Introduction: The True Diyers Screen Printing

Picture of The True Diyers Screen Printing

I'll show all you cheap people how to screen print. I build or make %99 of my stuff. This is probably the cheapest way of doing screen printing. Only thing is, is that you will have to want to make many screens for it to pay off. But I've made many screens and truly love making people shirts, and even more.... saving money.

Step 1: The Screens

Picture of The Screens

the screen frames are pretty easy from scratch, I use 3/4 inch wood (lying around, so it doesn't truely cost me anything) and cut 1- 1 1/2" strips. I then make 45 degree cuts on the corners. My screen's dimensions are usually 18" X 17" for a regular design but for full shirt designs I use 21" X 18". but after the 45degree cuts have been done they should all set flesh with each other. now take out your pressurized staple gun and shoot each corner this should hold the frame together. Now its time to stretch your fabric.

Step 2: Stretching the Fabric

Picture of Stretching the Fabric

now its time to do the most annoying part of screen printing... stretching the fabric. if anyone has performed either stretching a canvas or made a projector screen will be familiar with this process. To start out you will need the fabric to stretch. I buy mine at my local wal-mart the fabric needed to do this is called a "mesh" fabric, if your not %100 on fabrics ask a employee they are sure to help you out. most of the time I buy my fabric for $2 a yard so it ends out being pretty cheap. Now its time for the sketching of your newly purchased fabric, I start out with 1 staple on each side and progressively add 2 to each side making sure that I tug on the fabric as I go to each opposing side. after a while and a few hundred staples I finally finish my screen.


Picture of WARNING: HARMFUL  CHEMICALS Aka Phto Emustion

Step One: make a sensitizing solution
Use rubber gloves, apron, and eye protection.
This is toxic and can penetrate skin.
14 grams of Potassium Dichromate (from ceramic chemical suppliers)
4 fluid ounces of water.This can be stored in a dark glass bottle in a dark place for several months. I bought my potassium from ebay, 1lb for $20 (including shipping) this proves beneficial if your doing A LOT of screen printing cause 1lb = 543 grams. Elmer's glue is like $.25 each so I stocked up.

Step Two: make a photo sensitive emulsion
Use rubber gloves.
This is toxic and can penetrate skin.
10 parts Elmer's Glue (by volume)
2 parts sensitizing solution
mix it
Keeps in total dark for a day or so. Work in dim light.
Use a small piece of mat board to spread the glue thinly across the fabric to close the mesh with glue as thin as possible to stop up the fabric. Work from both sides to spread it thinly.

Dry in a dark closet.

Step 4: The Design

Picture of The Design

Some tutorials will tell you to scan in art and then print them onto a transparency, this is a good way to do it. But me being my cheap self use translucent paper ( given to me from my art teacher at school so no expense there) and draw on them or trace to make my design. I use a combination of permanent sharpies to make my designs. but if you have a large or intricate designs I would stick with the transparencies.

Step 5: Exposing Your Screen

Picture of Exposing Your Screen

I have a reflector I bought from lowes for $8, and has proven to be worth it. since this is homemade emulsion tests will need to be done as far as exposing time goes, I know my 18" X 17" take 15 - 20 min. to expose. if you happen to try this please post your personal times and heights etc. I tape my designs down on one side. This prevents from the design moving around and since there's only one it works as a hinge and allows you to see the difference in colors from the exposed to the non exposed parts of the screen. Also if the screen is not ready the tape allows you to place it back down with out any movement of the design. ( hence referring to it like a hinge)

Step 6: Water Time

Use a garden hose or power washer to spray the entire surface of the screen with water. At first, do this with low pressure from a distance. Within 2 minutes the screen will start to open up and the positive areas will start washing away. Move closer if necessary, increasing the pressure of the hose and focusing it on any areas that do not seem to be washing away. Sorry for no pictures.

Step 7: Final Step... Printing

Picture of Final Step... Printing

the final step is printing. I use nothing but a car squeegee used for cars, found at walmart for $1.80 and works just as well as the expensive squeegees people will say you "need" place a strip of ink above the design, burnt into the screen. then with little force pull the ink towards you. then go back up top and use a little more force then carefully pull the screen off the fabric. This should now reveal your new DIY cheap screen printing.

