Screen Printing On Paper. It’s like this.

March 27, 2009

Post image for Screen Printing On Paper. It’s like this.

Once you know how to print on paper you will see a whole world of artsy opportunity open up!

The difference between printing onto paper and printing onto fabric is that fabric is absorbent and paper is not. So when you pass a squeegee over fabric it will absorb the ink but paper tends to let the ink sit on top of it. When the ink can not be absorbed or penetrate the surface you wish to print the design will blur/ smudge when printed. So often paper printing is done off-contact. Sounds complicated, but it’s not. Printing off-contact means you slightly raise your screen (3-5mm or 1.4″) off the print surface. That’s it.

To achieve that slightly raised screen most people tape a small square of cardboard box underneath the two corners of their screen nearest them. The other side of the screen is sitting in hinge clamps. Having this small amount of space when you pass the squeegee over the paper allows the screen to spring back up once you have printed and avoids the blur you would get otherwise.

I have a habit. A bad one. I don’t leave enough space between my image and the edges of the screen. I generally try to cram as much image onto my print surface as possible. Often I can get away with it because I’m printing onto fabric and my screen is touching my print surface. But with paper printing you ABSOLUTELY need to have at least 2-3 inches of space between the inside edge of the screen and the image. Otherwise you won’t have enough room for the screen to stretch down to the print surface as the squeegee passes over that area. 

Another difference between fabric printing and paper printing is that with paper printing your screen will be in hinge clamps and attached to your print surface while you move in and out new paper. Fabric printing is different; when you are printing yardage, the fabric stays in the same spot but you move your screen. So in that way I find it is much easier to register your screens with paper than fabric. Once you have your screen in the hinge clamps place a piece of transparency paper on your print surface. Have one side of it taped to the table. With your transparency under you screen, print your image. Then take your paper and place it under the image printed on the transparency and line it up so the image is in the spot you want it. Flip the transparent paper out of the way and place some masking tape along the bottom and one side of the paper edge on the table. You’re not taping the paper in place you’re lining up the edge of the tape with the edge of the paper. When you remove the paper the tape will be your reference point for where to put the new piece of paper. This keeps your image printing on the same spot on every piece of paper. 

Here are the steps to printing onto paper for one one or multi-color designs:

1.Attache a pair of hinge clamps to your work surface. Make certain they are square and straight when you screw them in.






2.Place your printing screen in the hinge clamps.
3.Tape two pieces of cardboard box to the underside corners of your printing screen nearest you.

Printing onto paper







4. Lightly spray your print surface with photo adhesive or spread a tiny amount of table adhesive over the area so that it is slightly tacky.

5. Take a large piece of transparent paper and place it over your work surface; taping it on one side only to your print table. 

Printing onto paper






6. Print one pass of your image onto the transparent paper.

Printing onto paper






7. Place your paper under the transparency so that your image will print where you want it to.

 Drawing Fluid Tutorial






8. Flip the transparency away from your print area.

9. Mark the bottom and side of the paper edge with masking tape. These will be your registration marks- don’t remove them.

Printing onto paper






10. Pour a bead of ink along the bottom of your screen area (the well).







11. Flood the screen with the screen in a raised position then print with the screen down.
12. Print all pieces of paper with this screen and let them dry.

Printing onto paper






13. Flip your transparency paper back onto your print surface. And print the second colour screen. Use that new print as a guide and place one of the printed pieces of paper so the colours line up with the acetate print. Then place new registration tabs for this piece of paper.

Drawing Fluid Tutorial







14. Repeat these steps for each colour your have in you design. 

Let me know about your paper printing projects and send in pictures of your work! I’d love to see them!

If you want more instruction and some really helpful tips, download free my ebook “SCREEN PRINT: The Ultimate Guide” when you join my email newsletter.
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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

dan 06.05.09 at 11:19 pm

hey thanks for the tutorial. i have a question, though – in #4, i think you mean to say “area” but i’m not sure as to why you use the spray adhesive – this actually goes onto your paper that you are going to print? or is that just to hold the transparency down? great idea elevating the material off the paper – that’s the problem i came to the internet to solve. thanks!

admin 06.08.09 at 7:35 am

Hi Dan,
You use the spray adhesive or table adhesive (my preference) mainly to hold down your paper so when you lift up your screen it doesn’t lift the paper up with it. It goes onto the table surface not your paper. And you should use only enough to make the area slightly tacky not sticky. Don’t spray it onto your paper. And it will help keep the acetate from lifting as well. Hope this helps. :) Happy printing!

Yetunde 10.15.09 at 11:28 am

Thanks soooo much for the ebook!
I am screenprinting paper wraps for my soaps and had questions about printing on paper, and you have answered them. Thanks again!

admin 10.16.09 at 6:00 am

Good luck with your paper printing!

Ben 03.27.10 at 4:34 am

Hi, just looking at this thread on table adhesive, I am printing onto paper, why do you prefer the table adhesive over the spray adhesive?

admin 04.19.10 at 6:42 am

Do you mean spray adhesive as in for photo mounting? or the spray version of table adhesive? I use the table adhesive in a spray can but you shouldn’t use photo mount adhesive since it will be too sticky.

