Altering a manufactured fabric is one of the most straight forward ways to create designs that are uniquely your own. Whether the fabric is embroidered, laser cut, digitally printed, embellished, dyed, painted or frayed you can take a fabric and make sure that it is unique to your own collection and can not be used by anyone else.
Screen printing is often used for repeat printing on fabrics or placement printing but we become more aware of how the pigment is applied when the screen printing is done without precision, or even sometimes used after the garment has been completed, as opposed to onto the fabric before the garment is even cut.
At Libertine this season they used a pattern of their own, printed over the top of found vintage garments to unify the collection. The pigment looks thickly applied in a much more painterly way than what is considered to be “good” screen printing but used in this way it adds energy to the collection.
Libertine, AW11. Images from vogue.co.uk.
The basic process of screen printing:
- Complete your design so that everything you want to print is pure black. Grey areas will not work correctly and some of your design may drop out and not have a crisp edge if there are grey pixels along the outside. Vector images work best such as those generated in Adobe Illustrator.
- Print your design on clear acetate or a type of tracing paper.
- Coat a silk screen with a UV sensitive paste, which you will find at textiles shops. You will normally need to allow time for the paste to set, which may require leaving it overnight depending on the manufacturers instructions.
- Tape your design to the flat side of the screen with clear tape, and if it is going into repeat you will need to make sure it is aligned square to the screen frame. Also your design should be right side up when you are looking through the screen, ie when the flat side of the screen is down. Basically imagine how the screen will be when you print onto fabric, to avoid text being printed in the reverse.
- Then you will expose your screen on a professional UV light bed. Always remember that the flat side of the screen goes closest to the glass in the UV bed. You will need to test different exposure times depending on what coating paste you use, whether you use acetate or tracing paper, the strength of the UV light etc. While in the UV bed the light will harden the paste all around your design, but the paste hidden by your design will remain soft.
- Then you will wash your screen so that all the softened paste washes away and where your design was, will remain a clear window through the screen. This is where pigments and paste will be pushed through onto the fabric.
- You should always make sure not to leave pigment drying in your screen for too long as they may become too hard to wash out and disturb the clarity of your design lines.
- Of course once you have a screen set-up you can use it to print any colour you like or tape off sections to use etc. So sometimes if your designs are only small you may want to fit multiple designs onto one screen so that you can use different sections at different times.
Screen printing images from TheCuttingClass.