Thursday, July 14, 2011

Masking a Silk Screen with Beeswax

This morning I was wondering if melted beeswax would work as a silk screen mask or if the wax would merely melt the screening fabric.  Although several projects are laid out on my work table waiting to be finished, the idea of using a beeswax mask kept haunting me until I hauled out an embroidery hoop that already had a screen in it.  Still, I figured I had best put this idea on the back burner until at least some quilting work had been addressed.  I'm afraid that didn't work.  Out came the electric heating plate and the pan of beeswax.  By this time it was difficult waiting for the wax to melt.

The following pictures show the steps to a successful printing with the use of a silk screen masked with beeswax.

Set the electric plate on low to melt the beeswax slowly. 

The beeswax is melted.

Tools Used
These are the only tools I used.  One is a natural bristle brush that will be dedicated hereafter to wax use only.  Other, non natural brushes will melt with the heat of the wax.  The second is an inexpensive tjanting tool that is specifically fashioned for batik wax application.

A paper plate was used to catch any drips between the melting pan and the silk screen

Melted wax with heated tools.  Heating the tools keeps the wax from cooling and hardening too rapidly.

The screened embroidery hoop is laid face down on newspaper and wax was applied to the back side of the screen.  If the wax had been applied to the front side, it would have seeped through to the newspaper and the screen would have adhered to the paper.

After the wax had cooled and hardened the hoop was turned over.

This is the back side of the screen to which the wax was applied.  The natural bristle brush was used to mask in a rectangular frame for the design, to apply the intersecting grid lines, and to put big dots in the middle of each grid square.  The tjanting  tool was used to make the wavy diagnonal lines and to add small dots.

Commercial fabric that approximated a hand dyed fabric was used as a ground

A faux credit card and a spreading tool were both used to pull the printing ink through the screen, but the wax that came through to the top side of the screen created an extremely bumpy surface that made full coverage difficult.

In order to assure that ink was successfully applied through the screen to the fabric, a brush was used on the screen.

This is what the screen looked like after ink application with a brush.  (See the big bumps of wax?)

This is the final screen printed image.

It dawned on me that the wax that had emerged on the top screening part of the silk screen could be picked off to produce a smoother top screening surface.*

After the globs of wax were picked off, I was able to successfully use a faux credit card as an ink pulling tool.

This is this is the screened image that the modified screen produced.

And here is a panel of screen prints from the wax masked silk screen.

CLEAN THE SCREEN WITH COLD WATER IMMEDIATELY AFTER PRINTING IS COMPLETE.   The use of hot water will soften the wax and the design can be lost.

A wax masked screen can be used over and over again.  Something convenient about using an embroidery hoop as a screen frame is that screens can be removed and set aside for future use and new screens can be inserted for different projects.  Since the image in this project had a waxed border and ink didn't need to be pulled to the edges, I didn't even need to tape the hoop edge to make a well.

*There is only one disclaimer to be offered here. I only needed to pick off the big globs of wax from the front of the screen. The thin tjanting lines didn't need to have wax picked off. Some lines were so delicate that a few came off of the back.


  1. Linda-Great tutorial. The artwork is incredible!

  2. Mia, What started out as a "quickie" experiment, turned out to be a day long exploration of possibilities. Thanks so much for your supportive comment.

  3. Linda, thanks for the shared info. Very cool technique! Must laugh at the have to just do it while projects are a waiting. Mary Beth

  4. Ah, yes, Mary Beth. When an idea strikes, all else goes on hold. I'm sure you know all about that process. Loved your comment.

  5. hello...i'm a textile i'm working on my final project about silk screen printing and i'm using a beeswax too to apply on my screen..i want to ask, if i want to melt the beeswax, do i have to melt it with a resin like when we melt wax for batik???tq..-ess

    1. In this experiment I did NOT add resin. I merely melted the wax and applied it with a natural bristle brush and tjanting tool. As I indicated in this post, if hot water is used to clean the ink from the screen, it will soften and/or melt the wax and damage the wax image. I have not used resin, but I am wondering if it might make the wax image on the more permanent. However you do it, once the wax is applied to the screen, you may never be able to remove it completely. That is why I used an inexpensive embroidery hoop and a scrap of sheer window curtain for the screen. I figured that if my experiment did not work, I could throw the screen away and not sacrifice an expensive, comercially prepared screen. I hope this is helpful.

    2. thank you so much for your reply..its really helpful....:)