Deke’s Techniques 151: Creating a Screen Print Effect in Photoshop

151 Simulating a screen print

This week, I celebrate Deke’s Techniques: The Illustrator Challenge with a Photoshop technique. Which is only fair because a couple of weeks ago, I celebrated The Photoshop Challenge with an Illustrator technique, in which I showed you how to draw the antithesis of the Olympic rings. It’s what’s known as perfect planning.

The above movie shows you how to take last week’s artwork and turn it into a screen printing effect, complete with meticulously misregistered colors. It’s a great technique (I love this one!) that ends up producing the happy accident below. Look carefully: The black lines appear out-of-sync with the fill colors, white clouds, and blue sky. And the fill colors and white clouds bleed into the blue sky. But the blue sky never bleeds into the fill colors or the white clouds. The result is a work of mitigated chaos. Do you see what I mean?

Creating a screen printing effect in Photoshop

It’s a fun, clever technique. But I worry that it might be a bit hard to follow without the sample file. Which is why I’m providing the screen printing technique sample file here. Right-click the link and choose Download or Save As.

Two questions: Does the movie make sense? And does the sample file help?

While I await your answers, here’s the official description from

In this week’s Deke’s Techniques, Deke creates a Photoshop-simulated happy accident—that spillover you get when colors are slightly mis-registered during screen printing. In this old-school method of printing, you apply each color separately, so sometimes the colors don’t quite line up in each pass. In this video, Deke shows you how to give your image this hand-crafted effect, while using Photoshop to control the simulated chaos.

Deke begins with the hand-colored image he showed you in last week’s technique. Then, with some simple selections and layer acrobatics, he separates out the colors from the outlines so they can be moved slightly askew. The nice thing about creating chaos in Photoshop, however, is that if you don’t like one part of the simulated flaw, you can avoid it

In this case, for aesthetic reasons, Deke wanted to make sure the sky didn’t move, only the other colored objects (and the white clouds). So during the process he demonstrates how he kept the sky in place while the other colors moved. The result is this charming print, with all its delightful imperfections courtesy of Photoshop: 

Screen printing with controlled chaos in Photoshop

Deke will be back with another technique next week!

Next week, I return to Adobe Illustrator and show you how to create a perfect spiral, one that does not involve the imperfect spiral tool.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques: The Photoshop Challenge Winners!

Previous entry:Deke’s Techniques 149: Hand-Coloring Line Art in Photoshop


  • Well Well, Screen Print Effect.. Bah Humbug!

    That’s all well and good if you’re doing a multi color job on a press without micro registration. Maybe an 80’s press.  “misregistration effect more likely”.

    But really Deke, why not teach users the important and highly in-demand skill of separating images for screen printing?

    Simulated Process, 4 Color Process, Index and Spot Color Separations..

    These jobs are in high demand and no one is teaching the skill needed to do it. Instead you pay big bucks for photoshop actions that produce mediocre results.

    Every single lesson you provide to users are useful.. You already paid your dues and then some.

    Now I’m asking you to change the bad habits of an industry.