Step 6: Print!

Now that you've got a screen you are ready to print.

1. Mask the edges. The main weakness of these home screens is the edges. It's a good idea to put some masking tape along the edges of the screen before you start printing so you don't get any sloppy leaks off the sides.

2. Place your fabric on some papers to protect the surface underneath. If you're doing a t-shirt, put a piece of paper inside the shirt.

3. Put the screen down on your fabric, put some printing ink along the top of the screen, and pull it over the image with your art squeegie. If you can't afford a squeegie, use a piece of cardboard.

Be very careful not to let the screen move while you are printing. Hold it down firmly. You absolutely have to print on a good flat surface or you will get terrible results.

4. Lift the screen and admire your work. You rule!

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stunted1 year ago
Hi there

I loved this no nonsense guide, thank you! I did this a long while back and have a load of ideas I want to do. Question is, should the last step be followed by some sort of heat treatment to make certain the screen print remains good, if so how?

stinastar2 years ago
I'm an art teacher with teenagers with no $$ available to us in this economy. I wonder if you know of a cheap way to make a class set of frames?Also approximately how long does it take for the screen to be out in the sunshine? 10 min, 10 hours -?
bhusgen3 years ago
Wow, this is great! I have been wanting to make tags for items that I sell, and I think that I'm going to try and pull this off---way less money than having them made, and I love to try new things!!!! Thanks sooooo much for the info and tips! Can't wait to try and convince my husband to let me do this!!
Ms Tracy, thank you for this very detailed instructable!!! Every step went beautifully.  I bought the Speedball emulsion kit, and they suggest using a 150 watt lightbulb with a pie tin around it (if you buy a worklamp, you don't need the pie tin) set up 12" above the screen for 45 minutes.  Since it's been raining all day here, I tried that and it worked perfectly.  Thanks so much!
ok, i've been working on some screen printing this weekend and having alot more trouble than initially anticipated

the first time i think i just used too much emulsion, and I was trying to use a pretty junkie little flourescant light. The whole process was a flop.

this last time went to wal mart and got me one of those clip in lights with the reflector, and a 100 watt bulb. the print is only about 4" x 6" so I figured it that would be good enough. I need a piece of glass I now realize, cause the center was almost non exsistant after about an hour, but what really confused me is that when I went to wash it all off, the design remianed and the stuff around it was gone? what the crap? any advice?
garzat5 years ago
Hi, im a little lost. I think that I am missing a step. How do you get the image you want onto the screen?
Oabbey8 years ago
im so confused. if you're spreading paint on the whole square of fabric, how does just the design show up?
tracy_the_astonishing (author)  Oabbey8 years ago
Hi Oabbey. The stuff you spread on the screen is not paint. It's photo-sensitive emulsion which you can buy at the art supply store. You need the emulsion AND the activator. This is a goo which is hardens when light hits it. When you put your drawing, photocopied onto a piece of clear plastic, onto the screen which is coated in dry goo, the photocopy protects parts of the screen from being hit by light. The rest of the goo hardens under the light and the parts that were covered wash out. If you follow the instructions exactly and read everything very carefully, you should be able to get some results. It might take some trial and error. Don't get discouraged if your first attempts don't turn out exactly how you want them to.
yeah, i think Oabbey might have been confused about which part gets rinsed off, the "field" or the photo. i always have to remind myself of that when i'm reading. so it's kinda like creating your own stencil on a screen instead of mylar. the "field" becomes the solid part that the paint can't get through and the photo is the part where the emulsion gets rinsed away and is the "hole" that the paint eventuall goes through. awesome step-by-step btw.
Hi there. this is great! I have one question though. what would be the best way to try and do a multicoloured print? i also did this a long time ago at college, using their kit, but i'd like some ideas on matching up colours, or even overprinting. i'm geussing perhaps some registration marks or something would help, though obviously the point here is that we're trying to do this simply? anyone tried doing, say, 2 colours? A very handy, as they say in these parts, instructable. Cheers
I've done mulit-color prints before without registration marks, just lining things up by looking through the screen. You can put more than one layer on one screen, if they'll fit. You have to just cover the one that you aren't printing with masking tape. You can make a design stand out more by just printing it first in white and then printing your color on top of the white layer. I think that whether or not you need registration marks really depends on how complicated your design is and how important to you it is for your design to be perfectly aligned.
Hey - love your tutorial! We're doing some thermalfax printing in my textiles class and for practice we printed on sturdy paper (think file folder paper) then used an exacto knife and cut out different parts of our design so we could later print the pieces of the design we cut out of the paper (the cut paper we called masks). I've seen the masking tape way of doing it and that just looks like it's very complicated and wasteful of masking tape. I love using masks because you can also print through a blank screen and the cut out mask to create a background in the same shape without detail. Thanks again for your tutorial! thought I would add what I know
trym3006 years ago
love this but i can't do it ive got a photo emulsion only and got NO SENSITIZER & ACTIVATOR got any alternatives on this...
tracy_the_astonishing (author)  trym3006 years ago
Hi again, I'm putting the same reply here...

You have to get the activator. Normally the goo is blue or red and then turns green or orance when you put in the yellow activator. I wonder if your white goo might be screen filler or something like that. What does it say on the jug?

You can buy screenprinting supplies online if you don't have a good art supplies store near you.