Step 8: Word to the Wise

Picture of Word to the Wise

well over the last few weeks i came to the result that a cheap product called vellum (found at staples) works the best for burning your screens. also if you would like to "reclaim" your screens, all that is required is bleach. Lightly apply it to the ruined/ unwanted screen, let it set and them spray it with the hose.


bilgrami (author)2017-12-03

has anyone tried using acrylic paste instead of elmer glue, once acrylic solidifies it last a very long time, whereas water based glue would deteriorate with multiple washing, adding di chromates in acrylic seems a good option to make emulsion, usually available for around $ 1.40 per Kg, and can last 50 to 60 screens minimum, let me have your take on this thanx.

zubair mehmood (author)2013-06-20

can i use common silk fabric find on cloth shop because i am in Pakistan and didn't find any mash fabric plz help me thanks

If you still need it, please contact 03214111118

bilgrami (author)Irfanasif12017-12-03

irfan are u in karachi ?? where can i get stuff locally the material etc. plz reply Thanx.

Sheer curtains work great. I even used polyester sheer fabric as a screen...was amazed at how good it worked.

I have found that the mesh count is very important if making intricate designs..but for my purpose which is soccer team shirts with big boss letters i went to local metal worker, or home depot, and purchase metalic screens. They are easier to maintain and literally pay for themselves. But they are expensive, unless your like me who has friends with very thin sheet metal laying around, and alot of patience. I hand "meshed" my first metallic screen. I have not use emulsion in almost a year. With a a cricut or vinyl cutter, die cutting machine, i draw up design on computer, sometimes by hand if it's simple, and print out the designon non-wax, or the non-shiny side of freezer paper. I get spray glue spray waxy side, this helps keep in place, i get iron and on jighest seting iron the freezer paper to my screen. Waxy side becomes sticky and remains in place. Unless you laminate it, its a sturdy enough stencil for 20 shirts. If your only doing one shirt, then you can by pass the screen all together and iron the stencil directly unto clothing. Be careful upon removing stencil. Sounds like a lot of work, and the meshing my own screen was exhausting, everything else usually takes me about 10-20 minutes to prep station for shirts.Also build my screen press.

nfarrow (author)zubair mehmood2014-08-05

Zubair, It would depend on what kind of ink you are using such as oil base or water base. Most of the time Polyester screens are for water base ink. I would say if you use oil base ink you will have to use some thinner to clean your screens. but having a real silk screen would be very cool and most people would rather have the real deal. Just watch out for the thread count.

zubair mehmood (author)nfarrow2014-08-06

thanks nfarrow

CarlosR181 (author)2016-11-11

After mixing the sensitizing solution with the glue and put it on the mesh do i let it dry before exposing it to light? or do i need to expose it immediately after applying it?

CarlosR181 (author)CarlosR1812016-11-11

nevermind i found the answer.

RuthÉ13 (author)CarlosR1812016-11-21

...and what was the answer (please share)?

CarlosR181 (author)RuthÉ132016-11-23

Last sentence in step three, "dry in a dark closet."

ars025 (author)2016-08-09

complete material of screen printing, dyes and their intermediates

contact 0321 326 11 24

Irfanasif1 (author)2015-05-31

If anyone interested in to buy mash polyster for screen printing (only yellow color) in Pakistan, please do contact 03214111118.Thanks.

sarah.fukami (author)2014-11-12

a great way to create transparencies for burning is to print the black and white image on regular computer paper, then brush the paper with veggie oil until it is soaked in. this is especially easy because you can get large-scale copies from kinko's for cheap instead of having to tile separate pieces together. after it dries, it has the exact same transparency as vellum and works great. i've also found that opaque pens (used for film) block a lot more light than sharpies. they are more expensive, though.

