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When you are screen printing a design that has overlapping or touching colors, there are different techniques you can use depending on the result you are trying to achieve. I’m comparing two common methods that I call “overlap” and “knockout.”
If you look closely at the overlap method, you’ll see that the red ink is lighter in the areas that overlap with the white ink. The red that went directly on the shirt is a little darker.
With the knockout method, the colors are not layered so they soak into the shirt evenly.
Method 1: Overlapping Ink Layers
When you layer screen printing ink colors, you can often see the results of the base color showing through the top color. This method is often used for special effects. You may also hear it called over printing. I really like using this method with the Speedball florescent inks. These inks have some transparency to them so it is fun to see how the look when layered with other florescent colors.
Reasons you might want to use the overlapping method:
- Less precision needed to line up the layers
- Can make for an interesting effect of overlapping colors
Method 2: Knockout to Maintain Consistent Color
The knockout method allows you to get solid colors without any contamination of the base color. Each color is going directly on the shirt without touching the other colors.
One of the challenges with this method is lining up the second color exactly in the right spot. I use registration marks as guides to help line up the second screen. This process works well on my 1 color screen printing press, when I’m doing one shirt. It is difficult to line up a shirt with this precision once it has been removed from the pallet. This is where a 2 or 4 color press would come in handy. If you are using the knockout method with more than one shirt, you might consider printing on your table (without the press) so you can spread out several shirts at once. Here is a tutorial with more details on setting up the registration marks.
Here’s a look at both methods and how I setup the design in Cricut Design Space:
Supplies Used in This Tutorial
- Speedball 10×14 Screen Printing Frame
- Speedball Fabric Ink in Red
- Speedball Fabric Ink in Opaque White
- Transfer Tape
- Painter’s Tape
- Cricut Maker
- Oracal 651 Vinyl
- Cricut Easy Press 2 or Heat Press
- Screen Printing Press
- Blank T-Shirts
Another Option When Overprinting
Another option to consider when you are using the overprinting method is to put down a white base coat for the entire design. In this example, I would have printed the stripes and word LOVE in white ink first. Then, you would print the red color on top of the white. When you have a solid base coat underneath, your second color will also look solid. This method can also be tricky to line up. If you are off just a hair, would would see a shadow effect.
Overlap Method vs. Knockout Method
Do you have ideas on how you might use each of these methods to create different effects with your screen printing? While I use the knockout method more often, I’m excited to try some different overlapping effects. If you have questions or tips on what is working for you, please share in the comments below!