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Silk screening is a process which is used to create prints on a wide variety of materials, from fabric to wood. Many commercial printers use silk screening to print, since it is cheap and easy, and when done well, it results in high quality prints. Home crafters and fine artists also use the silk screening technique for projects, and it is relatively easy to learn. People who want to learn how to make high quality screen prints may want to consider taking a class to learn the basics.
To silk screen, a very fine mesh is stretched tightly onto a frame. This mesh was made from silk until the mid-twentieth century, although it is usually polyester today. A negative design is created on the screen using a variety of techniques, and ink is rolled or sponged onto the screen, which is pressed onto the object being printed. Most printers use a squeegee or a similar tool to gently press the ink onto the printed product before removing the screen and hanging the print up to dry.
Most people use photosensitive screens for screen printing. The screen is covered in a light sensitive emulsion which reacts to UV light. The artist places a stencil of the desired pattern on the screen, exposes it, and washes the screen. The areas exposed to light will harden, creating an impenetrable layer, while the covered areas of the emulsion will wash away, allowing ink to pass through.
Other techniques can be used to make a screen for silk screening, such as applying a paper or plastic stencil, or even painting on glue or resin. As a general rule, the screens are designed to be reusable, to make as many prints as desired. After printing, the screen can be saved for another run or washed and used again with a new design. Most people who practice silk screening also use frames to hold the screens in place while they work.
Multicolored prints can be produced through silk screening with the use of different screens. The CMYK color process can be used to create very complex color designs, which are printed with the lightest color first and the darkest last. Many crafters like silk screening because it is fun, easy, and it can yield work of excellent quality under trained hands. It also requires fairly minimal equipment, and none of the equipment used is very expensive except for the light sensitive emulsion used to make screens.