Picture of Photo-emulsion Screen Printing
Sometimes you need to your message out quickly and cheaply. How do you print a ton of t-shirts and patches fast? Here's how I did it.

This Instructable covers the standard photo-emulsion screen printing process, which is great for printing text or images with fine detail...and at the end, you have your own personally-designed entirely unique prints on fabric, clothing, paper, or whatever else you can get under your screen.

The general idea: After stretching fine-mesh cloth over a wooden frame, you spread a thin layer of photosensitive emulsion on the screen and let it dry. You then take a black image on transparent or translucent surface, place it against the screen, and then expose the screen to light. The light causes the emulsion to harden and bind to the fabric. Where the light strikes the screen, the emulsion will bind, making a solid layer. Where the light is blocked (ie where your black image is placed) the emulsion remains water-soluble. After exposing the screen, you spray down the screen with water, washing off the emulsion only where your image was placed; this clear area is where ink will be pressed through the screen when you print. Finally, you lay the screen on your t-shirt, other fabric, or paper, spread ink on the inside of the screen, and press the ink through the screen. If you use textile ink, you can heat-set the ink after it dries, and it'll be permanent and washable.

There are some great Instructables up on the site already for screen printing methods, but there's always room for more. For this project, I went with a ready-made screen and images printed in black on transparencies.

Check out Screen Printing: Cheap, Dirty, and At Home for info on making your own screens and using the sun to expose your photo-emulsion.

Threadbanger has an excellent D.I.Y Screen Printing Instructable which covers making screens using old embroidery hoops and using Mod Podge to put your image on the screen.

How to Silk Screen has a good overview of the photo-emulsion process.

xucaen29 days ago
Every video I have seen on YouTube says it takes 10 minutes or less with an ordinary 60 watt bulb.
EllisP1 month ago

Hi. Can you help me on "Photo Emulsion for small images or letters", I find it quite complicated to print tiny image and letters. Please I really need to learn how to do it and I beleive that you can help me on it. Thank you so much! God bless. :)

hi there I just want to double check how thick is your glass?

MileneH3 months ago

Trying to remove my image off the screen to use another design, is that possible or do I need to buy a new screen?

ShelbyA6 months ago

where did you get your lamp from ?

GaryN11 year ago

Hello people, I'm new to silkscreen printing and I'm trying my first time out. i got the screen and i coat it with photo emulsion, printed my negative and then i expose it under the sun. however, after 40 mins, it doesn't seem to work. I'm not too sure where went wrong. these are the questions bothering me:
i) did i coat it correctly, is the coat too thin?
ii) i didn't place a piece of glass over the screen when doing exposure, is that why it didn't work?
iii) is the piece of glass over the screen necessary when exposing and can it replace with clear acrylic?
iv) what kind of light bulb should i use if I'm creating my own homemade light box for exposure?
v) what is Sensitizer? is it required for light exposure or just the photo emulsion is fine?

i hope to get help from pros like you guys.
Thanks so much...

xanscorp GaryN19 months ago

Answers in order of how you asked:
I) It should be translucent to opaque in its coating...the more prints to be run, the more opaque.
II) The glass is only recommended for when exposing in order to burn the image to the screen in order to keep it as flat as possible. Clear tape can be just as effective depending on your set-up.
III ) No, as mentioned, the clear glass is not necessary.
IV) Depending on your lightbox set-up, for a small lamp/light-source (about 12 inches from the screen) a 150-watt incandescent bult or a BBA-1 bulb are the recommended. I personally use a small lamp with a 150 watt bulb.
V) Sensitizer is what is added to the photo emulsion to make it light sensitive to burn the image to the screen. And yes, it is required to make the emulsion light-sensitive so that the emulsion only under what was blocked washes out. Be forewarned though, once the sensitized emulsion is coated onto a screen, avoid allowing it to be in any light until you are ready to burn the image (which should be done under the exposure instructions.)

bec08021 year ago

When I used cardboard in between the shirt front and back, I got ink smudged on the inside of the shirt. I have a tip: Since I am doing more than one T-shirt, I am using a glass cutting board sprayed with Elmers spray adhesive (to hold the shirt in place, since I am printing alone) in between the front and back of each T-shirt. I have had a lot of luck with this method (probably because the cardboard absorbed the ink through the t shirt layer, and the glass didn't) .

bec08021 year ago

It shouldn't take a lot of scrubbing your screen to get it clean. Just make sure that you put the emulsion remover on when the screen is dry, let it set for 2 mins. then spray with water, the emulsion will come off easily like magic. If you have spread your emulsion thick and there are dried drips on the screen, you may have to do these steps a couple of times, but you still shouldn't need to scrub. Take care of your screens and they can be used for years.