FlipsideLoko (author)2014-10-18


coask8b (author)2009-03-02

another way i have used in the past is to stretch mesh-fabric in an embroidery hoop, instead of going thru the process of making a screen.

slimguy379 (author)coask8b2009-03-02

yeah but thes are smaller and suck when applying the emulsion

FlipsideLoko (author)slimguy3792014-10-18

True, unless you diy a loop out of bamboo...

griz4705 (author)2009-03-11

Where can we get these designs?

FlipsideLoko (author)griz47052014-10-18

Check out has downloadable fonts for free, as long as you don't use to sell...even then a small donation is requested and its good to go.

slimguy379 (author)griz47052009-03-13

google them man, the internet is a great source. however i am an artist and a few here are my own designs... so

kmiller8 (author)2010-03-31

Would the safer Ammonium Dichromate work instead of Potassium Dichromate?

FlipsideLoko (author)kmiller82014-10-18

That's what i use

dannown (author)2009-04-02

I can't find a supplier of Potassium Dichromate. Any advice?

FlipsideLoko (author)dannown2014-10-18

Ebay sells it, and any one who does chrome work should have done. Also Ammonium Dichromate works too.

dannown (author)dannown2009-04-03

checking this new-fangled Internet, i bought a pound of it, to be mailed to me, for $16 shipping included.

awsmanna (author)dannown2009-04-02

I did a google search for it in the shopping section and came up with several places including ebay and "the science company." Looks like a pound on e-bay is about $20.

dannown (author)awsmanna2009-04-03

*ahem* well done, awsmanna. to self:next time, use the Internet to find the product or services i need. thanks :-D

slimguy379 (author)dannown2009-04-03

yeah i got mine from ebay, i recommend finding the safety tips when working with this chemical. hope you have fun with it

diss0nance (author)2009-04-09

I found potassium at a local store that sells pigments and supplies for woodworking ( 1/8 lb is $5.65 which is enough for me for now, I don't really need a whole pound.

since I don't have a scale I am using cooking conversions to figure out how much potassium to mix with water and so on... so assuming the potassium has about the density of salt or sugar, I'm going to mix 1Tablespoon (level not heaping) of potassium with 4 oz of water. (

and because one bottle of elmers glue is 4 oz, I'm going to mix slightly less than 1 oz (should be .8 oz) of the potassium/water solution with two bottles of glue.

that should be enough to try with a few screens... if it doesnt work I havent wasted too much money and can adjust the emulsion stronger/weaker next round.

thanks for the great tutorial and info about this potassium mixture... I've been doing screen printing for about 6 years and the emulsion bit has always been an obstacle. and I've read tons of different diy/cheap tutorials and info online and this is the first time anyone has mentioned making your own emulsion like this.


slimguy379 (author)diss0nance2009-04-10

thanks guy appreciate the words of encouragement, your welcome, and good uck post some pics when your done or complete either a screen or shirt

diss0nance (author)slimguy3792009-04-22

ok my first batch of emulsion didnt work out... I bought cheap white school glue from the dollar store, and some of it was lumpy so didnt mix right - was washing out of the screen too easily. so then I got some Elmers glue (only to be sure of the quality - it was the same price anyhow) I mixed 1 1/2 tsp of potassium with 1/4 cup water... then added 1 1/4 cup of glue. this was enough to coat 6 16"x20" screens. I burned them at about 12" with a 200w bulb for 30 minutes. 20 minutes wasnt long enough. Washing out the screens is a bit tricky, too much pressure and it's game over. eventually found the right pressure and got a couple perfect screens. the only sad part of this glue based emulsion though is that it gets sticky when I rinse out the ink after a run, and then I have to wait half an hour for the emulsion to dry again.

Dimitrios (author)diss0nance2009-12-08

How about using woodglue from Ace. They have the waterproof one.

cynreams (author)Dimitrios2010-05-11

Would this actually work?  The water-proof glue?  I'm going to try to make this myself.  SPEEDBALL is really expensive!

FlipsideLoko (author)cynreams2014-10-18

I made my own glue out of silicone...haven't found out some one else was already listening the idea, but it was my answer to mod podge since h2o is its only weakness. Never thought about using to make emulsion..let me go back to let you know if it actually works.

