Screen Printing Registration part 2

April 9, 2009

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Are you ready to start making beautiful lengths of fabric? Then you need to get the skinny on fabric registration!

part 1/ part 2/ part 3

This tutorial is the second in a three part series and is the first step in fabric registration. before we can begin to learn how to register a print on the table for repeating pattern we have to make sure that we register and properly line up the images on our screen before we expoe them. here we will learn how to make sure that each colour in your design exposes on the same location for each of your screens. This way you can use the same measurements on the table for each screen. 

Print registration for fabric is crucial. And you need to do two registrations; once with your image on the screen before you expose it then a second calculation for the screens on the table when you are about the print. The reason for this is because printing fabric on a long table, printing a repeating pattern, involves printing every second print and then waiting for the first series to dry then printing the in between prints to fill in the entire fabric with a seamless print. If you didn’t do it this way and printed every successive print, the frame of the screen would mark up the wet ink on the print before it- effectively ruining your print.

So if you wanted to print a long repeating pattern of hearts, like in the above example, you would design your film positive so that each screen fits with the next like a puzzle piece. You would never want to make a repeat that fit with the next with a straight edge. straight-repeatWhile this may be more simple, if you are off in your registration by even the slightest amount it will be glaringly obvious when it’s all printed. Having pieces fit like a puzzle will make registration mistakes less noticeable.

Your first step in proper registration for fabric starts when you make your film positives. You need to 

p10102181include a registration mark or a crop mark that is in the same place on every colour separation for your print; so that when you place your film positives on top of one another all the registration marks will line up. You’ll use these marks to register your screens later- so you need to be confident that they will align when printed on top of one another. You need to have at least three registration points on your film positive. A registration dot usually is a circle with an x inside it. You can draw one or they can be bought (but are hard to find) or your can print them out from a computer. Generally you can find them in your word processors character palette (where you would find symbols and accented letters).

Once you have developed your film positive with the registration marks then you’ll place your film positive on the surface where you will shoot your screens or you can place the film positive directly on your unexposed screens and register it there (work under a safe light though). You make a measurement from a single point to see how far the registration mark is from that (I use the edge of the table- or the edge of the screen) and record that. Then take a second measurement of how far away you second point is (I try to make them the same distance from the edge) and you’ll record that. Tape your positive in place. Use these same measurements for each positive- that way you’ll know they are all on the exactly same spot for each screen.


It’s a good idea to record on paper what your measurements are as well. If you registered your film positive on your exposing surface you will also have to record where your screen is when you placed it on top of the film positive so you can place the next screens in the same place. I use tape to mark the screen position.

p1010238p1010273Lastly, try to get into the habit of writing down your film positive and screen placement measurements. I always think I’ll remember them but then I get busy doing something else and when it’s time to shoot screen number 2 I can’t remember what they were!

In part 3 we’ll cover how to set up your screen and measurements on your print table.

Happy Printing!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

angie 04.12.09 at 2:21 pm

WOW! Just found you today and what a wealth of information. I’ve been printing for a little over a year and am wanting to print yardage.

Thanks for a great tutorial; looking forward for more.

Gabby 08.01.12 at 10:12 am

Thank you for the guides they are a really great reference,
I am confused about the registration though; don’t the registration marks print onto the fabric as well as the pattern. I have tried using cross hair registration for two colour printing and came up against a few head scratching difficulties, the one mentioned above and, after the first print, I couldn’t see through the reg marks to line it up for second colour (because of ink obscuring my view).
Mostly I find it tricky getting the image square on the screen so that the repeat doesn’t end up with a wobble as I go along even on a single colour repeat.

Traque 10.10.12 at 10:31 am

thanks a lot. Lucky I am!

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