Just a note on the emulsion: I coat mine, making the last sweep outside, then let dry with outside down(on the pushpins), which usually lets the emulsion heave down as it dries (gravity), that way you are creating the thicker layer directly in contact with your film.

In your process , the thicker layer is on the inside, furthest away from the film during exposure, which may not resolve as much detail when needed.

harperrn1 year ago

Thanks for all the pics and great descriptions, really helped out in getting started. I was just wondering where you got the emulsion exposer chart as it caused me to mess up quite a few screens before figuring out the chart is wrong....in fact its REALLY far off :). diazos chart for a reflector set up should be set 18in (not 12) from the image and should be exposed for ONLY 7 minutes (not 45!!!!) after trying it with these numbers I get great results, trying it for 45 mins left me with an over exposed screen that was VERY hard to scrub clean. here is diazos chart for future reference...

thank you so much! im using the speedball system and ive never tried the photo emulsion process before. the insturctions they gave are confusing, but this cleared it up!
I couldn't believe how unclear the Speedball instructions were! Thanks for writing this.
tech15102 years ago
I work for a screen printing company. You don't really need to use a flood stroke unless you are working with light colored inks, as they are thicker.
tech15102 years ago
I work for a screen printing company. For a makeshift darkroom, find a room without windows, and replace the lightbulbs with bug lights. Bug lights do not emit UV light, UV is what exposes the emulsion. So you could have the room as bright as you want and not have to worry about exposing the screen. (I would still try to keep the light indirect)
Ruswendy2 years ago
Simple but very inspiring, so the process of screen printing can be done easily, thanks
ebrown192 years ago
Brilliant Instructable!


I have just posted an instructable on how to make your own screen printing screen cheaply and easily!


razorwinged2 years ago
hi! i just wanted to let you know that because i like this instructable so much, i have added it to my silkscreen guide... http://www.instructables.com/id/silkscreen-printing-easy-and-cheap/

thanks for sharing your ideas!
i want to f u and expose it on facebook and suck our cat for 20 minutes
Gonazar3 years ago
How far does the ink stretch? How many shirts can I print with 16 oz of ink and a medium sized design? (roughly)
Could I print up a design like this on a t-shirt using this method?
vampyredh5 years ago
if I may make a few suggestions I am a screen printer by trade and in order to save yourself lots of money on transparencies buy a can of dollar clear spray paint and do a light coat over your velum or tansparency let it completely dry the spray paint causes the black it to get solid and dark
Wow, must be really cool to do this professionally!

Maybe you could answer this for me; I'm doing a screen print in my art class, but our classes are cut down to 20 minutes this week, so I can't burn my screen AND rinse off the screen in one class period. Could I burn my screen, then come back in 20-30 minutes to rinse the screen?
biaginn4 years ago
After I removed emulsion from the screen to expose my writing I went to transfer the text onto canvas but the ink did not come through? any suggestions?
makirro biaginn3 years ago
just use a marker pen and write directly onto the paper, its an ancient method developed in french caves about a million years ago.
makirro (the fool)
nattapon053 years ago
when you do coating do you need to do in dark room ?
not necessarily just as long as you put it on before you go out in the cold, you'll be fine.
makirro (the fool)
JHAPZ_223873 years ago
Hi there!

Some friends of mine suggested to expose dried emulsion under the sun.

Is it effective?
Anyone knows how long of exposure?

Please help!

yes but not on your body, better using a good quality heavy paper.
exposure is a little like sunbathing .. it takes a little experimentation to get just the right outcome .
makirro (the fool)
jcuizon3 years ago
guys can you help me how to clean my screen...and whats the problem of my work every time i exposed my design..my design destroy pls help me......i'm using 4pcs 10WHATS lamp..thank you!pls help me
radracer3 years ago
This has been a lot of help to me.
honeycomb6 years ago
Can you use this method to print designs which are very colorful? or will the designs made with this method always be one solid color?
you can overlay a print of one color with another, or you can just cover some areas with masking tape and print with one color, and then vice versa and print with another color
coask8b6 years ago
is it possible to expose the screen outside on a sunny day, instead of using a light rig, like in a similar instructable?
yeah, definitely possible, but it's very dicey. there are a lot of factors that play into exposing a screen with sunlight--weather conditions, if it's cloudy or windy.