FlipsideLoko (author)diss0nance2014-10-18

Did you use just potassium, or was it potassium dichromate. I myelf followed the exact instructions on here, but me being the ever experimenter used ammonium just turned red instead of yellow. But works same as emulsion at store.

GasherMan (author)2010-05-20


Check this out . Potassium dichromate 

Martin and Pleasance Hayfever Relief - Oral Spray

Product Description

- 25ml oral spray

This homoeopathic medicine has been prepared by traditional methods for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with: 
- Itchy eyes and nose 
- Antihistamine reaction 
- Runny eyes and nose 
- Sneezing 
- Catarrh (mucus blockage or discharge often caused by swelling of mucous membranes and by excess mucus)

Potassium dichromate (Kali bich) 12X
Schoenocaulon officinale (Sabadila) 6X
Potassium Sulfate (Kali sulph) 6X
Sodium chloride (Nat mur) 6X
Phleum pratense 12X
Euphrasis officinalis 6X
Allium cepa 6X
Histamine dihydrochloride 60X

diss0nance (author)GasherMan2010-06-10

!! holy cow... that can't be good for ya

FlipsideLoko (author)diss0nance2014-10-18

Potassium dic

Potassium dichromate is a chromium salt or chromate and is a common metal making up a significant part of the earth's crust. Chromium and chromates occur naturally in our environment, including soil and water. They are also commonly found in products made of chrome and stainless steel, cement and leather.

chaseracer17 (author)2010-09-01

Potassium Dichromate is it as dependable as speedball emulsion or other manufacturers, I do not mind the hazards that are involved to save some money.. Although the end results is what I am more concerned on..

It works

nhito_19 (author)2011-02-14

ahhmmm... sir gregr can i use a regular bond paper? to transfer the image to silk screen already with emulsion... right? im a firstimer only for this action thats why i want to get a lot of tips...^_^

FlipsideLoko (author)nhito_192014-10-18

Before you go out and buy emulsion, learn to make it yourself and practice using the emulsion style. This process can get frustrating, and expensive. But worth it. If your doing it to make extra cash, use either freezer paper by printing design on non waxy side , cut it out, and iron to screen, use a heavy cotton cloth fabric when ironing to screen, the heat can melt screen. Or use heat transfer paper. Those work as well, but unlike freezer paper can be permanently set onto the screen. Printing is very old process. So the first thing you must do before ever touching screen is to learn patience. Or else your just seeing yourself up for failure. The whole thing is therapeutic for myself. Why i started my own printing shop

beanco (author)2010-10-17


so, i have never silk screend with emulsion. We just use wood glue. it works great for simple designs, but not so well for intricate one.

also we have had budget cuts (i have been doing this with students at the hs i teach at-) so we have to start reusing screens.... so, if we switch to emulsion we can wash it out with bleach? i have no idea what vallum is and since i live in hungary i cannot stop off at the shops you mentioned.

Making our own emulsion and reusing the screens would save us a ton of money....



FlipsideLoko (author)beanco2014-10-18

Freezer paper works awesome as a stencil. I suggest investing on a cricut creation or something similar so you can make more intricate designs. You can print on non waxy side, cut out, place stencil unto screen or directly to fabric(use caution when removing) and iron it on. It's made to use in oven so it can with stand the highest heat setting on iron or heat press.

ithoughtucared69 (author)2009-11-27

 Is it legal to take things from the internet (i.e. storm trooper) and put it on clothing?

When you get design of computer, make a few changes to it i put miniscule swirls on one corner of sum designs for sports teams. Hard to prove trade mark infringement. I'm not saying do anything illegal, but all the screen shots i know use known logos on shirts...for c example Superman Logo..doubt the money that paid for those ppl to get those shirts done by print shop were used to pay royalties. Read up on laws about it and see where the Line is before you cross it.

It's illegal to take copyrighted or trademarked material and resell it without paying out royalties (I think...)

so long as you're not reselling anything, you'll be ok

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