in a photosensitive emulsion. You need to act pretty fast with this step as the emulsion starts reacting as soon as it’s exposed to light. Once it’s evenly coated, the screen goes into a drying rack, or a warm dark place, until the emulsion is completely dry. It’s super important that the screen is kept in total darkness whilst it dries.

3) Exposing the screen


Once the emulsion has dried the printed image needs to be selotaped to the coated screen. It’s important that a clear tape is used as anything opaque will show on your final prints.

The screen then needs to be exposed to light. There are a few home-made methods for doing this but I was able to use the exposure unit at my university. (An exposure unit is basically a large light box with a lid that omits powerful UV light onto the screen for a selected amount of time).

4) Washing away the emulsion


The screen must be immediately washed to remove the specific areas of photosensitive emulsion that didn’t react with the light.

When in the exposure unit, the cats (being solid and black) blocked any light from hitting the coated screen, whereas the white areas of the paper allowed light to pass through creating a reaction with the photosensitive emulsion. This reaction causes the emulsion to bond with the screens mesh. After a good scrub, you’re left with your very own permanent stencil! This screen is pretty stained from previous uses but you can hopefully see how the photosensitive emulsion has washed away where the black cats on my design were – where the light had no contact with the emulsion. So now think of the cats as holes in the screen, like holes in a plastic stencil.

5) Printing!


After already preparing the fabric and taping it to a printing table – or any flat surface – the screen needs to be carefully positioned and weighted down to stop it from shifting while printing. The next step is pretty simple… dollop some mixed up dye into the top edge of the screen and use a squeegee to evenly drag the dye down the screen. This part needs to be repeated about 2 or 3 times to ensure the dye has been completely evenly coated. Carefully lift the screen away from the fabric, and voila! Your own printed fabric.

And then.. 

If you’re a super nice friend, you can make them into cushions for your buddy.




Does any of this make sense?