i find it easier to just use a bulb, that way i can do it any time and it's always consistent!
stepandknee4 years ago
if you have a design that's bigger than 8.5x11, or you don't want to go through the hassle of getting something copied onto a transparency, it works just all well to do this:

take a copy of the image and cut off some of the extra white paper around it. paint the piece of paper with baby oil. let that sink in and then dab off the excess oil with a paper towel. this makes the paper translucent, which works just as well as something transparent.

you might have to bump up the exposure time a tiny bit, but not too much. (i couldn't tell you HOW much because i've never actually used transparencies when screenprinting)
jakethink5 years ago
Just a hint for people who can't work out the exposure times.

You can put a strip of emulsion on a screen and test like you test in darkroom photography. Block most of the strip with something light proof (a bit of cardboard) but leave a couple of c.m. hanging out. Start exposing. After a couple of minutes move the cardboard back so another couple of centimeters is showing. keep doing this every minute or so, until the max time is reached. Then wash out as usual. this way you can see which time works best and you don't have to test on like twenty screens.

I hope this makes sense. and is helpful to all those having trouble


Jake 1NE. 
ugh, i wish i would've done this before doing emulsion FOUR TIMES on a 20x24 screen until it worked.. this would've been so much simpler..
assassinazz7 years ago
I used to work at a screen printing shop and we didn't use liquid photo emulsion, we had big rolls of emulsion sheets that were stuck onto the screens with water and left to dry in a dark cupboard. I would cut the huge sheets into 12" x 14" squares which would be put in a drawer away from light, while the huge sheets were essentially a roll stuck in a big black tube (to block the light). The emulsion sheets were pretty much just a plastic sheet with emulsion on it that would stick to the screens with water and when the emulsion dried you would peel off the plastic sheet before "burning" the logo on the screen. When the "burning" was done (on a vacuum sealed light table with timer) I would "blow out" the design with a pressure sprayer, then dry the screen, tape the edges and fill any defective holes with liquid emulsion.
In junior high my shop class did silk screen printing with that kind of emulsion on plastic - only we would put our piece of emulsion plastic-side down and cut and remove the emulsion with an exacto knife. When the cutting was done we would attach the emulsion to the screen with water, let it dry over night with pressure on the screen, peel off the plastic and then print. The teacher had basically been printing that way for 25 years, with very good results.
you did silk screening in JUNIOR HIGH!? i'm jealous!
I see. Well yes I did cut the emulsion while it was still on the plastic, its the same as you have done here but we did not put pressure on it during drying off. The shop i worked at was run by an old couple in their 70's who've been doing it for nearly 40 years. I'm still really proud of that job. How many people get to say "I was a graphic designer at my first job when I was 15." lol
m1k3y (author)  assassinazz7 years ago
Neat, I'd love to have the chance to play with that kind of equipment sometime. And I'd imagine that the sheets are a whole lot easier to work with (and less hugely messy) than the liquid emulsion. Envy!
acidaleh m1k3y7 years ago
Check out Ulano products, Ulano StaSharp is a really good easy to cut film and you can get smaller pieces online, instead of the huuuge rolls haha.
The only problem with that technique is your design is limited by your xacto skills and it was easy to mess it up, I found
easy alternative:  make or find your design on the computer, then print it out onto a transparency.  twice, so you can double-up when it's being burned into the emulsion and get a better screen.
Can you expose the screen for too long? Assuming it doesn't literally get burnt, I don't see what else would happen if it were exposed in sunlight for an hour instead of 5 mins?
the light would definitely go through the dark areas and you wouldn't be able to wash anything out whatsoever. it would just be a sheet of hard emulsion on your screen.

that's why exposure time needs to be really precise and specific.
well actually if you expose it for too long the UV light will do through the dark areas too ruining your screen
satyr2k24 years ago
I am having an issue with blowing out my screen once it has been burned. Twice now, certain sections of the exposed emulsion are washing away along with my design. I suspected the first time that my water was too hot even though it was quite tepid. This last try I used cold water and still I had a whole section of my art simply wash away.

