Assignment 2 – Screen printing with wax resists

Printing ink samples using cold wax resists

One of the techniques the course manual suggests is to either spray paint or hand paint a design onto the screen mesh using acrylic paints and let it dry as a resist.  The advantage is that the design will be permanent and it can be used over and over.  As a beginner to screen printing I’m not sure about going down this route and possibly ruining a screen which will then have to be replaced for further sampling techniques.  What design should I choose?  What am I likely to want long-term?  At this stage I don’t wish to commit to this idea.  The cost of new screens and the lack of availability of screen printing supplies in my local area play a large part in my decision.

However, applying a design to the mesh itself instead of taping on a stencil or using cut-out resists appeals to me.  So I have bought some liquid cold wax which can be painted directly on the mesh and should achieve a similar result to the paint resist except it is able to be removed later with hot water if required.   Alternatively it can stay on the screen long term.  At this stage of my development this technique has advantages over the acrylic paint option, in my view, for this very reason.

Print 7

Print7aI started with a piece of calico I had previously dyed.  During the dyeing process a skewer was used with deep purple dye to create random swirls.

Using a stencil I cut for some colour sampling back in A Creative Approach last year I painted the cold wax onto the screen mesh.  I then free hand filled in some other areas to create an interesting print area.  The wax dries quite quickly but I was unsure when it was ready because it continued to feel quite tacky.  In the end I left it overnight to ensure it was properly set on the screen.

Print7c blackI didn’t want the print to be solid but I did want the colour difference to be dramatic, so I used black paint and put the bulk of the paint bead towards the centre top of the screen.  This gave me a more solid centre, where the flowers are, with a lighter surround.  It should be noted that the picture has been rotated anti-clockwise 90 degrees. 

I felt the black was very harsh against the red and purple, so I did another print, without cleaning the screen, using purple.  I also rotated the screen to get another design view.  Again I kept the paint to a minimum so it would fade towards the edges.

Print7d purpleI prefer the purple, it isn’t quite so stark but I don’t see, on either sample, whether the printed area or the fabric is coming to the fore.  Both prints look quite one dimensional and I think that is because the value of both print and fabric are equally as strong.

Print 8

Print8aHere I used a previously dyed cloth.  It is white cotton with a busy design created using multiple folding and 2 dyeing processes.  The aim is to see how further patterning over this will result.

I went back to my prison bars/piano wire design from earlier in this assignment (here) and printed it out the same size as my screen print area.  A folded towel with the picture on top sat inside the screen so I could follow the design outline when painting the wax onto the mesh.  It’s surprisingly difficult to draw straight lines and keep within the pattern outline.  I waxed in the negative space and left the bars so they would print.

Print8cI’ve cropped the photo because the design is not enhanced with the excess unprinted material surround.  Once I had the print down it looked so small so I rotated the screen and did another print adjoining the first.  The saturated red really stands forward with the soft edges of the background fabric colours receding into the distance.  There is some real depth to this piece and I feel I’m looking through the bars to what is behind.

Print 9


Using an old Indian woodblock as my template I applied orange wax crayon to the screen mesh in a similar manner to making a brass rubbing.  I was hopeful that the crayon would provide enough of a resist to create a few prints before breaking down.

The woodblock has numerous flaws with small sections broken off so the initial rubbing reflected this.  The print will of course come out in reverse.

I used my own dyed fabric, an orange muslin with a fairly open weave and a green/yellow dyed cotton similar to sheeting.

Print9bcLeft: I started with a solid print which has come out quite well but there are a couple of small areas where the paint is a little light.  When doing the initial wax rubbing some areas around the design picked up a light coating of wax and whilst this has not stopped the paint coming through but it has pushed the wax through the mesh with it.  You can see slight amounts of orange crayon in parts.  Right:  Having reviewed the first print I felt it was a waste of my hand-dyed cloth to cover it completely with fabric paint so I applied some powder to the screen to break down the image a little.

Dark olive paint was used for these prints – golden yellow and black.Print9d

Without cleaning the screen I changed paint to the lovely brown I had left over from previous prints and tried that over the orange base.  Not quite enough paint for a good coverage at the base but I like the effect.  With the incomplete flower design and the lack of paint it has an aged, worn out appearance.

The pattern is much more prominent on this orange fabric using the brown rather than the previous one using the dark green.

I then decided to try a colour mix and added some orange to my brown bead puddle.

Print9efLeft: I first printed on the orange fabric and I think the result has come out very well.  The brown/red/orange mix of paint and fabric integrates into a warm and unified piece.  There is less definition in the design and the crayon is already starting to disappear.  Right: An experiment to see how the brown and orange paint looks on the green background.  By this stage the wax crayon is really breaking down and the image is much less defined.  However enough can be seen to gauge the colour effect, and I’m not keen on this sample.  I think the dark green on the light green background is more effective.

So after all this sampling with the printing inks I feel that I have learned a lot.  As I’ve progressed I’ve become better at assessing how much paint I need to use, my clean up routine is very orderly meaning I can get screens and squeegees back into action quickly, my fabric preparation (sizing, cutting, ironing and pinning in place) is now quite accurate which improves the results and my eye for colour is improving.  My colour preferences are for either analogous colours or colours which are created from a similar base.  This seems to give the prints more unification and less like paint that has just been plonked on to the surface of a fabric with no considered outcome.


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in Textiles 1: Exploring Ideas and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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