Using and Cleaning Silk Screens

Using and Cleaning Silk Screens

This article will help you if you're new to silk screens or just want a more detailed run-through of how to use and clean them. There's also a helpful video at the bottom of the article, if you'd like to see these techniques in action!

Using your Silk Screen with Acrylic Paint

  • Place your screen, shiny side down, onto a smooth uncured clay slab. The shiny side should feel smoother than the non-shiny side. The silk screens have a bit of a curl to them, and the shiny side will always be the concave side.¬†
  • Gently¬†smooth the screen down onto¬†the clay. It will naturally adhere to the sticky clay surface. Don‚Äôt press too hard. You don‚Äôt want the clay to push up into the screen mesh and get suck.
  • Apply a line of medium to heavy body acrylic paint to one end of the screen. Use a card or squeegee to draw the paint across the surface of the screen. Again, don‚Äôt press too hard; this may cause the paint to scrape back up off the clay.
  • After completely covering your pattern with paint, it's crucial to act swiftly. Lift the edge of the screen to inspect the print. If you observe any blotchy or incomplete areas, follow this technique: gently peel up 50% of the screen from one corner, carefully smoothing it back down with your fingers. Repeat the process by lifting the opposite corner to ensure the entire screen has been lifted and smoothed. This step, performed after full paint coverage, can enhance saturation in the print and address any unevenness. If further adjustments are needed, repeat the paint application without pressing or scraping too hard. Once satisfied, peel off the screen and admire your completed pattern!
  • Cut and cure your pieces, then seal that paint in with your favorite sealant.¬†
    • Some folks say that you don't need to seal in paint if you're applying it to uncured clay and then baking it on. I always seal because I don't want to risk the paint chipping or rubbing off. The best policy is to test it out yourself and do what you think is right for you!

Cleaning your Silk Screens

  • After you peel your screen off your clay,¬†immediately¬†submerge the screen into a container of cool water and rub the paint off of it with your fingers or another similarly soft tool or brush.¬†If you do not immediately clean your screen, the acrylic paint will dry in the mesh,¬†and you¬†won't¬†be able to use your screen again.
  • These screens are very durable but will crease if folded. Try not to crumple or crease the screen as you clean and dry it. Laying it flat in a sink or bason to rinse the paint away should be all that's necessary to clean the screen. Store your screens flat to avoid any creasing.

Using Your Silk Screen with Mica or Pigment Powders

Using powders on screens instead of paints is super fun because you can take your time coloring the different elements in the screen with different colors! 

  • Place your screen, shiny side down, onto a smooth uncured clay slab. The shiny side should feel smoother than the non-shiny side. The silk screens have a bit of a curl to them, and the shiny side will always be the concave side.¬†
  • Gently smooth the screen down with your fingers.¬†
  • Use powders to "paint" on your screen. You can use your finger or a paint brush.
  • Gently brush off any excess powder before lifting your screen.¬†
  • When you lift your screen, make sure to do it carefully so you don't drop excess powder onto the clay.¬†
  • Lay a clean sheet of parchment paper over the pattern on your clay and use your hand to gently burnish the powder into the clay. This will help the pattern to stay put and not smear as easily. (It will still smear though, so be careful when handling your clay pieces until the powder is sealed in.)
  • Cut and cure your pieces, then seal that powder in with your favorite sealant.¬†Powders¬†absolutely will rub off if you don't seal¬†them in.
    • My go-to¬†is always UV resin when using mica powders. Other sealers don't cure as transparent and detract from the shine of the mica.
  • To clean: scrub your screen gently with a soft brush and some water. The powder may stain the screen, but it won't affect¬†its usability.¬†

    Tips and Tricks

    • Paints may react differently¬†depending on the paint and brand of clay you're using. Some clays and may remain tacky and never dry. Some may dry initially and then become tacky again a day later.¬†¬†Always test your acrylic paint on your clay before using screens.¬†
    • Let the paint dry fully on your clay before cutting shapes into the slab.
    • You can clean the paint off of the sides of your pieces with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol. Alternatively, the sides can be sanded after¬†they're cured.¬†
    • Most acrylic paints can be removed from your scraps with rubbing alcohol.
    • It is normal for the screens to stain. They will still be useable as long as the paint or¬†powder is cleaned out of the mesh.

    Check out the video tutorial below for more information. 


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