Screen Printing Registration Part 3: Fabric Registration

April 14, 2009

Post image for Screen Printing Registration Part 3: Fabric Registration

part 1/part 2/ part 3

Here’s how to set up your fabric on your print table so you can print repeating patterns over and over again!

Now that you have exposed your screens and are relatively sure that each image has been properly registered you can set up your table registration. You are going to make certain two things: that the images will print straight and that the repeat distance is properly measured out. Since you first print only repeat 1, 3, 5 and so on (as shown in the picture above) you will have to make sure that you leave the right amount of space in between for repeat 2, 4, 6 and so on.



Once you have pinned or adhered your fabric to your print table you will want to use a T-bar to mark the registration points along the tables edge.


A T-bar is a tool which you can make yourself that you will slide along your table to each registration point. Your screen will lay flush with it’s edges so the screen stays consistently straight along the entire table. 

To make a T-bar, all you need is two pieces of very straight 2×4 pine. Attach them as you see in this image so that one piece fits flush with the side edge of the table and the other spans to width of the table. Put a handle on it so it’s easy to lift and move to the next registration position. 


Measure the repeat of the print which is the distance between the first and second repeats. Note: This is not the same as the width of the image. It is the width of the image plus the space until the new repeat starts.


I will make a mark on a ruler or tape measure and use that as a guide and mark off each registration point.


I’ll first mark it on the table then I’ll place my T-bar at that line, draw a line along the edge of the T-bar and name the mark. I generally write RR1 or RR2 etc. which stands for right registration position 1 so I know that this is the first registration point and it should be on the right side of the T-bar.

Once you have marked the table registration, you will mark the the vertical position of the screen for each print repeat. As I butt up the screen to the T-bar I note where I want the print to be placed on the fabric and I’ll place tape where the bottom edge of the screen meets the t-bar. I’ll use the mark so that I place the screen in the same place each time I move it to the new repeat registration point.


Now it’s time to print. this part goes really quickly now that you have all your marks set up. You’ll print your first skip repeats, scrape the ink off your screen , wash and let your screen dry. When the firstset of repeats and your screen is dry you can print the second set of repeats. they should fit seamlessly together if you’ve measured everything properly. Once your second set is dry you can heat set your fabric! Then you’re done!

Happy printing!

Roisin Fagan printing repeating patterns in our Halifax studio.

Roisin Fagan printing repeating patterns in our Halifax studio.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

angie 04.14.09 at 6:57 pm

Michelle, once again this is great! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

This cleared up a few questions I had, but I do have so many more. Would it be possible for you to answer a few of those in a blog post?


admin 04.14.09 at 7:46 pm

Sure- what are your questions?

angie 04.15.09 at 1:58 pm

Great! thanks!

1) What is the largest screen size is it feasible for 1 person to print?

2) Is it feasible for 1 person to print a full width of fabric (54-60″) by themselves? If so how?

These two things are really stumping me. I want to print yardage, and I don’t have and won’t have anyone helping me. Am I out in left field for wanting to do this by myself?


admin 04.16.09 at 10:34 am

Angie, the good news is the answer is YES- it can be done and people do it all the time. The less good news is that it can be tricky. I have been printing yardage with very large screens by myself but I must admit that it can get difficult if the print area is wider than 38″. My screens are 37″x47″ (outside dimensions) and I’m only 5’4″ and I have printed widths of fabric that have a print 45″ wide but it was hard. You have to be conscientious of the pressure you use and how hard you push- and have really strong core muscles- it’s a workout to keep steady while leaning over the table! If you are pushing too hard you can actually stretch and distort your image over the length of a large screen. My old studio mate Roisin prints full yardage repeats with a small screen. You can see her working in the last photo of this post. As you can see she has developed her print to fit as a puzzle both side to side but top and bottom as well. So she makes an extra measurement or two on the tbar where the screen should be placed to print the middle and top half of the fabric. You can see from the photo that she has two rows of prints happening and once those are filled in she’ll go back and print the middle. It takes a long time but she prefers to do it this way rather than buying a large screen like I use. Practice will help you get the hang of it. I’ll try to schedule a full post on the topic for early this summer. Until then I hope this helps.

angie 04.16.09 at 10:47 pm

Michelle, again, thanks for your time. This really does help a lot. I was wondering if Roisin would be going in and printing down the middle. And I had also surmised that she did indeed have to fit her design both side to side and top to bottom. This does give me hope. Now I just need to do some designs and get out there and practice.

