Not too long ago I got into screen printing-shirts, but didn’t want to shell out $40 on a pre-made screen. I wanted to make my own screen on the cheap, but also didn’t want to buy a staple gun that I’ll never use for anything else.
Enter duct tape. Everyone has it!
You can use duct tape for pretty much everything and I decided to use duct tape to make my screen.
I’ve made quite a few screens using this method and they all work really well. I haven’t needed to replace or redo any of them yet for…duct tape failure!
What I’ll be showing you is how to make your own silk screen for screen printing using things you will probably have lying around the house.
Step 1: Materials
There are literally only 4 things you’ll need to do this!
- A picture or canvas frame of an appropriate size or stretcher bars
- Mesh screen or curtain sheers with small weave
- Duct tape
In this guide I’ll be replacing the mesh on one of my screens so it is easier to clean off the photo emulsion liquid. The current screens I have are made with 4 standard thickness interlocking stretcher bars (2=12 in and 2=14 in), but wooden frames will do just as well. You can pick up stretcher bars at any good craft store for 1-2 dollars each (depending on the length and thickness) and you can get frames for super cheap at thrift shops like Goodwill. You could even make your own stretcher bars!
I’m also using a 140 mesh polyester for my screen, which has been perfect for everything I’ve done. The American Screen Printing Association has a mesh count chart and typical applications guide that will help you choose a mesh appropriate for what you want to do. If you’re not worried about fine lines or just want something to practice with, you can even use some curtain sheers!
Step 2: Prep Frame and Mesh
All I’m doing here is putting the stretcher bars together. If using a frame, remove any hardware that might be present on the back of the frame.
Lay the mesh/sheer over the frame and cut it to be the same size as the frame’s outer edge.
My mesh has some wrinkles in it because I had it folded for storage. I'm not going to worry about it though because they will go away when stretched.
Step 3: Stretch and Tape
Almost as easy as it sounds!
Why do I say “almost”? There is a bit of procedure you should follow and that is: stretch and tape in opposites. By that I mean, do one side of the frame and then do the opposite side. Turn the frame 90 degrees and do one side and then the other. This will get you a nice, even, firm stretch on the mesh.
Start in the middle of one of the shorter sides of the frame. Put a piece of tape on the mesh and attach to the frame so that the tape will wrap around to the back side WITHOUT stretching. Turn to the opposite side and place tape in the middle and pull the mesh and tape as tight as you can and stick the tape.
Rotate the frame 90 degrees and repeat, but stretch BOTH sides. Rotate 90 degrees again. Stretch and tape on either side of the middle piece, then do the same on the opposite side. Rotate 90 degrees again and repeat until you have completely stretched and taped all sides.
If you poke the mesh and there's much give or there are taught ripples, you should reconsider re-stretching. The great thing about doing this with duct tape and not staples is that you can easily untape and stretch again without harming the mesh fabric.
Step 4: Finishing
If you're satisfied with how taught the mesh is, I have one last step for you. Place one long piece of tape on each side of the frame on the front AND back. This will protect the pieces that are actually keeping the mesh stretched. Feel free to get one last stretch in if you can.
Once you’ve done that, all you have left to do is wash the screen to remove your oily finger prints. Lightly brush the screen with water and dish soap, rinse, and dry.
NOW you’re done!
And see? The wrinkles went away!
Enjoy your duct tape screen and get to printing!