From lino to screen printing and how to do it on a budget

Do you love screen-printed textiles and are curious to find out more about the process? Perhaps you’re an artist, new to screen printing and looking for a budget-friendly alternative to expensive equipment? In this post I share how I came to love this versatile technique and provide a handy ‘rough guide’ to screen-printing on a budget.

I think my obsession with lino printing began when I was commissioned by the family to create a party invitation, this led to Christmas cards and greetings cards – also encouraged by the family, however it happened, I haven’t stopped since and now it is at the heart of all my work. Many years on I had a hankering to try screen printing again – I so enjoyed this at university, and to find a way to put my lino prints on to silk screens so I could retain the ‘block printed’ effect.

From my previous experience at college, I knew I needed to coat the screen in a light sensitive emulsion and expose my image – a black and white image on a transparent film. I also knew I needed ultra-violet light, a wash-out booth and pressure hose…so much equipment and no budget! I decided to find a way to do all this without breaking the bank and the result is my 5-step, rough guide to screen printing on a budget (experimentation required!):

  1. Print the lino block on to inkjet acetate in black oil-based ink – it sticks nicely to the ‘rough’ surface of the acetate.
  2. Meanwhile, mix two parts of photo-emulsion together and, using a coating trough, coat both sides of the screen with a very thin layer of the emulsion. This is then left in a dark cupboard to dry thoroughly.
  3. When it’s dry (I sometimes use a hair dryer to speed it up) and taking care not to let any light in to the cupboard, make a ‘sandwich’ to prepare the screen for exposure. This consists of: a wooden board; a sheet of black paper; a coated screen; your acetate image; a sheet of glass and finally, another wooden board over the top.
  4. Carry the whole lot outside (on a bright, sunny day) and, when you’re ready, remove the top board, exposing the screen for about one minute (making sure there are no shadows cast over it).
  5. Replace the top board and take it your hose-pipe and, working quickly, de-construct the sandwich and wash out the screen with as much pressure from the hose as possible. The area that was blacked out by the image has not received any light, while the un-covered areas have now been ’hardened’ by the light. The blacked areas therefore wash out and leave the image on the screen mesh, ready to print.

The amazing thing about this process is that it only requires a minute of sunlight to successfully expose the screen emulsion.I remember the day I first tried this and was so thrilled that it worked! The resulting print was my ‘I love Stroud’ image, which is still a best-seller on bags and tea towels at the Made In Stroud shop here in the Cotswolds.

I can pull hundreds of prints from these screens, printing on fabric and paper using eco-friendly screen printing ink that is easily washed out with water from a hose-pipe. I love the versatility and create cushions, tea towels, napkins and fabric lengths using this easy process. When I have finished with a design, the screen can then be stripped with a special cleaner and is ready for use again. (Top Tip: remember to wash screens out regularly – if an image has been on a screen for a very long time, then it is difficult to remove completely).

Why not head over to the Shop section and see the results? Or, if my guide to screen-printing on a budget has inspired you to have a go yourself, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!


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