Plaid Simply Screen Stencils

Kelsey Cooper (affectionately known as Kelso) is one crazy talented lady. She is the proprietor of Kelso Doesn’t Dance, but I’m quite certain that she does. She’s also a member of the Long Beach Craft Mafia, provider of rides in a hybrid car, and knows where the Yogurtland in Anaheim is. Kinda.

Please welcome Kelso to the Craft Critique team!


Reported by Kelsey Cooper

A while ago I came across the Plaid Simply Screen Silk Screen Stencils in the craft store; they were a new product, right on the end cap so I stopped and checked it out. I remember it being a package with a screen and a couple of paints, I thought it was a good idea but maybe wasn’t into the color combos or the designs they had available so I moved on. Recently I heard about the Simply Screen product again, checked it out online, and when I saw that the screens and paints are sold separately I became more interested and decided to try it.

The Plaid online store has something like 30 different “silk screen stencils” to choose from which all seem to be of a similar style, but they do include letters and numbers sets for more custom designs. Some that have multiple design elements which you cut apart and arrange as you choose. There are also 35 different paint colors including some neons and metallics, as well as a foil pack and some glitters that you can use with an adhesive instead of paint. I chose the Horses design along with 3 paint colors I liked so I could try out different techniques.

The screen stencils are thin plastic like sheets with adhesive backs and a design in the middle. You can clearly see through to the other side but you have to look closely to see the fine screen that makes up your design.

I decided to use a cotton tote bag as my first project, but couldn’t get the screen stencil to stick to the bag very well, although the instructions do say to position it on a pre-washed garment, which the bag wasn’t, so that could have been part of the problem. I had hoped that it would stick better to other projects that were prewashed or different materials but I really couldn’t get it to stick well to any material I used.

The next step is to apply paint to the top of the screen. I applied what I thought was a “large line” but turned out to not be enough and took a couple of times to learn what worked for my design. I’m sure smaller designs require less paint so it’s not a real surprise that the instructions were very specific on that. One thing I feel the instructions could be more specific on is the next step of applying the paint to the design. It says to use even pressure, I used even pressure, just way too much pressure! My first couple of tries turned out with portions of double images or bleeding paint but soon figured out that very little pressure is actually required, unlike traditional screen printing. I also figured out that I had to hold the top of the screen pretty tightly with one hand and use the applicator in the other since it was not sticking to the fabric very well. The applicator that comes with each Silk Screen Stencil amounts to a flimsy piece of plastic but it does the job, especially considering each screen stencil is, according to their website, “reusable up to 20 times.”

I tried the paints on some darker, printed fabrics and was please with their coverage. The Oasis and Grape Juice colors covered very well and the Apple-tini color being lighter, covered the fabric but allowed the printed polka dots to show through.

Once I got the technique down I decided to try using multiple colors on one image by breaking up the line of paint.

The colors are a little too perfect at the top in my opinion, but look good mixed toward the bottom. I would like to overlap the paint colors a bit to see how that turns out.

I also layered the image using a different color each time. On my first try, the tote bag, I thought I spaced it out too much so I tried again on the red fabric. It’s surprising the way spacing can make such an impact, the two are drastically different.

The instructions recommend using a paintbrush for detailed designs or to add different colors to your project. At the same time I taped off a portion of the image to see how that would come out.

The multi-colors of the horse on the right were applied with a paintbrush, although this probably isn’t the best image for multi-colors but it gives you an idea of what you can do. While I had a portion taped off I tried using the applicator for the horse on the left. It worked out here but was difficult to get the paint in between the layers of tape, and after multiple swipes I’m sure the tape would start to roll up print where you aren’t intending to so I would only recommend the tape when used with a paintbrush.

I figured most people would use this product on a t-shirt so I definitely wanted to try that out. I got a men’s t-shirt that was much too big for me, intending to later sew it into a gathered tank. I tried a one colored tiled design for a different effect. Some of Plaid’s smaller elements (that I mentioned earlier) would be great for tiling as well. I made sure to sew on my pockets (made from the sleeves) before screening that section so I could see how the Simply Screens work on textures. The image is slightly incomplete on the side of the pocket and there was a large build up of paint at the top so I wouldn’t recommend going over a pocket but a smaller bump like the hem worked out pretty well. There was a small build up of paint above the hem but you can smooth that out with the applicator and the extra work of screening over a collar, seam, sleeve or hem is worth it.