For the record- both screens were set to dry overnight after the emulsion was applied to the screen. Is my emulsion coat too thin? What am I doing wrong?
you might try exposing it for a little bit longer. also something that helps is to blast water on the side of the screen that your design WASN'T laying on. (the backside). if you need to you can even try scrubbing on the back side to release the emulsion. this won't damage your design at all since it's on the opposite side. good luck!
Ruswendy4 years ago
Nice information, thanks for sharing
What is that in latin? 
i believe it who watches the watchers
Makes sense. Pretty much what Little Brother is all about.
mehendalek4 years ago
I used to expose the screen in sunlight for about 30 Seconds in bright sunlight (in India), that would be very economical and perfect for DIY avoiding lamp and electricity.

cynreams5 years ago
ANyone having trouble with exposure times, try this site!! :

Just as an FYI i found this out when i was in a pinch- photo emulsion remover is really pricey for the ammount you get, and I didn't have any but needed to clear a screen. So, not knowing what the active ingredient was I started through a multitude of cleaners; none worked! Emulsion is really hardy stuff. But, to my amazement, automotive brake and carb cleaner works PERFECTLY! A 20oz. can is like $4 and goes a long way. And as for tough spots? It's pressurized and will blast even the toughest buildup away!
N I C E!!!!

Shoot, I actually tried this yesterday and it didn't work for me.  What kind did you use specifically?  Thanks!

Woah, Cory?  I heard about this site from your book.  How ironic, I (think) I'm reading an instructable also written by you.  Thanks for everything - you rock.
I guess you can make your own emulsion for cheaper, if you're super DIY.  I haven't tried this yet.   http://www.instructables.com/id/the_true_diyers_screen_printing/step3/WARNING-HARMFUL-CHEMICALS-aka-phto-emustion/
cartman5505 years ago
One tip about coating the screen with this particular emulsion if you don't have a professional emulsion scoop... I've found it's MUCH easier to get an even coat using just the squeegee if it is cool; you can store mixed emulsion in the 'fridge to extend the shelf life -this is noted in the instructions that come with it. I made a screen using a fresh kit, then promptly put the rest in the 'fridge... A couple days later, I go to make another screen, same process. I poured the emulsion onto it, then spread it with my squeegee- it was much easier to control and it gave me a nice even coat on both sides!

Also, you can print designs onto transparency sheets using your inkjet or laser printer, OR even writing/drawing onto the sheet itself with a super black marker like a Sharpie. (In high school, we did this with india ink and a dip pen and it worked great!)
hardlec5 years ago
I am an inveterate wargamer and I want to screenprint onto felt (well:  polyester pesudo-felt they sell in fabric stores...)

Can I print on to a transparency and use this for my "master?"   

This would allow me (or anyone else) to be able to keep a library of transparencies as opposed to a library of screens.
jayhaycs5 years ago
i would like to ask the ratio of the emulsion and sensitizers mixture..please help me
That depends on the BRAND of photo emulsion you are using.

The info you want is usually printed in a instruction sheet [or pamphlet that comes with the material].
Very nice and thorough, thank you!
teraluna5 years ago
 I am using 3 florescent 20 watt lights
teraluna5 years ago
 I am trying to screen print with 20watt florescent lights.(not black light)  I can't seem to get the exposure time right.  Any suggestions on how to figure out the time?  I have done 50minutes & 10minutes exposures.  The 50m was to long and the 10m to short.  Help
jjnfresnoza5 years ago
i want learn this to apply it in electronics....PCB lay-outing.....hope it works for me
JTae2cool6 years ago
I don't understand whenever I do this the ink doesn't seem to go through onto my shirt. can someone tell me what am I doing wrong.
In addition to what the other poster mentioned it's a good idea to print out 2 copies of your image onto transparencies to ensure that the black areas are solid and no light passes thru it when you are burning the screen. Good luck!
Chances are the emulsion is not washing completely out of your screen. This can be because the screen was burned too long in the sunlight or exposure unit or because your image was not cmyk black when printed to the velum or transparency. The image MUST be pure black or it will allow light to go through and expose the emulsion you need to wash out. Hope this helps.

Screen Printing
T Shirts
JEZIKA LAW5 years ago
I feel i didnt dry my screen enough before exposing as it was a little bit cloudy coloured in areas after washing off unexposed emulsion... is it safe to put it back in the cupboard with a heater for a bit to dry a bit more...or could that over dry it n be difficult to get off later with the special pregasol solution that removes emulsion once wanting to do a new stencil on the screen?
JEZIKA LAW5 years ago
CHEAP N QUICK! ( P.S) The reference to acrylic is refering to perspex in the above tutorial..To Brainnumbc
yayeee i fainally exposeed my first screen from home!
easy as!
My advice is ditch the bulbs n fancy lighting go with natural Uv sunlight, worked a treat!

