Using Silkscreens on Polymer Clay is one of the easiest ways to create a beautiful pattern on polymer clay projects. They are very popular because there is such a huge range of designs to choose from and the main reason, they are so very easy to get great results. They can help stimulate your imagination and therefore, get your creativity flowing. It’s no wonder they are very popular with all skill levels of polymer clay makers.
With silkscreens, you can truly make designs that reflect your individual style, by featuring various colours, shapes, patterns, techniques and all the other preferences you put into making your own unique stylish design. Applying decoration using silkscreens is not only a fabulous way to let your personality shine, but also a quick way to embellish a small or large slab of clay. An exciting development we’ve seen recently, is the release of “magic” silkscreens into the VeroS range. We can’t wait to tell you more about using these!
So how can you use silkscreens in different ways to make your work special? If you would like to know the answer to this question, and learn more ways to use those silkscreens in your studio supplies stash, please feel free to continue reading below.
How to Use Silkscreens
For the benefit of those new to using silkscreens, the basic instructions for using silkscreens on polymer clay:
- Use well conditioned clay. Any brand, even air-dry clay is suitable.The thickness of the clay depends on the required thickness of the finished project. It is best to have the end use in mind before you begin.
- Lightly adhere clay to a tile or surface so that it is not going to move around. Do this by giving it a very light roll with an acrylic roller.
- Lightly burnish the screen onto the clay with the flat palm of the hand or a roller. This is to ensure the screen has sealed the design onto the clay. Tip: don’t use fingers or press as this can cause dips in the clay where the screen won’t seal. The outcome of that mistake? The paint leaks into parts of the design where it shouldn’t or the paint doesn’t reach the clay at all.
- Have a bowl of slightly warm water ready. It is important to drop your silk screen and squeegee / plastic card or paint brush into straight after use. Because, some paints dry fast and dried paint between the threads of the screen will permanently damage it. A drop of detergent can be added but is not always necessary. If you do, be sure to rinse the screens very well.
- Put a line of medium thickness acrylic paint directly along the top of the screen or along the edge of a mini squeegee or plastic card. A flat paint brush can be used if you don’t have a card. Drag the paint down evenly and lightly over the entire surface pattern. Make sure to include the registration marks (small lines on the side) on screens that are designed to be used with more than one colour. Use light pressure so the card connects with the screen at an angle of less than 90o. Add more paint if necessary. Wipe the excess off the card back into the paint container (if the paint is in a jar).
- After applying the paint, peel the screen slowly and carefully from the clay. Don’t rip it off or you may leave bits of the screen behind.
- Slide the silkscreen and applicator into the bowl of water. Do this as soon as possible, because this will prevent paint drying onto the screen. With the help of a flat sponge, wash the screen immediately in water. Tip: The paint can still set into the screen if left to sit in the water.
- Lightly rub the screen with a sponge to remove the paint but don’t try to get every last bit off. Some staining of the screen is OK. You just don’t want the mesh clogged with paint. Give it a rinse under clear running water and leave to dry flat on an absorbent surface like paper towel or cloth (e.g. an old tea towel or face washer).
- Leave the design to dry before cutting the clay to the desired shape.
- Cure in accordance with the instructions for the clay used.
- It is a good idea to seal silk screen printed clay, although some acrylic paints (like Jacquard’s Lumiere and Neopaque paints) are heat set (during curing of the clay) and don’t need sealing. Seal with varnish, liquid clay or resin. In fact, any sealant that is suitable for use on polymer clay.
Make it Special
There are many ways to take silkscreens on polymer clay to another level of design which will make them “stand out and get noticed”! Here’s some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
Let’s begin with the background!
Here’s some design options to try:
- Use a Skinner Blend as the base. Tip: if the finished pieces are to be small, make narrow strips of colour or the blended colours won’t be obvious (see image – artist: Suzanne Ward).
- Apply metal leaf or foil to the background. Yes, you can definitely add a silkscreen design over these materials.
- Created a crackled background – apply foil to thick clay and roll thinner. The foil cracks look fabulous under design applied with silkscreens on polymer clay.
- Use a felt applicator to apply a variety of different coloured pastels, powdered chalks, pigment or mica powder over white clay. Tip: Apply in a circular motion using an applicator or finger tip.
- Use the same type of felt applicator to thinly and randomly apply alcohol inks to stamp a colourful background.
- Lumiere Luster Opal Flakes burnished onto the background gives a superb holographic effect under a silkscreen design.
Ideas to make your silkscreen designs magical!
- We previously mentioned the Veros “Magic Series”. They are a clever collection of single screens that have registration marks on them for realigning in different positions. This allows one screen to give many patterns and enable the user to add layers of different colours in different directions. On our website, the special “magic” screens have a label on the image so that they can be quickly identified.
- Consider using the sets of 2, 3 or even 5 screens as they are fantastic for adding additional layers of colour and extra definition like outlines. Or, Lucy Struncova’s silk screens are gorgeous top end silk screens beautifully presented with matching envelopes, inspiration sheet, applicator card and 5 silkscreens to each set. (see image – Artist: Suzanne Ward using Lucy Strucova’s Set 10).
So many other cool things to try with silkscreens!
- Apply a design in the usual way, wash and dry the screen. Align it slightly to one side and just below the first design and apply a second layer of paint in a different colour. The echo effect can be stunning, especially with a metallic “shadow” or black and white with a “black shadow”.
- Apply a fine dot or stripe patterned screen (all over or just in sections) as a first layer and when dry, apply the main feature screen.
- Apply different coloured paints all at the same time. Do this by dotting different colours across the top or side edge of the screen, then drag the paint down or across. Tip: Don’t drag in different directions otherwise, you will lose the striped appearance.
- Using small patterned screens, apply them to different coloured clays (rolled slightly thinner). These are then cut into shapes and reassembled in a patchwork design over a thin backing layer of clay. Burnish lightly under baking paper to seal the joins.
- Apply a texture sponge or texture stamp to clay over the dry silkscreen design.
- Some of the silkscreens on our website come with artist tutorials. These are ready to be downloaded immediately after purchasing the screen.
- The Moiko Chalks collection feature the lowest thread count, which is a coarser more open mesh. These were designed to allow the use of chalk pastels, pigments, powders, glazes and other media that would clog fine mesh screens.
- The Moiko, coarse mesh series are not quite as open or as coarse as the Chalks range. Use the Chalks screens for PanPastels, Pearl Ex and Sparkling Mica Powders and thick bodied paints/waxes like Inka Gold.
- Dot fine flakes of Lumiere Lusters over the silkscreen pattern, thinly and randomly. This is especially effective on a piece of jewellery. As the wearer moves, the light flashes off these very special holographic flakes of magnificence giving it a magical effect.
- A great way to get different colours into a design, is to prepare 2 or more different coloured polymer clay sheets and apply the same silk screen to all. Cut out the shapes from 2 different sheets using a craft knife. Swap the shapes from one sheet to the other coloured sheet. Place a sheet of paper over the top and burnish lightly to blend the joins.
- Add colour to designs using polymer clay compatible pens (eg Posca Pens).
- After shapes have been cut, give parts of the design a glossy raised look by painting on liquid polymer clay. Tip: Either before baking or after baking and then bake again.
- A washed denim look does require multi screen sets but looks pretty fantastic. Simply apply a layer of white paint before applying the last layer. Wipe the white paint back while still wet so the other designs previously applied show through, then add the last silkscreen layer.
If you enjoyed this little exploration into using silkscreens on polymer clay, it would make us happy if you were to share a link on your social media or leave a review. Happy claying!