Step 2: Build Your Screen

Picture of Build Your Screen

1. Take apart the picture frames. Remove all the little metal bits and put the glass aside. You will need a piece of glass from a frame smaller than the one you are using for your screen. Watch out for the edges of the glass. Don't cut yourself.

2. Cut a piece of the curtain rather larger than you need to cover the front of the picture frame and wrap around the edges. You are going to stretch the curtain over the frame just like stretching a canvas for painting. It helps to keep an edge, so that you have a straight line to go by.

3. Stretch the fabric over the front of the frame and staple it into Place. Try to keep the fabric as straight as possible. If you staple it on diagonally, with the grain of the fabric too far off from the square of the frame, you will run into trouble later. You don't have to be too anal about it, just try to put it on straight.

Staple the fabric onto the sides of the picture frame fairly close to the front edge. Pull it hard to make it as taut as possible.

I recommend putting a couple staples on one end, then a couple on another end, then on one side, and then another, and keep going round and round, pulling all the time.

4. Cut the excess fabric off around the sides of the frame. Don't cut too close to the staples or the fabric will fray and come loose.

That's it. Now you have a screen for printing

cladyire3 years ago
Hi , Can I use the glass of the picture frame in exposing the screen printing in the sun?
CrystalDyes4 years ago
Cotton doesn't release dye, paint or ink very well. What you need is a 100% polyester sheer curtain to give a better print since it doesn't absorb the printing material. Real silkscreen mesh is made from the 100% poly for the same reason. I make my own screens and use curtains that I buy in a thriftstore for next to nothing. I do find that I need to tug on them to make sure they haven't been sun-rotted. Sometimes, I can even find a new package of sheers that someone donated. I've given myself whiplash trying to grab them and get them into my cart before anyone else can! I use alot of picture frames myself if the front is flat wood like some of the frames from Ikea. The other frame material I use is artist's stretcher bars. Sometimes I fine them in yard sales/thrift shops with a canvas painting attached. The canvas is easily removed, the bars come apart for polyurethane-ing and then having the fabric stretched on it. For what I do, the fabric does not have to be as tight as it would for a professional silk screen shop.

I learned how to make these from Kerr Grabowski who is an art quilter and teaches classes on Deconstructed Screen Printing with thickened dyes.
tracy_the_astonishing (author) 8 years ago
I just did an experiment with a more loosely-woven cotton curtain and it didn't turn out very well. The curtain was white and I suspect it may have suffered some bleaching in its former life, which weakens fabric pretty dramatically. I've also got a screen made from a regular cotton bedsheet, but I haven't tried printing it yet. It soaked up a lot more emulsion than the screens pictured in this how-to. So far in my experience, the nylon curtain was best.
coerul--thanks for the extra stretching tips. Update on the cotton frame experiment: ugh! The fabric is super thirsty and sucks up the ink without letting enough through. Also, the cotton sheds fibers and doesn't make a good, flat image.
Would polyester work? I'm having no luck finding a nylon fabric...
I think so.
jfkendall says: I'm just getting into this but I know a guy who uses polyester and swears by it. His general thoughts were that man made fibers, nylon, polyester, etc. were the way to go in that natural fibers degraded quickly. I'm going to try it...
I went to the fabric store and bought "chiffon" it worked great I don't know what it's made of but it is not cotton and it works really good
chiffon can be silk or polyester.
Guys, this is a GREAT way to start with screen printing! Next step up, you can buy just nylon mesh from screen printing suppliers. Very tough and durable. Not cheap but not all that expensive either. Nice work Tracy!
jfkendall6 years ago
I did a little research on the history of screen printing and discovered that it evolved from the Chinese using sort of a web of fibers, usually silk, to help do away with the bridge pieces in traditional stencil work. This suggests that the fibers involved have to be resistant to absorbing liquid and to be held together with something more than short fiber to fiber twisting. Cotton's natural plant fibers are short enought to unravel in the ink and the use of the squeege. Modern fibers, like monofilament, steel mesh, etc. are held together by molecular bonds and resist the absorbtion of most liquids. I don't know what Chiffon is either but I would wager it has those same characteristics. I would also imagine that trying to screen print with cotton or wool would be messy in that the fibers would retain extra ink, etch. Cleaning would also be tedious.This is what I've come to believe so far. I'm also looking for a screen material that is cheap and stretches well. I'm such a novice!
rissama6 years ago
I have bought silk for silkscreens in bulk at art supply stores such as Wallacks or Lumis. This is a pretty cheap option which has great results!
coerul7 years ago
The best way to staple these screens is exactly as you would staple a canvas to a frame. Start in the middle of each side. Staple one time in the middle of one side, then the same for the opposite side, then the other two. Then keep going around pulling and stapling until it's taut like a drum. :3 Never staple one side entirely first. The sides won't be as tight, and so the grain could be strange. Sometimes the fabric will look like it's not flat. It's flat enough for this, but if you're really worried about it you can keep pulling at the spaces between the staples and stapling until you feel it's done.
rebeccariot8 years ago
Ive used pantyhose, but never with emulsion only painting out my design with glue and using it as a stencil. it worked okay. i might try it with this.