Here I found photo emulsion

and sensitizer

I'm sure there are oodles of online stores for supplies.
LOVE this!!!! Thanks for posting it!
edwardian7 years ago
Any advice please! Do I really have to go out and get some Acrylic Inks to print directly on to thick plain card or can I use Acrylic Paint I have in tubes to make up my colours?. A 250 ml container of Acrylic Printing Medium is included in a Screen Printing Kit I bought today, which was being sold off at local craft shop because it had a slight problem with the frame (which I have already sorted out) Some Screen Drawing Fluid and Removable screen block is also with this set. I haven't had chance yet to start printing yet but hope to start a a small project which requires printing a few different size blocks of colour onto thick plain white card. I thought asking this question to the forum might save me wasting some time and materials when I get chance to make a start next week. Thanks in advance for any replies. Edwardian. England
You can definitely use acrylic paint on paper. I've used acrylic paint on wood, also. Works fine. You need the paint to be a bit thick, or it'll smoodge around the edges of your image.

You might also enjoy experimenting with stencils. I keep meaning to make an instructable for stencil printing, but I never have time for anything!

You can see something I just made with only stencils here:
Stencil Print on My Sweatshirt

I just cut the shapes I need out of transparency paper, lay it on the thing I need to print on, and squeegie some ink over it. Regular paper also works if you only need a few prints. I like to use plastic so it can be washed and reused.
lite17 years ago
this very cool, here's my question-I want to silk screen an amplifier panel with numbers around the dials, text like 'bass' , 'treble' etc about 1/8" high, do you think I can get the resolution clear enough where all lettering will be sharp? thanks, any info would be appreciated
tracy_the_astonishing (author)  lite17 years ago
The hard part is going to be getting the screen onto the am close enough to the dial. The resolution should be clear enough. Use a nice clear font sans serif. Maybe you should print onto something you can then glue onto the amp. Experiment!
cam_aro_man7 years ago
when i used to screen print i found a product at wall-mart called textial medium. you just mixed it with acrilic paint and had some ink. because i had acrilic paint for other crafts i then had a plethera of collors to choose from. (make shure you heat set your ink though, use an iron with a scrap of fabric between the iron and the ink)
This is a really great idea! I had not really thought about using pic frames for frames for screenprinting. I have been missing out and spending way more than I needed to for "fun" projects!!!
um, i know this might be a stupid question, but can you re-use the same screen with a different image? Like, if you screenprinted a rose, and later, you want to screenprint a shoe, would you be able to wash off the hardened, burnt photo emulsion gunk? And if you use glue instead like some people do, do you know if you can wash that off? sorry, one more question, could you use pantyhose or tights instead of an old curtain or something? cause it's sheer, so i don't know if that would be the same as a slightly loose woven curtain. thank you!
You can remove the photo emulsion from the screen with special stuff you get in the same aisle of the art store as the emulsion and activator. Often you'll get it in a kit. I don't try to clean the screens. If I bought expensive screens, maybe I would. I just keep the screens in a pile in the house. I have heard that pantyhose works great, but haven't tried it myself.
jnollsch7 years ago
So I caved and bought a silk screen from Dick Blick, I guess I'm just a sucker for super well stocked art stores. Anyway, I was wondering if you're supposed to be able to get all of the ink of after each use, or if it's ok for some remnants of past designs to be stained onto the screen. Any thoughts Tracy?
tracy_the_astonishing (author)  jnollsch7 years ago
I'm not picturing exactly what you mean. If you're using the screen and stencils, then yes, totally normal for the ink to stain the fabric. As long as you don't let the ink dry on there or something--no problem.
Yep, that's exactly what I mean, thanks.
joonatan157 years ago
Instead of sunlight, I got two worklights at home that I expose my screens with. Exposure takes about 9 minuntes. The worklights cost about $10 each at Lowes. You just have to remove the uv-glass before you use them. If you want a cheap squeegee, utility floor cleaning squeegees are almost identical. they come wide and you can saw it down to the size you need. Easy registration for flat printing is to use a piece of transparency. First tape one side of transparency down. Then print on it and lift the screen up. You can position your piece of fabric or paper under the transparency where you want to print. Then flip the transparency out of the way and youre ready to print. This works good enough for me for multicolor prints. Hope that helps.
Thankyou SO much for this tutorial!!! Would love to see one on printing with a paper/plastic/cardboard cut-out stencil too.
hi there... just got some few questions, im always having a bad time puting an ink on my shirt.. i am using a rubberized ink but once i printed it on shirt, i always get a thin coat which looks so badly.. i tried to coat the ink several times before i lift the screen but still i get a thin coat as a result.. just wondering what could be the problem.. hope you guys can help... thanks!!
if your screen it a high thread count, when you pull your squeegie pull one time pressing hard, this will give you a thin coat, and then pull another lightly so that you have a solid layer of ink all the way across your screen and lift without pulling again. This should give you a more pronounced coating. - the key is the light pull, or less thead count silk.
It sounds to me like you may be using the wrong screen. If your screen fabric is too tightly woven, it may not let enough ink through. This is generally not a problem if your screen is made of an old curtain, as the weave will not be too tight. That's the only thing I can think of.
kilrkats8 years ago
How do you dry the ink now? I love the idea. I've been in the apparel industry for about 15 years but it's always nice to print things from the home and not make that huge investment in equipment. If your familiar with discharge ink that's also a really neat process to do with one color designs, but the ink doesn't react unless you apply heat at 350 degrees. Rob
tracy_the_astonishing (author)  kilrkats8 years ago
The ink I used can be set with a hot iron once it's dry to the touch. Discharge ink is rad. You need one of those super hot paint-remover blowgusn for them. You can get one at any hardware store and they aren't that expensive.
I've used water soluble textile inks and I have a heat gun.... Where can I get discharge inks? A google search was not terribly helpful. Thanks!
tracy_the_astonishing (author)  valree8 years ago
Do you have a good art supply store where you live? I don't have much experience with buying supplies online. The Speedball website should have everything you need