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Got It Made

Screenprinting 101, So You Can Make Your Own Prints and Posters (and, Fine, Graphic Tees) At Home

Got It Made BY liz 04/26/2016


Who here wants so make something amazing? Printmaster (yes, I made up that title) Brian Farrell is here to show you how to screenprint, so, ya know, #noexcuses. Brian uses a more industrial setup to apply his linear patterns to everything from tea towels to wall clocks, but he’s a total badass—his scrappier version will do juuuust fine for newbies.



1 fine mesh screenprinting frame

1 small squeegee

1 bottle of photo emulsion (which should come with a smaller bottle of sensitizer)

1 bottle of silkscreen ink in your chosen color

1 sheet of clear acetate

[Ed. note: you can find a number of starter kits that include all of the above materials.]

A desk light or construction lamp and the brightest bulb you can find—ideally 250 watt

A piece of glass or plexiglass that fits inside of your screen

Paper or fabric to print on (tightly woven fabrics like linen or chambray work best)

Image of your choice, rendered in black and white

Access to an inkjet printer or Xerox machine or a black permanent marker

Masking tape 



“First, prepare the image you’d like to print. It must be made up of solid black lines or shapes to work properly. You can use an inkjet printer or Xerox machine to print it directly on the clear acetate with opaque black ink, or you can draw on the acetate with an opaque permanent marker.”



“Mix the photo emulsion and sensitizer together following the manufacturer’s instructions. Pour a line of this mixture across one end of your screen. Using the squeegee, evenly spread a thin layer of emulsion across the whole screen, front and back. After the screen is coated, lay it flat in a pitch black room or cabinet and wait for the emulsion to dry completely—ideally overnight. The dried emulsion is light-sensitive, so keep the screen in the dark until you need it in Step Four.”



“Get your exposure setup ready. Position your light about 12 inches above a flat surface where your screen will be, with the light facing directly down on the image (you may need to get creative to get the right height).”



“Now that you have your image and coated screen ready, you can expose the screen. Lay your screen, frame side down, on a flat surface. Then place the acetate with your image on the screen, facing up. Lay the piece of glass or plexiglass on top, to sandwich it—this will make sure the image doesn’t move during the exposure process. Once this is all set up, you can turn on the light you positioned to begin the exposure process. The exposure time will vary depending on the emulsion and light being used—again, follow the recommendations included with your emulsion. With bright bulbs, it’s usually around five minutes, but if you’re using lower-wattage, it will obviously take longer. The timing on this step is important, under- or overexposure of the screen will effect how the image looks in the end. It may take a couple of tries until you understand the correct timing for your set-up.”




“Remove the screen to rinse it. Using cold water and a shower head or sink nozzle, spray the screen, focusing on the area where the image was. You should start to notice the emulsion where the image is washing away. Continue to rinse the screen until the image is completely washed out and revealed, leaving you with a stencil. Set the screen aside to dry completely.”



“After the screen has been rinsed and dried, check for pin holes—small spots outside of your image that aren’t covered by photo emulsion. Cover these spots with small pieces of masking tape on the back of the screen, so to avoid any unwanted markings when you print your image.”



“Lay the paper or fabric you’d like to print on a flat surface. Position your screen on top of the paper. Pour a line of ink across the top of your screen. Use the squeegee to apply pressure evenly, and firmly pull the ink across the image from top to bottom of the screen. During this movement, you are pushing ink through the stencil in your screen onto the paper you are printing on. Once you have pulled the ink,  lift your screen directly up to reveal the print. You will probably only need to do this once, but if your fabric has a deep weave, you might need to do a second pass of ink to get down into all the crevices.”



“Once you’re done printing, wash the excess ink off your screen immediately with cold water and set it aside to dry. DO NOT let the ink dry on your screen. If the ink dries on your screen, it will be ruined. One of the beautiful things about screenprinting is you can pull the image as many times as you want!”



Into this? You might also wanna learn how to marble your own paper...or just buy some nice, non-DIY art



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