Screenprinting - Making the Perfect Screen




there are many tutorials on the web instructing home-based screenprinting techniques, but most fail to mention the two most important tips for creating quality, affordable prints at home. The first is the importance of how taught or tight the mesh must be, the second involves something called the "snap". This instructable shows how to make adjustable screens to ensure the tightest of screens, and then explains the "snap"

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Step 1: Go Shopping!

This is what is required for this tutorial:
1 pine strip (1.8m long) and 22mm x 22mm.
4 x bolts (70mm x 6mm) with their accompaning nuts.
a drill (with 6mm bit).
staple gun.
wood glue.
mesh ( i've sourced mine from screenprinting suppliers and is a 55 mesh count)

Step 2: Cutting and Drilling

first we need to cut our pine strip into 4 strips.
i've used 2 x 45mm pieces and 2 x 35mm pieces (this is just my preferred measurements)
each piece will have a hole drilled through the side, and on the other end, into the middle.
the depth of the middle hole should be about 20mm

Step 3: The Lay-out

now we will creating a rectangular frame but with a "circular" lay-out.
in other words, the corners will be overlapping, not square.
this is best described by looking at the diagram.
each corner is connected by the bolt, then nut, and glued into the hole.
at this stage the nut will be tightened away from the glued hole.
allow to dry

Step 4: Mind the Gap

once dry, it is safe to move the bolts all the way to the hole.
then tap the ends of the pine strip closer so that the bolts are protruding on the outside.
now your frame should be square and the corners seperated by the nuts.

Step 5: Attaching the Mesh Screen

staple the mesh to the frame.
its not necessary to try pull it tight while attaching.
the nuts will do that for you later.
use wood glue to ensure an even stronger fit.
allow to dry.
nearly done! maybe time for a cold beer, never drink beer and handle a drill at the same time, instructable on how to stem blood flow from a drill wound at a later stage

Step 6: Nearly Done

now, using a spanner, start turning on the nuts so that they increase the gap at each corner.
do one nut at a time, starting with small adjustments so that the gaps increase slowly.
you should now feel the screen becoming tighter.
you will know the correct stretch if it starts feeling like you're tapping on a drum or tamborine.
remember, too much stretch and it could start tearing, so be patient.
now find other instructables which show the use of emulsion and prints to make your screen.
there are many

Step 7: The Snap

now we all know how frustrating screenprinting can be.
but once you have a super-tight screen, here is another important piece of information which will help you create perfect prints, and its called, quite simply, the "snap".
the snap is the distance between your screen and the textile.
this should be about 5-6mm and many people do not know this.
so your screen should not be resting on the material, it should be away from it.
now you could never achieve this without a tight screen, but your pressure of the sqeegee should force the screen down onto the textile, and the tightness ensures it springs back up as you pass.
voila!!!! good luck.
now have another beer



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    18 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I made one and the frame twisted with the stretching of the mesh. Maybe I made the frame too big?


    3 years ago

    hey, i mainly want to know about the wood. i'd like to be able to salvage dumped wood.. do you know if any type is better or worse and for what reasons?


    I'm not following how this stretches the mesh. The picture on Step 5 illustrates my point; as you "back off" the nuts, you are not (it seems to me) "pulling" the mesh against the far side of the frame, you are in fact pulling against the closest stapled (& glued) "side" frame, which is only a few mm's away, leaving the rest of the mesh only as tight as it was when you stapled (& glued) it.

    I would appreciate any clarification (if my confusion makes any sense).

    Also, I would think anyone having problems with the wood strips rotating as they turn the nuts, could just use a "backup" wrench on the bolt head (if the bolt can't turn, the wood strips should have no tendency to rotate)

    Thanks for your article! Sharing ideas is always a great idea!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    I Agree with you... thats exactly what it does as seen in the pic... pull the nearest staple... u should staple after youve tightened


    4 years ago on Introduction

    hi... just wondering what materail is the mesh screen.... im almost done making this just need to confirm the mesh material..


    5 years ago on Step 7

    This is a fantastic idea, and a great instructable.

    What book did you get that last image illustrating the snap?

    I'd also love to see your silkscreen carousel ideas...


    Hi what is the glue you use to glue the bolts into the wood? normal wood glue? or multi purpose? i made the screen using this system only i used a glue called TEC7 but the woodstrips turn as i tighten the mesh.

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    "2 x 45mm pieces and 2 x 35mm pieces"? That's a tiny screen. I think you meant centimeters.


    6 years ago on Step 7

    I've been making my own screens for a long time but the bolt setup is very clever!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    this is a great idea ive screen printing for some time and i always pay to have my mesh glues to the frame this will save me lots of cash! :D


    9 years ago on Step 7

    i find that if you glue 5mm nuts to the 4 corners of your screen, this gives you a nice even snap. the reason its not included in the instructable is because i've now gone a step further and i am fitting my screen to a hinge system so you can lift the screen and, if need be, place it back if the print is not perfect. this hinge system stands 5mm higher than the board it is built on. make sense? it works on the same principle as a screenprinters carousel, good luck

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    We use a hinge system at my school. Except instead of making the hinges permanent, we use a nail to slide in and out of the two pieces of the hinge. That way we can change the screens with much ease


    9 years ago on Step 7

    This is great info for those who already have some silkscreen know how.

    Your fish is nice at the intro!
    Thanks for posting this!