1. i applied the emulsion with a sgueegee to both sides of the screen as even as possible (Avoid thick build ups and thick small drips) its important your screen is even so the screen dries evenly)

2. Find a cupboard and have blow heater ready in the cupboard, ensure its located in a dimly lit place, Here place your screen to dry over a few minutes, checking it regularly, you will notice areas that r drying faster than others, dont have the heater directly facing the screen its prob not good 4 it. The dried emulsion will appear less glossy.
3. Have you image photocopied onto 3 sheets of acetate, tape these together to create your stencil, this creates a solid black stencil.
Have a large board to set up your foam & screen to later carry outside
Have a sheet of glass clean ready, tape newspaper over it.
Have a piece of foam that the screen can be placed over, (ensure its thicker than the screen frame, possibly another thin piece of flat board over it and place some dark fabric over it.

4. Now your screen is dry, still in a dark place. Nearby in a similiarly dimly lit place ( eg no strong uv lights) Set up all things in step 3
1 place your large board down
2. place your foam, + another flatter surface such as a book on top that fits the image your are making if you feel you need it to create a really flat surface, and some dark fabric over this.have it set up at the lower edge of the board so wen you carry it outside you can lean it against a wall or prop to face direct sunlight..
3. have your acetate stencil handy and some bits of sticky tape to attatch it to screen.
4.Grab you dry screen, placeing it over the foam paying attention to ensure the image to be exposed is resting on enough flat area underneath creating a seal
5 place the newspaper covered glass over this and Breath!
6. now carry it outside to your decided destination where there is bright sunlight ( you may have asomething like a big board set up against a chair with another flat surface on the ground to angle it up upon, as it may be 3;30 in the arvo n the sun isnt directly above you.
anyhow take it out rest it against the "wall" n "floor" directly positioned towards the sun. Remove the newspaper =0)
Usuall exposure on a sunny day is 3 mins
i let it go for 4 n a half it was fine!!
You may notice the emulsion darkening. Which is helpful in telling you its exposed enough.
When you move the glass away you will see your design in a lighter shade letting you know its exposed.

After this take it straight to the hose to wash away the areas of emulsion that didnt get exposed to reveal your fressh sharp stencil!!!!!! Continue to hose closely on high pressure untill you see the actual screenmesh clear of emulsion. Checking closely.

Im waiting now for the screen to dry off n do my first print
now you can get your paint colours prepared n mixed etc =0)
brainumbc6 years ago
Oh duh! The photo emulsion just creates a stencil on the screen! I wish someone would have told me this. All the tutorials I read anyone didn't explain this fact. It just lead you to assume that the photo emulsion chemical was supposed to bind to the fabric of whatever you're printing on
brainumbc6 years ago
Ok I think I understand the black fabric.. so your medium doent get exposed from the back side, but I still don't understand why you need acryllic. I thought you used photo emulsion solution OR acrylic ink to do screen printing.. not both
brainumbc6 years ago
Any why are we even talking about acryllic here? I thought the photo emulsion was the chemical that actually binded to the tshirt or whatever you're printing on? What does acryllic have to do with any of this?
brainumbc6 years ago
Why do you have to put black fabric down? I don't understand
jengky6 years ago
very nice!!! i learn a lot about instructables!!! now its time for me to try
so... each side of the screen gets one coat or two?
need some help? I'm following the time exposure table . and no matter what I do the screen washes out completely.
awesome!! though i have to say i am not too keen about what the shirt says =d <br/>
m1k3y (author)  parasymboligist7 years ago
Thanks! And, hey, make your own screen and post pictures of your shirts, then! ;)
=P *shrugs*
like the image - what does it say?
Just the don't trust anyone over 25 thing =P
kikig2156 years ago
Can I get some help please? Everytime (twice), I expose my screen with the 150W light, my screen gets burnt. I had it 12 inches away for 45min. the 1st time and a little further away thet 2nd time for 45 min. and both times the screen got burnt.
If you are using blacklights light to expose the emulsion, make sure to use fluorescent ones. The cheap incandescent blaclights are actually ordinary light bulbs covered with purple paint.
I am planning to make a homemade exposure table and I'm having problems with what type of light to use. I use ordinary fluorescent light when I expose my image. Just want to know the difference when using black light.
500 watt outdoor halogen fixture 17 inches - 6 minutes with bichromate emulsion will have to experiment to find time with diazo emulsion fan blowing on screen - lamp makes heat
I used one 15 watt blacklight, maybe 10 inches away, and it took 45 minutes. I tried earlier with regular fluorescent bulbs and I don't know how long it would have taken but I didn't wait long enough and the emulsion didn't set. So I guess I'd say there's not a tremendous difference but the blacklight works faster. Plus it's way cooler.
i use a 500 watt outdoor halogen fixture ($8 or so at wall-mart) 17 inches - 6 minutes with a fan blowing on the screen (makes a good bit of heat) i'm still using up the last of my speedball bichromate emulsion (no longer available) have to adjust time for diazo - good luck
friend, i need help, i am a problem through my project silk screen. they gave to me the green film and the laquer tinner. i dont know what im going to do. can you help me . to the easiest way to create silk screen, please guide me so that can i finished my project. please guide at this email address. mamer_2@yahoo.com thank you and god bless....
Not all of them. Some are really made out of Wood's glass, but they are extremely inefficient. You can barely see the security marks on a bill with a incandescent blacklight. The first blacklights were actually incandescent and were used during the second world war on airplanes instead of common lamps. The gauges and pointers were painted in UV reflective paint and so all the gauges could be lit with a single lamp that the enemy pilots wouldn't see easily.
oktane7 years ago
I've used some of these materials from a speedball screenprinting kit, they work great, especially the Diazo Emulsion. If you cannot find these items at your local craft store, you can try Dick Blick online or search for 'Speedball Screenprinting Kit'.

