Exploring Artistic Mediums: Part 2 – Silkscreen Materials

Dora Aguero
May 31, 2024

Silkscreen , also known as screen printing, is a versatile and popular technique used by artists to create vibrant, multi-layered images. The quality of the final artwork is heavily influenced by the materials used in the process. In this post, we will explore the essential materials for silkscreen painting, including the importance of using high-quality items like 100% cotton paper, various types of inks, and the tools needed to achieve the best results.

Screens and Frames

The screen itself is the foundation of the silkscreen painting process. It is typically made from a fine mesh fabric stretched tightly over a frame. The mesh can be made from materials such as polyester or nylon, but historically, silk was used, hence the name “silkscreen.”

Frames are often made from wood or aluminum. Wooden frames are more affordable and provide good tension, but aluminum frames are preferred for their durability and resistance to warping.

Exploring Artistic Mediums: Part 2 - Silkscreen Materials
Exploring Artistic Mediums: Part 2 - Silkscreen Materials

Stencil and Emulsion

To create a design, a stencil is applied to the screen. This stencil blocks out areas where ink should not pass through. There are several methods to create stencils:

  • Hand-cut stencils using materials like paper or acetate.
  • Photo emulsion, which involves coating the screen with a light-sensitive emulsion and then exposing it to light through the transparency of the design. The areas exposed to light harden, while the unexposed areas are washed away, creating a stencil.


Inks are a crucial component of screen printing, impacting the vibrancy and durability of the final piece. There are several types of inks used:

  • Plastisol inks: Commonly used for textiles, these inks provide vibrant colors and a durable finish. They require heat to cure.
  • Water-based inks: These inks are eco-friendly and can produce soft, breathable prints on fabric. They are also suitable for paper.
  • Discharge inks: Used for dark fabrics, these inks remove the dye from the fabric and replace it with the ink color.
  • UV inks: these cure quickly when exposed to ultraviolet light, making them ideal for certain commercial applications.
Exploring Artistic Mediums: Part 2 - Silkscreen Materials
Exploring Artistic Mediums: Part 2 - Silkscreen Materials


The squeegee is used to push ink through the screen onto the printing surface. It consists of a handle and a rubber or polyurethane blade. The quality of the squeegee can significantly affect the printing process:

  • Blade hardness: Softer blades are more flexible and can create a smoother ink layer, while harder blades offer more control and are better for detailed work.
  • Blade shape: Square-edge blades are common for general use, while rounded blades are used for heavier ink deposits.
Exploring Artistic Mediums: Part 2 - Silkscreen Materials


The choice of substrate (the surface to be printed on) is vital for achieving the desired artistic effect. High-quality materials ensure longevity and a premium finish:

  • Fabrics: Cotton and polyester fabrics are common in textile printing. Pre-treated fabrics can help inks adhere better and last longer.

Additional Materials

  • Screen Printing Press: Although not always necessary for small projects, a printing press ensures consistent pressure and alignment for multiple prints.
  • Drying Racks: These allow prints to dry without smudging and are essential for handling multiple prints.
  • Cleaning Supplies: Screens and tools must be cleaned thoroughly to prevent ink buildup and maintain print quality. This includes screen cleaners, emulsion removers, and scrub brushes.

Silkscreen elaboration is an intricate process that requires attention to detail and the use of high-quality materials. From the screen and frame to the inks and substrates, each component plays a crucial role in the final outcome of the artwork. By investing in superior materials like 100% cotton paper and the right type of inks and squeegees, artists can ensure their prints are vibrant, durable, and visually striking.

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