Category Archives: Screen Printing

Silk screen printing tutorials, tips, ideas, and workshops.

Deconstructed Screen Printing


kerr-grabowskiIn May 2010 I stumbled upon Kerr Grabowsky‘s Deconstructed Screen Printing and absolutely fell in love with the creative process she demonstrated in her video. She is a great teacher and really inspiring artist! Having done traditional screen printing for years, I was excited to learn and try this experimental printing technique, using dyes instead of ink. I ordered her DVD (which I’ve enthusiastically shared with friends many times over the years) and set out to find the necessary materials. The cold water fiber reactive dyes and chemicals she uses I couldn’t find in Montreal, so I ordered from J&S Dye in Toronto. I had a pile of white cotton fabric I recovered from a couch slip-cover project.

dsp test print 1

November 13, 2010 – Tried the deconstructed process with wood stain, not dye. So the prints were not washable. But was fun and messy. I gave away many of the prints to friends and family as wall hangings.

dsp print 2

January 31, 2011 – Finally got some MX dyes!

All pieces prewashed, soda soaked, and hung to dry. Then printed with strong dye mixtures, double the dye required for fabric painting, with urea (wetting agent) and alginate (thickener). Hand washed *vigorously* in cold water, warm water with detergent, and hot water with detergent. Hung to dry…

dsp print 3

DSC08057Now that I tested the process, got some new texture items to play with… here I tried using a piece of lace detail (which turned out to look a lot like a cow skull I thought) and a string of sequins (which turned out to look like intestines). I also tried printing on a white tank top.

dsp print 4

I tried using vinyl cutout shapes… and tried different colour combinations…

DSC08060There are a few print sessions I didn’t photograph, but by now I had a huge stack of prints and needed to figure out what to do with them. I liked them on their own, as wall art, but then the purpose of it being fiber dyed and washable is lost. I wanted to make clothing with it… I had made corsets before and thought that these crazy abstract prints would make interesting wearable art corsets. The pieces are pretty small and I could mix and match through the panels.

dsp corsets


Prints for Pride

For the Toronto Pride Parade I printed a bunch of rainbow coloured patches and went out with my new little puppy Chorizzo (isn’t he precious!) to the parade hoping to sell a few… instead I was practically mobbed by people falling in love with him. There was even boys trying to buy him drinks!

Fresh Ink

Spring time in Toronto… printing patches to sell or trade at festivals and outdoor parties.

There are a couple left, if you are interested in a printed patch I can look for the design you want or print a custom one for you. I keep my screens and always have scrap fabric and inks.

Make your own Photo Emulsion

I found a great tutorial on Instructables for “true DIY guide to screen printing” that included instructions on making photo emulsion using a chemical called Potassium Dichromate (which I found at Kama Pigment in Montreal).

WARNING: Potassium Dichromate can kill you ‘n shit.

This is the cheapest photo emulsion you will ever find… and it works for fine detail artwork and on any screen mesh. But only with water based inks.

**this post gets so many visitors! it’s crazy!!**

UPDATED!! 2016

Definitely look at the tutorial on Instructables first, that guy offers lots of important information!! Read the comments there too…

This is my “converted to baking measurements” recipe. If you need help with conversions from oz to ml to cups, I use this conversion site.


1/2 cup of PVA white craft or carpenters glue (water soluble)

1/2 teaspoon of potassium dichromate

3 teaspoons of warm water

White craft or carpenters PVA glue, I buy it at the dollar store or craft store. Any cheap water soluble glue will work. Carpenters glue has a slightly better bond, but it’s a little more expensive. 120ml of glue makes just enough to cover three medium/large size screens.

Potassium Dichromate can be purchased at speciality arts stores that carry supplies for wood staining, leather tanning, custom pigment paints, etc. I found mine at Kama Pigments in Montreal.

First of all, work in a dimly lit room (obviously not totally dark or you can’t see what you are doing, just don’t use an overhead light and not in direct sunlight you should be fine)

Wear gloves… try not to get this stuff on you, it is toxic as hell.

In a small plastic or glass container, put 3 teaspoons of warm water.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of Potassium Dichromate and stir until dissolved. (do not use these measuring utensils or containers for food or anything else afterwards!)

The Potassium Dichromate is sensitive to light only AFTER you add water, but I do keep mine in a airtight container that I covered with duct tape, just to keep it at max potency. The store where I bought it though just has it in clear plastic bags on a shelf. I bought a 1/4 pound bag of it for about 8 dollars over 5 years ago and it still hasn’t lost any strength that I can notice (and I’ve got enough left to last another few years!)

Add 1/2 cup of glue and stir well until consistent and no lumps etc…

Again, do this in a dimly lit room (no overhead light or sunlight)

Spread thin and even on your prepared screen with a squeegee, as you would regular photo emulsion, and allow to dry. The Instructable link has info for preparing screens and squeegees etc, and there is lots of other info out there for that so I won’t repeat it.

Exposure time!

Depends on your bulb, distance, size of the screen, image opaqueness, etc. This is a trial and error process you will have to experiment with your timings to get it right.

In the photo below I think I was using a 100 w bulb, and it’s definitely too close. Since then I’ve got a 250 w bulb suspended at least 2 feet above the screen and expose for about 12-14 minutes.

This is a pretty good article explaining all the different issues with determining your exposure timing.

OMG I made a video tutorial! Enjoy!

Cheerz and happy printing!