What Is Screen Printing Registration? Part 1

April 7, 2009

Post image for What Is Screen Printing Registration? Part 1

part 1/ part 2/ part 3

And More Importantly, How Do You Do it Well?

Learning how to register your prints is a very important skill and helps you jump from craft hobbiest to serious printer. Knowing how to register your prints allows you complete many multiples of your prints in about the same amount of time it takes to make just one. So obviously it allows you to maximize your time and get more product produced for the same amount of effort.

Screen print registration happens at two levels; at the image level and the print surface level. And it could quite easily be the least enjoyable part of the entire printing process. Well, I think so. But it’s more important than anything else you do when printing and if you can do it well, then the entire process will be easier- much much easier.

Print registration for fabric and paper are two different techniques. Registration for paper is much simpler than fabric registration so we’ll start there.

Paper Registration Step 1

Your screen should be secured into hinge clamps that are attached to your print surface. The screen is not removed from these clamps until you have printed your entire run of prints.


Paper Registration Step 2

Lay a large piece of clear acetate on your print surface and tape it securely into place with masking tape on one side only so it can be flipped out of the way.

Printing onto paper

Paper Registration Step 3

With your screen lowered onto the acetate print one pass of your image.  This image on the acetate now lets you know where your screen will print each time.


Paper Registration Step 4

Slide a piece of the paper you will be printing underneath the acetate until the paper is in the position you want it to be. Then flip the acetate out of the way of your printing.

Printing onto paper

Paper Registration Step 5

Take two pieces of masking tape and line them up with the bottom of the paper and the side of the paper- these are your registration tabs. When you remove the paper to print the next piece you will line up the same edge with your tape and that’s how your image prints consistently in the same place with each piece of paper.

Printing onto paper

Paper Registration Step 6

If your print has multiple colours then you’ll follow the same technique to print the second colour and so on. When your first colour is printed, remove the paper print and flip the acetate back onto the print surface. Wash off the first colour and place the second screen into the hinge clamps and print the second colour. Now you’ll line up one of your printed pieces underneath the acetate and move it until the colours line up. Then move your registration tabs so they line up with the new position for the paper.

Printing onto paper

That’s all you’ll need to know to register your paper prints.

Happy printing!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

lucy 07.21.09 at 2:46 am

very grateful for your instruction, thanks a lot

stu 06.25.10 at 10:58 am

i just needed my memory jogged and this was perfect.
i like the whale too!

Ben 07.26.11 at 6:49 am


johnpeel 09.18.11 at 12:23 am

Thank you, very helpful! Plus i noticed it looks like you burned both colors onto one screen? seems like a cool tip too!

shape 10.07.12 at 11:45 pm

Do you:

1) know how to use pin registration? (I ask because I don’t know how to do it but think it could be a more accurate process?)
2) if so, what are your thoughts on that process?

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