How to screen print using stencils by Luna Lotus

Posted by Rory Atton at

Paper Stencil Printing with Luna Lotus


I’ve always loved drawing and discovering new ways of creating things since I was a kid. I decided to delve into screen printing after being inspired by other artists selling their artwork on hand made screen printed products.

I’ve found screen printing to be one of the most satisfying ways to create something from start to finish. When I first began learning I found the thought of making screens with photo emulsion pretty intimidating and it took a fair few attempts (and many terrible prints) before I got a grasp on each step of the process.

Printing with paper stencils eliminates that whole problem and allows you to begin printing in a single afternoon or evening. As there is no risk of ruining a screen or time invested in waiting for emulsion to dry you can be more adventurous with your ideas because if something goes wrong you can always draw/cut another stencil in a short amount of time. Not to say that all paper cut prints are simple – your patience in cutting and imagination are your only limitations – but simpler designs than you would print with photo emulsion screens will produce the best results. Below is the finished print I made during this tutorial, read on to find out how to make your own printed creation!

How to Screen Printing Using Stencils Finished Tote Bag


  • An image that doesn’t have too much fine detail
  • Freezer paper (an American product)
  • A scalpel (the sharper the better!)
  • A cutting board or a hard surface you don’t mind being sliced repeatedly by a scalpel
  • A screen slightly bigger than the image you want to print
  • Water based screen printing ink
  • A squeegee
  • An iron or another method of heat curing
  • Something to print on (I used these tote bags)



Perhaps the most important stage of printing with paper stencils is creating/altering your chosen design to bold shapes that you can cut out with a scalpel. I find it easiest to create designs with the goal of printing them with paper stencils rather than altering pre-existing more complex designs.

How to Screen Print Using Stencils The Drawing

Draw your design onto the top, rougher side of the freezer paper at the size you want to print it. To make sure I got the scale right for the bags I was printing on I roughly traced around them before I began drawing the design. I find it helpful to roughly shade the areas that I will be cutting to get an idea of how the printed image will look and find any problems with the design – such as areas that will become unintentionally joined once you start cutting.


MAKING THE PAPER STENCILMaking a stencil for screen printing

Cutting out a stencil to screen print

When you are happy with the design you have drawn onto your paper, begin to carefully cut out the areas that you want the ink to pass through on a cutting mat.Screen printing stencil cutting fixing a mistake

If you accidentally slice too far while making your cuts (like I did, it happens) worry not! These can be easily fixed with a small piece of tape on the lower waxy side of your stencil. If the tape extends out into an area that you have already cut out then you can carefully trim it off with your scalpel.


Aligning the stencil to screen print

Place your paper stencil over the first item you want to print onto with the waxy side facing down, taking care to line it up so that it prints straight and central (or wherever you want your design to be!) If you have any additional pieces to place inside the cut out areas, now is the time to add them in. For a little extra security, you can run a cool iron over the paper to lightly adhere it to the fabric and hold it in place while you place the screen over the top.

Screen printing using a stencil by Luna Lotus for Hunt The Moon

Slowly and carefully lower your screen onto the paper stencil. Take care to do this gently or you risk wafting your stencil or extra pieces out of place (which is why it is a good idea to iron the stencil on beforehand). Apply tape around the inside edges to prevent any ink leaking outside of your paper stencil and a generous amount of ink to one end of the screen – more than you would use on an emulsion coated screen, as the fabric of the screen will absorb some ink as you print.

Start with a nice gentle pass, coating each part of the print in ink. Make a few firm passes with the squeegee, lifting the ink with the squeegee at the end of each pass and tapping it off at the other end of the screen. You don’t need a press for this (I’m just using mine because I have one anyway), but you’ll need a helpful friend to firmly hold the screen in place while you print.

Stencil stuck to screen printing frame on arm

Carefully lift your screen up and coat it between prints to stop the ink drying whilst you are preparing whatever you want to print next. As you can see in this picture, after the first print the paper stencil will stick securely to the screen. If you stuck your stencil down with an iron it will still lift right off. Using freezer paper (or something similarly waterproof) is important as it resists the ink and prevents it from seeping through the paper and ruining your prints.

The finished product - screen printed using a stencil

Take a step back and admire your shiny new print (mine is literally shiny because I used the awesome Gold Speedball ink!) To cure the ink, after it has air dried to touch, place a tea towel over the print and iron for 3-5 minutes with a hot (cotton setting) iron. There you have it, a way to get screen printing in a matter of hours!


About the artist:

This post was written by Ella from Luna Lotus, a one woman art, design and screen printing company. To see more of my work and adventures in screen printing please visit my website: or follow me on social media @lunalotusuk

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