Personally I use a twin blacklight to expose my images, it only takes 3 minutes! The bulbs are called GE F40BLB 40 Watt, and I have two in one of those shop light fixtures. I just hang it about 12-15 inches from the screen. I use a piece of foam or folded fabric on the inside of the screen to keep it taut, put the transparency on the back side of the screen, and lay a heavy piece of glass over it, then I expose it. I would like to build a lightbox, but I'd have to find some weird shaped blacklights. Maybe a few of those new screw in florescent types (CFL) blacklights would work well. A company called 'Feit' makes quite a few of the colored types.

Concerning the wash-fastness of the non-toxic ink, it seems to last and is pretty durable if your coat is even and there was enough ink. If you have a bad pull and not enough ink, it tends to fade.

I tried to do a multiple color piece but it is very difficult to get the registration right due to the ink drying in the screen so fast. With vinyl inks and other nasty stuff, that isn't really a problem, but those are horrible to work with in a home environment. I think building a multi-screen shirt jig would be the best way to overcome this, but I don't even know where to start. If you'd like to add a bit of color to an art piece that you think it would look good on, you can make pretty awesome rainbow or multi color gradients by letting the ink mix by itself while doing a few practice pulls. When it looks cool, then do your final on fabric!

-You really need to do a flood coat after you pull with acrylics because they dry so fast, at least this has been my experience with the speedball inks.
-Shoot multiple pieces of art per screen and just tape over the ones you aren't using with smooth packing tape, this saves time and emulsion. (you already thought of this!)
-Try using laser or inkjet transparencies for your art. They stand up pretty well and you can save all of your art in a book in case you want to shoot that image again. If you use inkjet ones, keep water away from them.. they turn into gross mush.
-Use a pencil to mark the center of your art on the frame of the screen. You wont be able to see if after you've flooded the screen so it will be hard to center on the next shirt.
-Parchment or Bakers paper works good for heat setting, you can get it in rolls from the supermarket. I don't think wax paper would work very good for this though.
-This isn't really a tip but if you are lazy/busy like me, I've left the exposed emulsion in the screen for almost 2 months with no ill effects. Use a stiff brush and the emulsion remover to get it out, but be easy on the screen, especially around the frame where it attaches. Note that I put emulsion on a screen once and didn't shoot it immediately after it dried (sat for a week), and it did not work out so hot.. but maybe light leaked into my cabinet.
-When applying emulsion to the screen, stay away from the frame! Its impossible to get out, especially if you get it on the back side where the wood touches the silk. You don't need to put emulsion all the way to the edges anyways, because you normally tape all of the insides of the frame. (see pic) Try to apply as little emulsion as possible to coat the screen, and try to do it in one pass. (One on the front and one on the back.) It's really tricky but its less work later when you have to clean the screen.
-If you have a basement tub sink, you can usually attach a Y valve and washer hose to the spout. At the end of the washer hose I attached it to a sprayer that looks like a old fire hose sprayer. It's a very narrow diameter, high pressure source of water for blowing the screens out.

