How to Prepare Images for Screen Printing

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One of the great things about printing, and screen printing in particular, is the large number of sources you can draw images from. You can use computer-generated images or photographs or draw almost anything from your imagination. There are also a few different methods that you can use to transfer these images to the appropriate media.

Things You'll Need

  • Transparent plastic Opaque ink pens Books or photos (optional) Photocopier (optional) Computer (optional) Printer (optional)
  • Start with a large sheet of thin, transparent plastic about the size of the screen you want to use. You can make one image almost the full size of the screen, one small image or several images on the same screen which you can print together or individually.

  • Convert computer images to a black and white format and print them directly on transparencies. Only black should be printed, since other colors may not burn onto the screen successfully. If you want to create a grey area, use small black marks like crosshatching (or print your design with grey ink when you're finished).

  • Photocopy books or photographs onto transparencies.

  • Draw original designs on transparencies with opaque ink pens. These are special pens designed to prepare images for screen printing, with an especially dark and permanent quality of black ink. Use a variety of opaque ink pens to draw lines and fill in areas of different sizes.

  • Trace simple images with opaque ink pens after placing a transparency over the image you want to copy.

  • Touch up computer printouts and copies with opaque ink pens if the black areas are not dark or even.

  • Tape small images on transparency together with clear tape to make a large piece. The tape shouldn't show up on the screen.

Tips & Warnings

  • To create color images, prepare one transparency for each color. For example, if you want to make a red apple with a black outline, make one transparency with just a black outline of an apple, and another with an entire black apple of the exact same size and shape. Burn both these images onto your screen (or onto separate screens), then print one with red ink, let it dry and print the other with black ink directly on top of it.
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