You don't have to spend a ton of money on equipment or have a screen printing studio to make some pretty good quality prints.

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

Materials you will need include:

  • 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.

You want your image on the transparency to be super dark because the image won't transfer to the screen if light gets through. If you want subtlety and shading you can do it with dots, like a newspaper image. In this instructable we're keeping it simple and only printing one color. Very fine lines are not recommended with this technique. Start out with something big and bold and then start experimenting.

  • 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.

<p>Can I use a piece of clear plastic instead of a piece of glass to put on top of the transparent picture??</p>
<p>How long does it take for the photo emulsion to dry once you spread it onto a screen?</p>
<p>How do I keep my transparency from smudging? I've tried diff. printer settings, but still smudges. ty</p>
<p>where did you buy your emulsion and activator? when looking for activator do I just type in activator?</p>
Thank u!!!
Best instructable I've seen for screen printing!
Hi Tracy. I really love your stag transparency. Do you by any chance have a digital copy you'd like to send me? : ) ...
I made this by tracing a cover of field and stream with a white-out pen directly on the transparency. Try it.
Hi , Can I use the glass of the picture frame in exposing the screen printing in the sun?
I use the glass from a smaller frame to hold down the transparency to keep the light from getting under it. Be aware that the shadow from the piece of glass can sometimes make a mark on the screen, but you can touch it up.
Where did you put the acetate or transparencies?ate the back or front?..
They should be on the inside of the frame so that the screen can sit flat on the bkacl fabric and no light goes where it ought not go.
How far does the ink stretch? How many shirts can I print with 16 oz of ink and a medium sized design? (roughly)
I don't know... I don't really do stuff in volume. Sorry!
Hi there <br> <br>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? <br> <br>Thanks!
Depends on the ink you use, but a hot iron is enough for regular flat prints. Be sure to put a piece of paper between the print and the iron. <br> <br>Some fancier puffy inks require a heat gun or baking. These inks are kind of nasty and offgas like mad. I wouldn't use them at home.
From: Carl Franklin Hendershot III
hi! i just wanted to let you know that because i like this instructable so much, i have added it to my silkscreen guide... <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/silkscreen-printing-easy-and-cheap/" rel="nofollow">http://www.instructables.com/id/silkscreen-printing-easy-and-cheap/</a><br> <br> thanks for sharing your ideas!
www.wickedprintingstuff.com is a pretty good place for all stuff screen printy! Great post by the way, going to have a go at this myself! I've not long graduated in textile design and now I have found that I have no equipment to print with!!
Could I print this design onto a shirt using this technique?
if you wanted to match that design, you'd need to convert it to line art first. you could do that yourself by converting it into a greyscale image in your computer with whatever software you can find to do that. basically, you just turn all of your shades of grey into dots like photos in a newspaper. i don't know how many dots per inch would be the smallest you could use, but i'd bet you wouldn't want to go any higher than 85dpi as inks are going to be thicker than with traditional printing. <br> <br>you could also just have a shop do it for you by burning your screens, that'd be more expensive, but you'd be sure to get your screens right the first time. <br> <br>i'd suggest masking the background out in your pic too unless you wanted it to have a rectangular frame. it would look classier with just your character and the chair printed to my eyes anyways and less like something you bought at a state fair. <br> <br>if you only want 1 tee, you could always just send your art to a shop that does custom work. i've found the quality of the printing isn't as good then. i think those shops use an ink jet process. bright colors like golds can have red &amp; yellow blotches making me think the colors are directly mixed on the tee.
I love how detailed the instructions are! We're thinking about going to a <a href="http://www.proadco.com" rel="nofollow">screen printing portland oregon</a> business. This was a great post! Thanks Again!
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 -?
I looked up other ways to screen print that may be more cost effective when first starting out. Here's one way to make your own screen for printing without having to buy a bunch of stuff and go through the hard work of using light to create a silkscreen. <br>First off, go to the dollar store and get a wooden picture frame or try walmart for the frame or see if they have embroidery hoops that are the correct size and are cheap. Then all you need is ink or fabric paint, sizzlers or razor blade to cut the design, paper, screen, tape, and a squeegie tool of some sort and something to print onto (T-shirt or whatever). http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/may/11/how-to-screen-print-tshirts-at-home
I love the idea of using curtains... this sounds like a great idea!
i want video tutorial about How mix Sodium dycromat &amp; glue for Screenprint.<br>
Should I get the Speedball screen filler or screen drawing fluid for the photo emulsion?<br>Thanks-- this sounds so cool!<br>Any other website that sells photo emulsion?
fantastic. Thank you for that information - I wanted to do some screen printing but thought it would be too expensive - I cant wait to give it a go now! <br>
Didnt found the emulsion like &quot;Diazo Photo Emulsion&quot;. But found some kinda orange crystalline material. The shopkeeper told me that it is the stuff that screenprinter guyz asks for. But the shopkeeper guy dont know which chemical to mix the crystalline material with to prepare the emulsion. Dont wanna mess myself with mixing the chemicals....<br>Can somebody please post what kind of chemicals are used for making the photo emulsion !!<br>
Yesterday I found out that the crystalline material was dichromate. Now what another chemical to mix with the dichromate....any Idea...??
miss tracy i have one little problem we dont have emulsion in our country and its very expensive to import things rather we have some thing called alco (I hope i am spelling it right) and the sensitizer. the alco is a white paste (like white glue) the sensitizer an orangish sort of liquid. is it the same thing that u have described here ?
sa murtuza.. if u ur living in karachi pakistan then i can suggest u some places for all the material...
yeah tht wud be awsum where is it?
it may be interesting to know that the "emulsion" is white glue with a dye (that´s why it may be green or blue) and the sensitizer is potassium dichromate (wash your hands after using, toxic). It is the same process as in the old photographic method with dichromate and gum, but it uses the glue to close the screen.
The emulsion is just regular white glue with dye? and the sensitizer is just a potassium dichromate solution? Is there anything else to this? It seems like this should be easy enough to make on my own. Luckily I'm a chemistry teacher so I have the ability to order K2Cr2O7 easily enough.
i dont know how this guys were talking about.. can you explain to me what is the emulsion and its use,, and the synthesizer???
do you have to mix the potassium dichromate with water? also, what kind of glue do you use?
the glue is just regular white glue. You can prepare a solution of the dichromate in water. Since the glue is water based, you can mix it with the dichromate solution.
yes! I am a chemistry teacher too. I have done it with white glue and dichromate many times. The dichromate crosslinks the polymeric chains of the glue, making it insoluble. Cool project to work with the students, and they get to choose the design they want to put on the t-shirt.
What ratio of glue to sensitizer works best?
they say to use 9 parts of glue to 1 of the sensitizer. I have never determined the concentration of the dichromate in the sensitizer, but if you use the store bought solution, that is the ratio.

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