Tutorial: How to Screen Print a Parsnip

My studio is based in the Noverre Gallery at the Assembly House in Norwich.

Quite often I'm working away in the corner as customers browse the latest exhibition.

They often stop and ask: "What on earth are you doing over there?"

I spend so much time screen printing that I forget that some people don't even know what it is!

So I thought it would be a nice idea to go through the basic process of screen printing one of my Parsnip illustrations.

This is a three-colour design, using two different screens. My original illustration is photocopied onto acetate (the kind you'd use on your overhead projector in primary school!) which is then exposed onto a silk screen.

The exposure process is quite complicated and can involve some expensive equipment, so if you're just starting out, I'd recommend looking up a local college or organisation such as Print to the People, who can teach you and assist you in this part of the process.

First I print the green leaves, this involves masking your screen using brown parcel tape, this means that you can print a section of the bottom layer without the need for another screen.

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You nee a flat surface on which to print, I use a very large piece of hardboard that I lay on top of my printing table. I usually use masking tape to mark out the positions of my fabric and screen, this is very useful for later on.

It's important to exert a significant amount of pressure on to the screen so that it doesn't shift and move when you're printing. I usually clamp my screen to the table and apply pressure with my non-printing hand. You should also make sure that your table is at a height that is comfortable, especially if you're printing a big run!

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I recently invested in a drying rack, which has been really useful. If you can't afford one of these a simple washing line will do the trick!

After printing your first layer it's important to wash out you screen, you should really use a pressure-washer but I don't have one of those so I just scrub away until it's clean (This is not advised as it wears out your screens and is generally a real pain!)

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Then it's time to tape up your screen for the second layer. The tricky part is lining up your print so that it fits the previous layer, this is where your masking tape markings come in handy.

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Then it's simply a case of repeat repeat repeat. You will probably end up with a lot of 'samples' but remember, every print is unique and beautiful in its own way! You may also find that some of your best ideas and creations are formed from 'mistakes'.

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I should say that this is my own unique method of screen printing, I'm no expert!

I haven't completed a course in the subject, most of the lessons I've learnt have been through trial and error. I most likely have a whole bunch of bad habits...but I like to think that adds to my unique style!

If you really want to get into screen printing I'd recommend getting a bit of advice from a local college or print studio before you start spending your money on expensive equipment. If you have a go and feel it's for you, get cracking and you'll learn a lot, as well as having a whole load of fun.

My parsnip illustration is available as part of my Allotment Vegetables collection. 

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