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.
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Step 1: 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

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.
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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

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.

thanks nfarrow

What does the light do to the solution? dissolves it?
slimguy379 (author)  plasticpopcorn45 years ago
no it exposes the screen with the goo, the pattern (black designs) do not allow light to pass, and allow the goo to harden. this stays soft and easy to wash out. thus creating your screen
what color light goes into making such a "burning" take place with that 15-20 min time frame you discretely use??  i would imagine a single light bulb in the range of a 50-100 watts, incandescent type bulb??  sorry, i know i'm removing the experimental phase of getting up and starting my own business of this DIYer's dream, but from one aspiring soul to another would you help make this go a lot smoother by adding more input on this matter (of lighting)? 
      i read somewhere the best is using direct sunlight for approx 7 min will achieve the best results.  this of-course seems to be the most environmentally friendly way, but this seems to be uncontrolled and possibly more left to the whim of nature and all its glorious mishaps (i.e. weather, clouds, rain).  but then again, who's to say this is actually totally foolproof??  a full 7 minutes seems to be within one's own command, if all the business is attended to properly in a methodical sort of way.  ok, enough of me thinking out loud.  so, please, if you will.  more details of the lighting you're using for your makeshift "darkroom."  or, would "lightroom" fit more appropriately?  idk, i'm sort of new to this "photo emulsion" technique.  i'll need a little firelight to guide me through, until i'll be able to feel my way through the "dark," so to speak.  --having found my own zen in the art of screen printing.

thanks much for this rather informative tidbit.  power to the people!!!

incandescent light bulb 150W

12-16” from screen

glass on top

25 mins set time

malouz1 year ago
wow…this is really ghetto ( not saying useless or unable to work but still…wow )
the best way to do it is side by side with a plier on the opposite side this step should really be done with a lot of care the tension is not supposed to be the same if it's a big or a small screen in the industrial world they mesure the force of tension in newtons of course one cannot always do that in it's own workshop/home…
Thaikarl2 years ago
sorry, but i'm a bit confused. speedball photoemulsion etc comes as a gooey globby stuff in a bottle, and a little teeny bottle of "sensitizer". you mix them and it becomes photo sensitive. are you saying that when you mix water with dry potassium dichromate, it becomes light sensitive?

then you are mixing it with PVA (poly vinyl acetate -- elmers) glue to work as the gooey gloppy stuff? so the combination of (water+potassium dichromate) + PVA glue = a photo sensitive emulsion that you can spread on your screen, just like the speedball etc stuff? then expose with a mask when you wash it, the un-exposed mixture washes out and you have your screen.

i'm in thailand at the moment, up country, and i'm not going to find speedball or other commercial products, but i *might* be able to find chemicals. thanks.
lucek2 years ago
Just as a reminder proper handling and disposal should be taken into account. Don't just dump the stuff. It is strong oxidant and contains heavy metals.
lucek lucek2 years ago
I'm curious about exposure time and clean-up. Could you shed some like on this?
ca you help me?what's wrong of my work after i exposed my work in to the light my design was destro.
rufflesdog3 years ago
You can use laminating pouches. Laminating pouches are 9 x 12 and I cut them to 8.5 x 11 to go through the printer. After you cut them, you have 2 sheets. Feed the rough side (which has the glue) through your manual tray on your printer. Grab the sheet as it comes through the printer and keep it straight or it will curl upon itself.
nhito_193 years ago
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...^_^
beanco3 years ago

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....



 Is it legal to take things from the internet (i.e. storm trooper) and put it on clothing?
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
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..
why not buy emulsion ? - speedball diazo emulsion kit $20 + shipping google "screenprinting supplies" etc.
slimguy379 (author)  grok the wowness5 years ago
because if u read i can make like 10x as much for the same price
True... I bought 10$ worth of potassium dichromate, and maybe total of $10 worth of glue and I've already made twice as much as one of those speedball kits can make... and I've barely made a dent in my potassium supply. at least 10x more
zidakano4 years ago
Does anyone think that this could be used to make pre-sensitized pcb boards to make a resist to etch them. if so I think it could be cost effective as those boards a quite a bit more. dunno an idea I had while reading this ible.
a photography friend of mine used some of my photo emulsion I made with this recipe for dichromate printing... I believe the store I bought this stuff from sells it for wood staining? so I'm sure there are many applications you could use it for... anything you need light sensitivity.
GasherMan4 years ago


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

!! holy cow... that can't be good for ya
awsmanna5 years ago
How far away is your lamp from your screen? I was trying to do this with the sun, but a thin layer of emulsion completely rinsed away after 30 min, and a slightly thicker layer wouldn't rinse out after 30 min. I'm going to start over again tomorrow and do a full screen of test exposure times to nail it down.
slimguy379 (author)  awsmanna5 years ago
idk haven't done this in a long time, i bet a matter of a foot or so
not to be mean, but along came the bigger fish (in the ecology of the world of instructables):

the author explains 150w incandescent no less.

so that ans the question i sought.

but not to shame, i could have never found a better stepping stone than your personal instructable.  without it, i would have never found the bigger fish, so to speak.  sorry i speak in eternal signs and metaphors.  bear with my charades.
This is actually only for the Speedball Diazo emulsion system.  Not for homemade emulsion, so it might not work for all emulsions.  What she has listed is taken verbatim from the Speedball diazo photo-emulsion system instructions.  So, if you are making this emulsion yourself from this instructable, the link listed above may not work.  So keep trying!!  You'll get it.  I'm going to try making my own next week when my supplies arrive, so we shall see!!!
diss0nance5 years ago
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)  diss0nance5 years ago
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
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.
How about using woodglue from Ace. They have the waterproof one.
Would this actually work?  The water-proof glue?  I'm going to try to make this myself.  SPEEDBALL is really expensive!
kmiller84 years ago
Would the safer Ammonium Dichromate work instead of Potassium Dichromate?
KenoshaKid5 years ago
I live in Europe and we don't have Elmer's Glue here. What kind of glue is it? Could you copy the list of ingredients on the package if there is any so i can go look for a similar glue that i can buy here?
 PVA glue.white school glue.
slimguy379 (author)  KenoshaKid5 years ago
wood glue in general or papercraft glue...same stuff... er for this project at least
woody_pato5 years ago
hey i just did this today and it turned out great, thanks btw the fabric i bought was called chiffon if that helps anybody.
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