How to Make Silk Screen Stencils

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Silk screen stencils can be cut using an x-acto, they can be added to the screen in a variety of photographic processes and they can even be handdrawn and painted onto your screen. In this tutorial we are going to cover the simplest and least complex system for making stencils--painting a simple non-water soluble glue onto the "negative" areas of the image.

Things You'll Need

  • Image to screen
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Sheer Curtain fabric
  • Non-water soluble glue
  • Soft-lead pencil
  • 1-inch painter's paint brush
  • Fine painter's paint brush
  • Screen brush (small)
  • Newspapers/plastic sheeting
  • Cut a circle of sheer curtain fabric (available at any fabric shop or Target or Wal-Mart-type store) that is one inch larger than your embroidery hoop. Attach the fabric to your hoop as per the hoop manufacturer's instructions, making certain that the fabric is tight in all directions.

  • Place your embroidery hoop with stretched fabric over the image you wish to silk screen with the fabric-side down so the fabric is lying on top of your image. Use your pencil to trace the image on the fabric. Start with a relatively simple one-color image without a lot of shading. As you get better at the process you can get more creative, but begin with a simple image.

  • Prop the hoop up so that the fabric is not touching anything and use your wide (1-inch) paint brush to paint your non-water soluble glue onto your screen in the areas where you do not want your paint to come through. There are several different types of glue you can use, but a common type is called Mod Podge. There is no need to cover the entire negative area of the screen with glue. You really only need to paint the glue about an inch all the way around your image without touching the lines of your image just yet. Once you have filled in the large areas of the screen where you don't want paint coming through it is time to grab your small brush and fill in the tiny details are all around the lines of your drawing with glue. Remember the paint the glue everywhere you don't want the paint on your image.

  • Allow the glue to dry completely. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and allow more time if you have any thick areas of glue. It is important that the glue dry thoroughly before you proceed.

  • Spread newspapers or plastic sheets on the area where you will be working. Place the object on which you will be screening your image (paper, T-shirt or whatever) on a flat surface. If you are screening onto a t-shirt you may want to place a square of Styrofoam or other material in the shirt to strengthen and hold the image area steady and flat. Center your stencil over the area you want to print on. Using your stiff screen brush dab ink or Speedball paint onto the open areas of your stencil, forcing the paint through the fabric. Do not touch areas outside the area of your stencil that is protected by the glue. Hold your stencil still during the inking process. Once you have filled in the image area with ink or paint then carefully lift the screen away.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wash your screen under running water between uses. Your screen should remain usable for several hundred images if it is treated carefully.
  • It is possible with many stencils to carefully dab on different colors in different areas of the same stencil to get a colorful image. Sometimes, however, it will be necessary to make two or more stencils, each one designed for a different color, to get true color silk screening.

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