Well done Instructable! Thanks for your contribution!
Can someone recommend a good source for bulk blank shirts, like 50 to 100 or so at the time? Thanks...
cheapestees.com (one t ) good selection - good shirts - great service and prices free shipping on orders over $69 can't be beat
DOaks bradleybc7 years ago
m1k3y (author)  oktane7 years ago
(Also, awesome gonzo logo there. I'm fond of that one, and also the simpler image with just the double-thumbed fist.)
oktane m1k3y7 years ago
Thanks! The one on the top was the original and the one below it was a custom one with steadman's writing of instead.. the splattered ink style. I would attach the psd's but I lost alot of the art for shirts in a hd failure. :(
m1k3y (author)  oktane7 years ago
*looks more closely* Oh, very nice. I wish I could see the logo with Steadman's writing, that's an excellent design idea.
m1k3y (author)  oktane7 years ago
Wow, thanks for all the great tips! For doing multi-color images without a jig -- a very low-fi and imprecise method for this is to have the whole image on one screen, then mark (with masking tape or washable pen) where the edges of the screen fall on the shirt or fabric so that you can re-align the screen in the same place. Mask off all but one color-area on your screen & print. Clean off the screen, let the ink dry, then re-mask the screen for your other color-area, and print again. It's a lot of trouble to go to, and probably not worth the work if you want to make a lot of prints, but it works well enough for making a few. (And the effects of slight misalignment are often kinda cool anyway.)
cnacatac6 years ago
Great Instructable!!!
s_ams6 years ago
What a great instructable!! Nice work!
very nice instructible... only one thing i would change. ive been doing prints on the side for about 2 yrs now with a 4 head press and a convyer dyrer. something that helps a lot in the process is an emulsion scoop... its usually made of aluminum or some sort of metal/steel and you pour a bit of emulsion in there and then ride it up the screen... you will get a perfect coat 100% of the time and there is no mess at all (unless you have trouble pouring the liquid into the scoop...lol) Also, another GREAT help is to print the design on a transparent paper (like 'overhead paper' used in highschools) then put that paper on the screen when burning. that will eliminate the 'cutting' and allow an incredible amount of detail on your screens and prints. it works very very well and will save you A LOT of time.
kidburobot6 years ago
i'm really thankful that i discover your site!thank you very much!this would help a lot....
metalfury6 years ago
Hi, great tutorial and i thought the tip about using the pins to raise the screen was very clever. Just some questions if you don't mind? You have placed your positive on the 'bottom' of the screen, back-to-front. Are there any advantages/disadvantages to placing the positive 'inside' the screen, and the right way round? (I have a piece of glass that fits well inside my screen). I was wondering if with your method, light could 'seep' underneath the positive via the 1" gap between your screen and the black fabric? My other queston is regarding the lighting rig. I was going to follow the 150 watt described by the speedball instructions and yourself, but I see you mention a lightbox as an alternative. I have an A3 lightbox that I can borrow from work, that I think uses fluoresent strip lights: Do you think this would work, do you have any suggestions for timings, or is there a physical change with the emulsion when it has been sufficiently exposed that i should look for? Any advice would be appreciated and I'm looking forward to the results of my project!
JayLang7 years ago
Using the PhotoEmusion approach-- still can't seem to get entire image to print-- It is quite a fine line drawing done from Illustrator Using black speedball ink--any suggestions? Help! Thanx lots
Robb JayLang6 years ago
My first half-toning attempt in Illustrator didn't work because the pattern was too intense and the 'black' areas didn't wash out fully/uniformly. my image was uneven and faded. It is possible that your lines are too fine for the emulsion. try making them thicker in Illustrator and see if it comes out any better.
Robb Robb6 years ago
Also be sure your transparency is page black, not photo black. i am not an expert in printers by any means, but my transparencies printed from a photo printer were not black enough and caused an uneven washout.
Have you read the graphic novel Watchmen by the way? I know the phrase predates the story but it is my favorite book and deals with the slogan head on.
Llewner7 years ago
Can I get one that says "Don't take the advice of anyone under 25?" (joke) Good instructable though!
JayLang7 years ago
I'm a beginner and my first prints were ok but you could see through the inks (I layered each print upon the other-I did not make a reduction print) Are there any inks out there that are water soluble but have greater opacity? I used the photoEm method. Best, -Jay
Progfellow7 years ago
To expose my screens I use a 500 watt photoflood bulb from a photography supply store. I hang it about 22 inches above the screen. Make sure it is in a socket than can take VERY high heat (ceramic is good). A screen with a high mesh count takes about 25 minutes, but this method is very cheap and effective. Add a little time with colored mesh or low mesh counts.

