I taught some friends how to reuse old picture frames and curtains to make screens, burn them in the sun, and clean them with a garden hose. While we were at it we took some pictures so we could share the lesson with you.
Step 1: Gather up Your Materials
- The image you want to use. The best is to have your image photocopied onto a transparency at maximum darkness. You can also paint or draw with white out on transparent plastic (cellophane wrap or clear packaging from toys work). Another option is to make a cut-out with dark-colored construction paper or to lay some flat object (pieces of lace are nice) on the screen. Objects that aren't flat (skeleton keys, for example) can also work, but you have to move the screen around in that case to avoid a shadow.
- Wooden picture frames which are completely flat on the front surface. You can find these in all kinds of sizes at the Goodwill or Salvation Army or at garage sales for about a dollar each. You will also be using the pieces of glass that come in the frames. You will need a piece of glass from a frame smaller than the frame you use to make your screen.
- An old, gauzy curtain. Color doesn't matter, but it does need to be in reasonably good condition. It can't have too many holes. The more tightly woven the curtain, the more fine your print can be, but you can get pretty nice results with any gauzy old thing. I keep my eye open for these at thrift stores and yard sales.
- A piece of black or dark-colored fabric big enough to put the frame on.
- A staple gun and staples. Don't get staples that are too long or they'll poke out through the frame. Even that isn't such a big deal, but it's preferable to not have sharp little metal points sticking out along the inside of your screen.
- Photosensitive goo and activator. Speedball is the most common brand you will find for this at the art store. You need the emulsion and the activator and they come in two different bottles which you have to mix together. Don't bother with the screen cleaner. If you want to reunse the same screen for other designs, you can get screen cleaner.
- I recommend buying an art squeegie specially for screen printing. You can get along without one, but it's a lot easier to print with this tool than to do it with a hunk of cardboard. But in a pinch, the hunk of cardboard will work, too. The lip of a box works best because it has a good straight edge and is rigid yet flexible.
- Sceen Printing ink. You can get this at the art supplies store. I have also printed on wood with acrylic paint and gotten good results.
- Masking tape
- Old cereal boxes or similar kinds of cardboard scrap. You'll want to have a little supply of pieces of thin cardboard around. They are super useful for all kinds of things, like scraping ink off sreens and putting it back in the jar.
- Old newspaper to protect the surfaces you're working on
- If you are printing t-shirts you'll need paper to put inside the shirt when you print so that the ink doesn't bleed through the side you're printing on all the way through to the other side. I use regular printer paper for this, but old newspaper would work fine.
- A garden hose. It's best to have an attachment on the hose that shoots the water out with some pressure, but you can get away with not having one. I have used the scratchy side of a kitchen sponge to help me get the emulsion off while spraying the screen with the hose. It damages the screen a little, but it works. Just rubbing with your hand even helps.
- An old rag for spills
- Clothes you don't care about. You're going to mess up your clothes.
- A garden hose, the more pressure the better, but you can by without an attachment if you have to.