How Not to Mess Up a Screen Printing (without Photo Emulsion)




Introduction: How Not to Mess Up a Screen Printing (without Photo Emulsion)

I wanted to offer customized bags for my friends this christmas.
Using a design rendered by a program I created, I thought the nicest way to put them on bags was to screen print them.
It was my first time doing this process, and I didn't think it would be that long and hard.
Here are some tips for beginners to avoid the mistakes I did.

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Step 1: Materials

- screen printing board
- screen filler
- printing screen
- ink for screen printing
- squeegee
- masking tape

Step 2: Where to Find Cheap Tote Bags

I had a hard time finding blank tote bags in the city.
I ordered some for about $1 each from They were shipped in two days.
The size is pretty good, but the fabric is a bit too thin.

Step 3: How to Prepare Your Image on the Screen

For my design, photo emulsion was not the best option because my lines were too thin.
I decided to work directly on the screen with the screen filler. The process is a lot longer (depending on your design), but I liked the fact that it would add some hand gesture to it.

Where you apply the screen filler is the space you don't want to be seen on the design. The ink will go through the empty spaces on your screen.

I attached my image on the back of the screen with some tape, and then applied the screen filler on the other side.
At first, I used a brush, but it was not precise enough. So I used an ink pencil that took more time but was more accurate to my original design.

When you're done, let it sit for about 20 min to dry.

Step 4: Printing

Prepare your board by putting some paper on the bottom to protect it.
Attach the screen to the top part. Make sure it is on the right way (plain part facing down). You will be filling it with ink on the part that's inside the frame.

When your screen is fixed, place your fabric on the board. I put paper inside my tote bag to avoid that the ink goes on the other side.
Be also sure to protect the area around the screen to that no ink gets outside of the right area.

Get the screen down on the fabric. Be sure to press it down. It is better if you have someone to help you.
Put the ink along one side of the frame, and use the squeegee to apply it all over it. You should be careful not to apply too much paint, and you should be able to pass the squeegee only once.

At first, I just had a bit of ink on my bag. I applied it again without moving the bag from its previous position, and I had to make this twice to have an good amount of ink on my bag.
I bought an ink for fabric that didn't get absorbed well on my tote bag. It was too liquid, and transparent.
I tried the process on two different bags.
On the first one, I applied the ink three different times. My design got misplaced and I didn't have enough ink on the bag.
For the second one, I applied too much ink and passed the squeegee several times on the surface. The bag was sticked on the screen when I removed it, which caused a mess on my design.

After 10 min, the ink almost totally disappeared on the bags, leaving a light trace.

I think the main problem was that I didn't buy the right ink, so be careful on the one you pick!

Step 5: The Right Ink

I finally got some ink especially for screen printing.

After cleaning all the screen with water, I applied the new ink which worked perfectly!
Notice: Print very fast, or wash the screen every two items for a better result.

If you have some mistakes, you can still wash them off with some water.
After a few minutes, iron the item with the new ink so that it stays permanently in the fabric.
You're done, enjoy your new designs!

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    2 Discussions


    9 years ago on Step 3

    This is a horribly sadistic method,I know I've tried it before even seeing this instructable.
    My hats off to you for your patience and amazingly steady hand!!

    I have seen screen drawing fluid before at the supply shop, its supposed to work with the screen filler, have you tried it before?
    and if so is it effective?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    What kind of paint/Ink should I use? note: I don't have access to screen printing materials i have managed to use alternative materials so far. Please don't give me links to sites as i do not live in the USA and i don't want to pay for international shipping.