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DIY Screen Printing

What You'll Need:
  • Printing Screen
  • Printing Squeegee
  • Photo Emulsion
  • Screen Printing Ink
  • Garden Hose
  • Transparency Paper
  • Item to Print On
  • * Scoop Coater
  • * Masking Tape
  • * Painter's Tape
  • * Sheet of Glass

  • * Items are optional, but very helpful.

    You'll also need some sort of dark room where you can prepare and store your screens. A closet with the lights off or something similar will work just fine.

    Step 1: Preparing Your Artwork

    Surprisingly, getting your art work ready to print is probably the most difficult part of the entire screen printing process. But don't worry! After this step, it's all smooth sailing. If the following paragraph sounds like complete gibberish to you, grab one of your photoshop whiz friends and tell them you'll print them a cool shirt in exchange for their services. Moving on...

    Prepare your art work in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or any other similar graphics program. If using Photoshop, make sure the image size is at least 300 dpi and is the actual size you want printed. If the design consists of multiple colors, separate each color on to its own layer. Don't use gradients!

    Now that your art work is ready to print, print it onto a transparency (like the ones your teacher used when teaching with an overhead projector). If you're printing multiple colors, each color needs to be on its own transparency paper. Try to make sure the black ink on the transparency is fairly thick or you might come across some problems. Also, only print black ink on transparencies. Even if you're trying to print a red heart on a t-shirt, you print the image of the heart in black on the transparency.

    Step 2: Coating Your Screen

    Before coating your shiny new screen, it is recommended that you clean your screen with degreaser. While this is not completely necessary, it will help allow the emulsion to bond tighter with the mesh on your screen and will result in a crisper print. Also, make sure you coat your screen and let it dry in a dark room. A little light is fine, but too much exposure to UV light during this step can ruin everything, and maybe even make you cry.

    Lay your screen down with the flat (print side) part facing up. Then, pour a thin bead of emulsion across the length of one edge. Now, take your squeegee and spread it across the mesh of the screen as thinly and evenly as possible. A scoop coater is a great tool for coating screens, and renders much better results than a squeegee. However, a squeegee will work just fine to start off with. Once your screen has a nice, thin and even layer of emulsion on it, let it sit in the dark room until the emulsion is completely dry.

    Continue to Part 2