Silkscreening is so easy, even CBC Arts can do it
"Even if you screw it up, it still looks good."
Only one craft shrieks "DIY ethos" with the same ear-splintering force as a tone-deaf teenaged punk: silkscreening, an easy-peasy way of making gig posters, band T-shirts and pretty much anything you'll find on a merch table.
So Saturday, May 28 at the CBC Music Festival in Toronto, we're hosting our own "CBC Arts Studio," a DIY shop right in the middle of the action where we'll teach you how to make your very own prints for free.
And if you need proof of just how easy it is, our studio is being run by a bunch of total newbs. Well, almost. This week, CBC Arts producers got a crash course from one of the best-known silkscreening shops in the city — Peach Berserk, a Toronto design company that's been printing one-of-a-kind fabric for more than 20 years.
"The great thing about screen printing," says founder Kingi Carpenter, "is you can teach someone to do it in 30 seconds."
It'll take you a little longer than that to skim through this article, but once you're done, you'll be ready to make colourful and creative prints, just like the ones we'll be cranking out with CBC Music fans Saturday.
"It's dead simple," says Peach Berserk's Mel Bullock. "Even if you screw it up, it still looks good."
Throw on your oldest and grubbiest concert shirt, and let's get started.
Here's what you'll need...
- A silkscreen, which is mesh that's been stretched over a frame. (Buy one that's ready-to-go at a craft store, or staple gun a sheet of the stuff to a wooden frame by yourself, because you are a confident and crafty person. Look for 110-130 mesh count fabric.)
- Photo emulsion
- Lamp (150 watt bulb)
- Sheet of black fabric (just big enough to go under your frame)
- Transparency paper
- Laser printer
- Masking tape
- T-shirt, canvas, pillow case, paper — anything you can print on
- A design!
Need one? Have one of ours. This is one of the images we'll be printing at CBC Music Festival, Burton Kramer's retro-classic CBC logo.
Prep (a.k.a. The long and technical bit)
- Grab your emulsion liquid and a squeegee, and cover that screen! You'll find detailed instructions on the bottle, so follow those closely, making sure to treat both sides of the mesh.
- Once it's been coated, store your screen in the dark for a couple hours (or however long the emulsion instructions recommend). Wait until it's totally dry.
- While your screen is drying out, it's time to get your design ready. Load your transparency paper into your laser-jet printer, and print out the image you want to put on the screen.
- Prep your light table — and by that, we mean you're going to lay that black sheet of fabric on a regular old table or counter, and rig your lamp (the one with the 150 watt bulb) to hang above it. Your emulsion instructions will tell you how close it should be, but it'll likely need to be 30 cm away from the screen. Set all of this up somewhere dark.
- Once your screen is dry, lay it down on the "light table" you prepared, keeping it mesh side up. Place your design where you want it, and tape the edges so it's secure.
- Flick on your 150-watt light and burn, baby, burn. Your emulsion instructions will tell you how long to leave it there.
- When it's ready, rinse off the screen in your sink or tub, spraying it with water until all the emulsion washes away. Try not to rub or scrape at the screen, it'll come off on its own. When it's done, dry the screen so it's ready to print.
Printing (a.k.a. The fun and creative bit)
- Get something! Anything! It could be a T-shirt, a tote bag — or, in our case, a canvas — and lay it down on a flat surface. Grab your silkscreen, and lay it down mesh-side first wherever you want your design to appear.
- Choose an ink, and plop a bit of the stuff on the edge of the screen. You won't need much. (Too much paint and your design might bubble.) Then, spread the ink over the image with your squeegee, holding it at a 45-degree angle as you scrape it over the design in one smooth swipe. Don't be afraid to use a bit of muscle, and scrape over the image a couple more times to fully fill in the stencil.
- Ta da! Lift the screen and your print is done.
- Or, if you're like us and you're using a couple of colours, let your canvas dry out before doing another round. This is where you'll want to fire up your blowdryer.
- Ready for round two? Just repeat these steps. Now you know how to silkscreen.
By this time next year, you'll be making merch for half the bands at CBC Music Festival.