Introduction: DIY Screen-Printing With PhotoEZ or StencilPro: Easy, Fast & Detailed!
You can quickly screen-print your own detailed designs onto a shirt in your home with the PhotoEZ screen-printing kit. This screen-printing option is great because you don't need a screen-printing frame or fancy chemicals; all you need is the kit, tap water and a sunny day!
PhotoEZ is a screen-printing paper with emulsion on one side that allows you to quickly burn your design onto a screen without a lot of equipment or chemicals. You can buy the screens by themselves, but if it's your first time using it, you can buy a kit that includes everything you need. I purchased a kit and was pretty happy with the way it turned out. It's simple, fast, and you can get pretty good detail with this product. Here's a quick tutorial for those of you interested!
If you'd like to see some finished products or view my other tutorials, check out my etsy shop & blog, or follow me on twitter! Also, your constructive feedback on this tutorial is greatly appreciated! Thanks for looking and happy screen-printing! Any questions? Message me!
Step 1: Materials
I purchased the complete PhotoEZ kit off of this website. You can also purchase the StencilPro kit, which is basically the same thing but with a finer, higher quality mesh paper. There is also a basic kit that does not include screen-printing ink for $37.95 here.
The complete kit I bought includes:
- PhotoEZ screen paper x 5
- contact frame
- binder clips x 6
- sheet of foam
- plastic mesh
- squeegie x 3
- transparency x 2
- computer paper (88 brightness/ 20 lb plain paper)
- Speedball screen-printing ink x 6 (6 colors)
- 2 small test pieces of PhotoEZ paper
* Note: Before using a full sheet of the PhotoEZ, make sure you test a small piece first so if you mess up, you don't ruin a full sheet! The kit comes with 2 small test pieces.
Step 2: Create Your Design
You can either create an image on the computer (ie using Adobe Illustrator) and print it onto a transparency or plain printer paper (provided in the kit) or draw your own design using a black Sharpie (any opaque pen) and plain printer paper (also provided in kit). I drew my own design and also printed some text onto printer paper. Make sure that you leave at least 1/2" around the border of your design (I would recommend actually leaving 1" all around, to make it easier when you screen-print). Bear in mind that if you use computer paper, it should be 88 brightness/ 20 lb plain white paper, NOT cardstock (too thick) or premium paper (which has a fine layer of gloss that interferes when exposing the screen).
The advantage of using transparency paper is that it has a shorter exposure time. You can also get finer details with the transparency paper.
Step 3: Place Design on Board
After completing your design, place your design on top of the clear board (provided). If you are using text, lay the design down so that you can read the text. I placed 3 separate designs (large sun, text, small sun) onto the board to maximize the use of my screen.
Step 4: Position Photo EZ Screen
In a dimly lit room, remove the protective plastic from the PhotoEZ screen and place screen (emulsion side down) on top of your design. (A bright room may expose the paper.) Place the brown board (provided) on top of the PhotoEZ screen (black felt side down) and use the provided binder clips to hold all layers together (clear board, design, PhotoEZ screen, board). The metal tabs on the binder clips should be folded back.
Flip layer unit over to check that your design is visible and not covered by the binder clips. Then flip back over so the clear board is on the bottom and place a magazine or another board under the layer unit so that the design isn't getting exposed to light.
Step 5: Expose Screen
Make sure it's sunny outside before you do this step. (It doesn't have to be warm, but it does have to be sunny! Do not do this on a cloudy day or you will not get proper exposure.)
Bring your layer unit outside. Remove magazine from the bottom of layer unit and flip layer unit over so that the clear board is on top. Leave in direct sunlight for appropriate amt of time. (If using printer paper, leave for 5 minutes. For transparency, leave for 1 minute).
*In case you're wondering why there's an extra square of paper in the picture, it's because I added another small design to the board .
Step 6: Soak Screen
After exposing screen for appropriate amount of time, cover the layer unit with magazine again (to avoid over exposure) and bring inside. In a dim room, unclip the unit and place the PhotoEZ screen into a tub of water to soak for at least 10 min.
Step 7: Rinse, Dry and Re-expose Screen
Place PhotoEZ screen on the plastic canvas (provided) and rinse screen (using a soft brush to reveal the design if necessary). Make sure you wash all the emulsion off the parts of the screen that create the design. Hold paper up to light to check that you removed all of it. Blot dry using paper towel.
- Expose PhotoEZ screen to direct sunlight again for 15 minutes with emulsion side up (to complete exposure and set screen for durability). Make sure screen is dry before using.
Step 8: Test Screen
You are now finished making your screen! Now it's time to test it...
If you burned more than one design on your screen, you can cut the designs apart now or just block any areas of the design that you do not want to print at this time by placing masking tape on top of those areas (on the non-emulsion side). Spray the bottom of your screen with temporary adhesive or stencil spray if possible (not included in kit) and then place screen on top of your test paper or fabric. Tape screen to the test material on one or two sides of the screen. Spoon a couple tablespoons of screen-printing ink on to top of screen. Hold top of screen in place with one hand, and using your squeegie at a 45 degree angle, drag squeegie from top to bottom of screen using pressure. Do this 2-3 times. Lift screen to check your print. Once you have made a satisfactory test print...
* Note: Remember how I recommended leaving 1" around the border of your design? This is why: you need to have some room to tape & hold the screen when you apply the ink, so that you don't get ink on your shirt! This screen only has about 1/2" around the border, which made it a little difficult.
Step 9: Screen Print!
Repeat Step 8 using other materials, papers, shirts, etc. to screen print your design anywhere you like! You can print for around 15-20 minutes at a time, making sure the ink doesn't dry in the screen by "flooding" the screen between prints. To flood the screen, drag ink across screen using your squeegie WITHOUT applying pressure. This will distribute ink into the screen holes so the ink doesn't dry up too quickly.To clean up, simply scrape excess ink off screen with squeegie and rinse screen. Let screen dry and reuse later!
* Heat-setting: If you are printing on fabric, you should heat-set your fabric so that your design does not fade on your fabric. Allow your fabric to dry for a day or 2 before heat-setting. To heat-set fabric, you can throw your fabric into the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes, or iron both sides of design for 3-5 minutes per side. Make sure you place a piece of scrap fabric on top of the design so the iron isn't in direct contact with the shirt. You should also place a piece of scrap fabric/paper between the shirt so the ink doesn't bleed through to the other side.
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