Darren B 06.04.10 at 7:53 pm

Very helpful! Thanks! I’m curious, do I flood the screen for every print or can I do that for the first print and make 2 or 3 with the ink that’s left over from the first flooding? Thanks again for this fantastic tutorial!

admin 06.05.10 at 9:14 am

no- you flood every time

Datri 08.09.10 at 6:19 pm

Thanks- this was extremely useful and addressed the bleed issues I was encountering: flooding with the screen up and printing off contact cleaned it right up.

Andrea 11.18.10 at 8:48 pm

Hi there. I’m about to screenprint for the first time, so I have a couple of newbee questions. First, where can I find the table adhesive? Also do the hinge clamps screw into the work surface? I think I’m going to order the ones you link to from Blick but can’t figure out how they connect to the surface. Thanks!

Kim 01.01.11 at 10:56 pm

Hi! So you imply that you don’t attempt off-contact when you print on fabric — is that because you print fabric on a padded surface, and the “lifts” would sink into the surface? I am having trouble with the fabric shifting as I lift the screen up, and was wondering how you prevent that from happening. I’d like to avoid spray-tack, but if that’s the best solution, that’s the best solution! I thought of pinning the fabric to the surface, but you can’t really pin in section you’re printing in, where it would count the most.

admin 01.02.11 at 11:46 am

You can buy table adhesive though any screen print supply company. You need to either adhere your fabric to the surface or pin it with t-pins. If you are using a hard surface then the clamps attach to the workspace. if you are using a padded surface i create a hard surface at the top of the workspace to attach the clamps- ie. I attach a piece of wood that is level with the padded surface.

vin 03.31.11 at 11:12 am

great info!

what about glittery/metallic ink? will it work as well?

admin 04.14.11 at 6:28 pm

Yes- if your mesh count is low- 80 – 90.

PDF Mania 05.16.11 at 11:19 am

Hi, I did some practices with screen printing on papers. Is there a ready-to-use ink that i can use directly without adding thinner to the ink? I often got my hand dirty when I had to add thinner to the ink because the ink was gonna dry on the screen. Any tips regarding this? Many Thanks.

admin 05.16.11 at 11:31 am

Be better prepared next time and thin in advance. You have to know your humidity levels in your own area- and make adjustments. Or work more quickly. I have never had to thin my pigments. Maybe you should have a screen opener in a spray can nearby if your screen gets clogged.

lesley 05.22.11 at 6:58 am

Great tutorial, thank you. I’m about to start printing on paper for the first time and am trying to decide on a mesh count. Could you advise? I’ll be using regular acrylic paint and my prints include blocks of colour and some writing. Also when you talk about mesh count, I take it you are using US sizes???
Many thanks in advance, Lesley

admin 05.22.11 at 7:08 am

If your script is not too fine <2pts or 1ml. thick you might want to do a 150 mesh count. Relatively low for paper printing but it will be easier to print the blocks with your acrylic paint. You could go up to 200 and some- best to experiment.
Good luck

J.Lou 06.05.11 at 6:52 am

Great step by step tutorial! I’m about to graduate from a Book arts and design course and have dabbled in screen printing onto paper near the beginning but would love to continue outside the course at home but have mainly found info./equipment for printing onto t-shirts/fabric so this is fab! I just wanted to double check/ask before I start buying things, is your printing surface just an ordinary table hence the use of table adhesive? Because at uni they have the tables with the holes and vacuums.

admin 06.05.11 at 9:48 am

Yes, You can gear up a table that uses vacuum- which is great but I don’t do paper printing too often so i settle for using table adhesive and a regular table- it works great. :)

Afonso 09.04.11 at 7:30 pm

I still have a question:
I don’t if it’s because of the mesh or something else, but when I screen print on paper it ends out with some kind of Bubbles that I HATE THEM SO MUCH!
Help me if I can ;)

admin 09.22.11 at 1:28 pm

Sorry, dude I hate them too but i haven’t decoded the remedy yet. :( I suspect it has to do with the viscosity of the ink but I haven’t experimented yet with that.

Ben 09.22.11 at 4:52 pm

Hi, have you tried increasing the offset, I find when the screen holds to the paper and slowly releases (normally with larger areas of ink) that I get a texture or bubbles, if you think this might be it try increasing the offset by 1mm or 2

admin 09.22.11 at 4:56 pm

Good advice, I’ll try it next time I print paper and pass along the results. :)

vipin c. mate 06.29.12 at 7:36 am

How make printing on plastic folder ? When i rub with wepon that time ink are removing pls give me an idea If i print with plastic folder without reducing ink

Hermano 12.01.12 at 1:50 pm

Excellent article. Look forward to read the ULTIMATE book!

Jackie 01.06.13 at 2:26 pm

I have a RC Waterbase ink that is typically used for fabric printing. For fabric, you have to cure the print with a heat gun. Do you think that is necessary when printing on paper?

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