Also, here's a site we free plans for a T-shirt printing press: http://www.printingplans.com
eskimojo7 years ago
I don't know if it's been said before, but you can get pre-cut pre-stretched screens in silk and I believe the cheaper alternative is vinyl(I know it's synthetic but I'm not sure) in large art stores. If you live in the Massachusetts area there is one around Brockton called Avon, I believe. That place sells all sorts of stuff.
altomic7 years ago
I made my own screens from used materials. wood/ply from construction site off cuts material from op-shops/thrift stores. the material I choose was womens scarves. (the silky light kind) they are usually made from silk and can be bought for 50cents because they are ugly.
Please us glass, not acrylic to press the positive against the stencil. Acrylics filter much more UV energy than glass, depending on the manufacturer. Us a piece of glass that is smaller than the inner dimension of the frame so the glass is not raised above the surface of the stencil and you will have much better intimate contact with the positive and the stencil.
srhadaham7 years ago
we use the same process at school in our mass production class, except we have much cleaner methods
m1k3y (author)  srhadaham7 years ago
Yeah, this is definitely the quick-and-dirty method. It's lots of fun if you don't mind making a mess, though. :)
Gjdj37 years ago
so, can these be washed normally?
m1k3y (author)  Gjdj37 years ago
Once they're properly heat-set, yeah. The image will eventually fade with repeated washings & dryings, & different inks behave differently. I have some shirts that've lasted several years. Turning the shirt inside out to wash & dry will help it last longer, as will line-drying rather than machine-drying.
aglaranna7 years ago
Should you turn off the main lights in whatever room you're working in? Or does that not tend to make much difference?
m1k3y (author)  aglaranna7 years ago
When I'm first putting the sensitized emulsion on the screen, I try to work in a room with as little light as possible; generally, before you've exposed the screen with your image, you want as little light getting to the emulsion as possible. After exposure & rinsing, it doesn't matter much.
ZBM7 years ago
photo emulation (sorry if i spelled it wrong) what is it and where can i get some or an equilavent? as in what else is it known as? no web distruitors please
m1k3y (author)  ZBM7 years ago
The brand I've usually used is Speedball diazo emulsion, and you should be able to find it at art supply stores.
mmelnick7 years ago
What emulsion should I use? tell me brand and # please - i dont know which one is best
m1k3y (author)  mmelnick7 years ago
I've mostly used the Speedball diazo emulsion, since that's what I can get most easily. You should be able to find it at art-supply stores, or online.
I so want to make this now. +1 rating.
m1k3y (author)  GorillazMiko7 years ago
Thanks! You should try it sometime. The process is a whole lot of fun, even if you're not making dozens of prints.
baudeagle7 years ago
I noticed in step 7 that you are masking the pin holes with tape. Would it be better to use a small paint brush and apply some more sensitized emulsion to each pin hole? You could then re-expose the screen to the light and avoid using the tape. How long do your screens last / how many T shirts can you print from one screen?
m1k3y (author)  baudeagle7 years ago
As aglaranna said, you can buy "screen filler" fluid that's made specifically for covering up pinholes & gaps where ink could get through. I'm still using screens that were made years ago, though those only get printed with maybe once or twice a year. I've also made fifty or a hundred prints from a single screen at a shot; the Speedball kit instructions suggests doing a double coat of emulsion if you want to make very many prints. Essentially, you can keep using the screen until the emulsion starts to get scraped off and your image gets fuzzy around the edges.
screen filler can be used for the holes
uguy7 years ago
Excellent, well done Instructable. Thanks for sharing!
Wild In the Streets!
agdtinman7 years ago
pmac937 years ago
the latin says: "Who will protect the guards themselves?"
Dr Nick pmac937 years ago
More like, "Who will protect us from our protectors?"

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quis_custodiet_ipsos_custodes%3F
Dr Nick Dr Nick7 years ago
a little clearer, maybe: "Who will protect us against our protectors?"
I imagine it's intended to be "Who watches the watchmen?" see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quis_custodiet_ipsos_custodes%3F
pmac93 tinyblob7 years ago
Literally it's "Who will protect/guard the protectors/guards themselves" there is no "us" in the sentence and no prepositions, but different people can translate latin very differently.
Cool! Great Instructable! Thanks Joe
canida7 years ago
Sweet. I want one of those!
me too!
m1k3y (author)  canida7 years ago
So make one. :)