Breakdown Screen Printing Party

Breakdown Screen Printing Party

Breakdown screen printing has been around in the surface design world for a while now. I have discussed it on my personal blog but thought everyone here might be interested in the process too. My local group got together yesterday for another session of breakdown screen printing.

Print Paste Powder

What you need to start is some print paste. Essentially, you use this to thicken fiber reactive dyes and you screen print with the thickened dyes. It only takes about a quarter cup of print paste powder to add to 2 cups of water. We used 4 cups of print paste for our “party”.

Making Print Paste

You can just stir the print paste into the water but it works really well if you use a blender because otherwise it gets lumpy. As Lyn told me, you don’t want to use the same blender that you make milkshakes in – use a blender that is just used for the studio.

Black Dye Added to Print Paste

Then you add dye powder to the print paste. This one has black dye in it. Then you squeegee some thickened dye on to the screen while you have the screen on something textured. You can use things like bubble wrap, texture plates or anything relatively flat that will press against the screen and give it different textures.

Screen with Dried Black Print Paste

This is one of the screens where I used the black dye over texture plates. The textured part that sticks up a bit, keeps the thickened dye from filling that part of the screen.

Close Up Dye Texture

So you get a textured screen that looks like this. Then you let the screen dry completely. I always do this step about a week ahead of time.

Carole and Louise

Here is Carole and Louise getting ready to print a screen. You can use clear print paste (with soda ash added) or you can use a colored print paste where you have added dye. The dried dye in the screen starts breaking down as you apply the print paste and you never know how it will turn out.

Screening with Print Paste

Louise is adding clear print paste and a little bit of blue print paste. She is using a squeegee to force it through the screen.

Louise's Screen

Using the fiber reactive dyes, you can print on cotton fabric or silk. The added soda ash causes the dye to set in the fabric. This screen that Louise is using is one she made using strips of Pellon Vinyl Fuse Matte. She fused the strips to the organza and then added green print paste to the screen.

Louise's Screen on Paper

This is one of my sketchbook pages that I printed with Louise’s screen.

Black Dyed Screen with Circles

Here is another screen that has black dye.

Circles Breakdown Screened

And the resulting print on yellow fabric. Each print is different from the next one as the dried print paste continues to break down. Bunny printed this one.

Breakdown Print on Paper


Here’s a sketchbook page printed from the same screen.



Embroidery Hoop with Organza

This is a screen that I made from a 6″ embroidery hoop, nylon organza and duct tape.

Circle Breakdowns

This is the print from the circle screen above. I used a fabric that was already dyed and clear print paste with this one.

Black and Green Dyed Screen

Here’s another screen that I mixed black and green dye and let it dry.

Breakdown Screen Printed Fabric

This isn’t a very good photo but here’s a portion of the printed cloth from the screen above.

Green Dyed Screen

This is another screen that I used green print paste and let it dry. The squiggly bits are just stains from a previous experiment with blue glue.

Orange Breakdown PrintThis is the resultant 4-5 prints from the green screen above. The green barely shows at all and just mixed in with the orange print paste. Most of my fabrics already had prior printing on them from previous experiments. Most were quite ugly so I thought I would try to improve them.

Another Breakdown Print on Paper

This is another sketchbook page from a screen that was mostly broken down. I did several of these and they reminded me of photo negatives.

Screening with Paper Scraps

This piece of fabric was printed over paper scraps out of a paper shredder. You just sprinkle the shredded paper over the fabric and then use a blank screen and screen colored print paste through it. You keep moving the screen and some of the paper bits move with the screen. These always look different after being washed out because there are still bits of paper stuck all over it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a photo of the finished fabric but it belongs to Carole so if I remember…

I have printed on wool before with this technique. You just need to use acid dyes and vinegar in place of the fiber reactive dyes and soda ash. You do have to steam the pieces afterwards but the process works well. Once I get these fabric and papers rinsed, I will post them on the forum. You do lose some color but they are always one of a kind prints. Breakdown screen printing is a fun process, messy but fun!


Edit: See final results here.



15 thoughts on “Breakdown Screen Printing Party

  1. This is great! There are so many techniques I wish I could get my hands on… *sigh*

    I love the way some indeed look like photo negatives, it’s almost dreamy. What a collection of loveliness.

    1. Thanks Leonor – there are too many techniques for sure but this one is one of my favorites. Always unexpected results.

  2. I have done more printing with the monoprint on geli plate method. But I am doing some smaller projects with the screen printing and would like to try this method. Thanks.

  3. I’ve never done this but I’m intrigued. I love all the different effects you can get with colors and textures. I look forward to seeing the finished pieces.

    1. Thanks Marilyn. The unexpected results is one of the reasons I like this technique. I am washing out the fabric now and I will post on the forum soon.

  4. This looks like something I’d have to try/watch in real life to understand properly, but the results are really interesting 🙂

    1. Zed – it is a lot of steps but it is easy once you get everything mixed up. It’s just a matter of screening clear or colored print paste through the prepared screen. You’re welcome to come over anytime – I’d love to show you how it works. 🙂

    2. I’ve never done any sort of screen printing, so maybe that’s why it’s hard to work out. I would love to come over and have you teach me all your great techniques 🙂

  5. Screen printing looks confusing to me. Maybe it’s one of those skills you have to acquire in a hands-on instructional format SLOWLY and over time. I think your results are stunning, and thanks for showing us the process and results.

    1. Thanks! It isn’t really that hard but there are a lot of steps. It is easier if you just follow along and do it.

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