The package didn’t say anything about protecting layers but I decided to put a small stack of newspaper in between the tote because the material was very thin, which turned out to be a good idea because there was paint transfer on the newspaper when I was finished. Later, on Plaid’s Simply Screen website I read in the FAQs that using a protective layer is not necessary but then also said that “tissue tees and other very thin fabrics” may require a protective layer as an extra precaution. The tote bags I was using are “very thin fabric” but I also had paint transfer from the standard woven quilting fabric. They were correct on the t-shirt though, I did not have any problem with transfer on that.


  • ready to use
  • easy to store
  • non-toxic, water-soluble inks
  • fairly inexpensive


  • pre-made designs, no custom images or artwork
  • designs are all of a similar style
  • Silk Screen Stencils don’t stick well to fabric
  • only lasts for limited amount of uses

Overall I think it’s a good product for the cost but the adhesive on the back of the screen stencils could definitely be improved. I don’t think I would try this product again though, because the other designs that are available do not appeal to me. If there were a wider range of designs to go with the selection of paints I’d be open to trying it again but until then I’ll leave it for the rest of the crafting world.

Have you used Plaid Simply Screen Stencils on your fabric projects? Leave us a comment and let us know!


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5 Responses to Plaid Simply Screen Stencils

  1. Avatar
    Stephen June 7, 2010 at 8:11 am #

    Not sure exactly what technique you’re using so please don’t take this as a personal criticism.

    I have had experience with both industrial and home screen printing equipment btw.

    The biggest mistake (improper technique) that I have witnessed is with the use of the applicator when it come to the home kits.

    Most people I know tend to drag the paint across the screen with the applicator at the wrong angle. This causes the applicator to flex and force the paint into the fabric. Correct technique is to hold the applicator almost vertically. Only slight downward pressure is required simply to keep the stencil pressed against the fabric and to ensure a seal to stop the paint going back under the applicator. The paint should simply ‘fall’ into the void between the applicator and the fabric (the depth of the stencil). At an angle the applicator will flex and push the paint directly into the fabric and cause transfer.
    The bleeding issue may simply be a matter of the stencil not affixed well to the fabric so the paint is forced under it. This rarely happens in industry as stencils are far more rigid so won’t lift.
    In conclusion, with plenty of practice and ensuring the absolutely correct technique, even these cheap home kits can work well.

  2. Avatar
    Shell June 7, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    OK I have to comment. I have used these a lot.

    Not sure why you had so much trouble getting them to stick to your fabrics – because they stick well. I have never had that problem ever.

    Like Stephen said above – maybe it was the way you dragged the applicator? Also I noticed the paintbrush you used was a foam one – when I initially saw these demo’d they offered normal paintbrushes – almost like ones for stippling but softer – and they work really well especially for detail stuff.

    Also – they last WAY longer than 20 uses – I have used some of mine over and over and over.

    The main thing that *runs out* is the stickiness after many uses – and a little bit of removeable adhesive fixes that problem just fine. 😀

  3. Avatar
    Anonymous June 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    Katie –

    [Disclosure – I work for Plaid] The screens will last longer than 20 uses, but as Shell said the adhesive will wear off eventually. I have personally used some screens dozens of times.

    Thanks for supporting Simply Screen!

  4. Avatar
    Anonymous June 7, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Hi, I used these stencils for Christmas gifts for my son and his son and girlfriend and they loved the T-shirts. I taped the stencils with a light tape and that worked pretty well. I used a wooden cutting board under the shirts and that worked well also. I am pretty well pleased with the outcome. Can’t beat it for the price.

  5. Avatar
    Liz Abbott aka Leatherette heart June 8, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    No actually she really doesn’t dance. so I just physically make her.