My current printing table is small, but I am scheming on how to fit in a larger table in my studio.

admin 04.17.09 at 3:09 am

Yes, if you need to print an area larger than your screen then you need the repeat image to fit together top and bottom as well as side to side. And just like how you skip every second print side to side you need to do the same top and bottom too. Otherwise your screen frame would mess up the wet ink just printed. So eventually filling in the middle will be the last bit of printing Roisin will do.
Send pictures of your yardage when it’s done!

greyfox 08.20.09 at 4:23 pm

Hi there, I found your site will doing some searching for how to print pattern repeat. I have a quick question. If I am only doing a one-color print, do I still need to have registration marks burned to the screen? If so, how exactly do you calculate their correct placement? Thanks!

admin 08.20.09 at 5:25 pm

You will want to refer to my post on fabric registration. fabric registration It’ll tell you all you need to know because, while your question is quick, the answer is much longer. :) Read thorugh this carefully and if you have a specific question I would be happy to answer it.

ie. how to measure your repeat is discussed in the first part of the blog…
“Measure the repeat of the print which is the distance between the first and second repeats. Note: This is not the same as the width of the image. It is the width of the image plus the space until the new repeat starts…”

said rambarran 08.15.10 at 2:00 am

Hi i see ur technic realy amazing and thank u for shearing ur time n technic,
with ur system can print u all over print a T-Shirt

With thank

am a T-Shirts printer i normal print A3 size dsign on automatic..

admin 08.15.10 at 4:58 am

ummm…. well yo could do an all-over print if you did it before you made the t-shirt but not after.

mike 07.20.11 at 4:16 pm

what is holding the screen down in the above pic of Roisin printing? do you just have the screen “floating” on top of the fabric? What prevents it from sliding when you are pulling the squeeze? What about off contact, do you tape spacers on to the screen. Sorry for all the questions, but your method is a little different from what i have seen when researching yardage printing.

admin 07.20.11 at 5:28 pm

Often you don’t need anything to hold down the screen when printing fabric. The surface tension from the ink often keeps it in place. That being said be careful of your first pull- get the squeegee wet with ink since a dry squeegee on the screen will surely move it. If you are unsure use one hand to hold down the screen.
When we print off contact we tape spacers, usually pieces of cardboard to the screen. Good luck.

amanda rouse 11.13.11 at 11:55 am

Hi, I was trying your registration method, I made a TBar but I could not get the measurements right. I measured the repeat correctly (I know what you mean about measuring the entire repeat and not the width) The repeat was 8 and 5/8 inches, so I marked that on the table. But how do you account for width of the screen and T Bar? Are you marking on your silkscreen frame and lining that up with the mark on the table? Have you measured the distance from the end of your repeat on the screen to the edge of the frame and also the width of the T Bar and marked that on the table? Can you please clarify this part the process a little bit better… I would really appreciate it!

admin 11.13.11 at 1:19 pm

It doesn’t matter what the measurements of your t-bar and screen are. Once you print your first repeat then everything moves in increments of your repeat size. Remember that you need to skip every second repeat so that your t-bar and screen don’t sit right on top of what you just printed.
So, make a mark where you want the print to start and set up the t-bar and screen there- then on the table make increment marks of your repeat. You’ll print the first- then the third, then the fifth etc. Make sense?

amanda rouse 11.14.11 at 9:26 pm

Thank you for responding so quickly! Everything makes since except one part…I am still unsure about how you match up the stencil on the screen with the registration marks on the table. I know some people mark on the frame and try to match that with marks on the table… I can’t think of a good way of asking this question… Thanks for your help! I am going to try again tomorrow and see if it works itself out this time. I may be over thinking it.

admin 11.15.11 at 9:56 am

I can’t really figure out what you’re asking but I’ll try to clarify further. When you put your first print down you’ll mark on the T-Bar where the bottom of the frame was and mark that with an arrow or a letter. Then you’ll line up the frame with that mark the next time as well. You don’t line the image on the screen with the registration marks- you line the frame up with the registration marks. Hope this helps.

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