Sunday, November 23, 2014

Screen Care

One key to helping your Thermofax screens last a long time is caring for them properly.  Here are some tips we share with students when we teach printing, and include with every order received in the Etsy shop. 
  • When you are finished printing with a screen, drop it into a pan of room temperature or cool water and rub gently with your fingers to get the excess paint off.  Don't use hot water - it can damage the plastic side of the screen.  You don't have to clean it thoroughly immediately, but also don't let it sit too long - no more than 5-10 minutes.  Letting it sit in water for a long period allows water to penetrate between the mesh and plastic layers of the screen, giving it a "bubbly" appearance. 
  • A kitty litter pan works really well for cleaning screens.  They come in several sizes.
  • When you are no longer getting "clean" prints, its time to wash the screen.  If you're really in a groove, its hard to stop, but trust me, you'll be glad you took the time to clean your screen and let it dry before continuing, both for the life of the screen and the quality of your prints.  
  • Metallic paints clog screens much more quickly than non-metallic paints, so you will definitely get fewer prints before it's time to wash the screen.
  • Any paint allowed to dry on the screen will clog the image and ruin the screen.
  • DO use a soft toothbrush to GENTLY clean your screens.  It helps remove the little bits of paint that may not come off with your fingers or that have lodged under the edges of the duct tape.  Brush on both sides, but be a little more gentle on the plastic side.  Some paints may leave a slight stain, no matter how good a job of cleaning you do.  That's not a problem, as long as its not blocking the image.
  • Pat the screen dry with an old terry bath towel and allow to dry completely before storing.  After patting dry, turn plastic side up to allow to air dry before storing.  Screens put away damp may stick to each other and cause the plastic emulsion to peel off.
  • Try to use up most of the paint on the screen or put it back in the container if possible before washing rather than dumping it into your clean up water.  

Here's a method for getting your screen almost clean before you wash it; this was a great idea from Diane Doran that we tried this summer.  When finished printing with a screen, a lot of paint gets washed away in the clean up.  Usually I print on extra fabric to use up the paint but an even better way is to print with a slightly damp sponge which not only uses up the excess paint but helps clean the screen at the same time.  I got lots of extra prints from every screen I used.  So rather than wasting that extra paint, make more prints!
Above I was using a sponge to print with the excess ink.  Below, all 3 prints were made using the sponge technique.
One final tip - scrapbooking storage boxes (the 12 inch square ones) are great for storing your screens, especially large ones, so they can stay flat.  Smaller plastic craft storage boxes are also good for medium and small screens.

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