What Do I Need For Screen Printing?
Screen printing can seem intimidating at first but, in reality, it is a relatively simple, albeit manual, way to print custom designs and artwork on a selection of products ranging from clothing to canvas and from bed linen to shopping bags.
Whether you are looking to screen print as a hobby or are setting up as a business that offers the service to clients, you will need basic equipment to get started. Below is a list of the items that you will need to start – you can always expand and include more items in the future, as you gain more experience in the process.
Screen And Frame
There are a number of routes you can take to create the screens you need. The simplest is to buy readymade screens. These come in a range of sizes to accommodate designs of any size. There are also screens that include mesh, as well as those that really are just a frame and that need mesh adding to them. You can also choose between a wooden frame, which is inexpensive but will not last as long as an aluminium frame. Aluminium is more expensive to buy, but it will last longer and typically offers better results, which means that it will cost you less in the long run.
Alternatively, you can make your own screen. Either buy a cheap canvas stretcher frame, buy a cheap canvas and remove the canvas itself, or make your own frame by gluing and screwing the wooden frame sections together. If you do make your own screens, you must ensure that they are sturdy and robust, that there are no gaps between the frame sections, and that they are built to last.
Unless you are printing a really basic design, using a single colour, you may need more than a single screen. Typically, you will use a screen for each colour used in a single design, because this negates the need to have to try and clean and dry the screen between each application.
Photo Emulsion And Sensitizer
Although it is possible to screen print without using emulsion, the most effective method that provides the best results is to print your design on transparency paper and use a light-sensitive emulsion on your screen.
Photo emulsion reacts to light, so by covering blank areas of the screen using your template, you can create a long-lasting and durable screen. You will need photo emulsion for every screen that you create, so if you plan on using more than one design or printing in multiple colours, consider this when buying the emulsion.
In order to activate the photo emulsion, you will need to beam a bright light onto the emulsion covered screen. This typically requires more than the ambient light in a standard room, so you will need to create your own light room or area in your room.
By using a lightbox, you can reflect the light, ensuring that it fully bathes all the screen and properly activates the emulsion that is used. Different emulsions do have different light requirements, so while some require 150 watts, others require 200 watts. At the very least, you will need a flat space with a lamp that sits approximately 2 feet above the surface.
A Dark Room
You only want the emulsion to activate when you’re ready. To prevent the emulsion from activating when you aren’t ready, and ultimately ruining your screen, you should apply the emulsion in a darkened room, and you will need to sit the screen in a dark room while you wait for it to dry. Any ambient light can ruin the screen, so if you don’t have access to a room that can be kept in total darkness, you should create a dark box. You can modify a cupboard or wardrobe if needs be.
Once the screen is complete and you are ready to print, you will need an effective method of evenly spreading the ink across the screen and through the mesh. A rubber squeegee is preferred because this is flexible enough that it pushes the ink properly around the screen. The rubber is easily cleaned, too, which is important because it prevents colour contamination from one design to the next.
You will need to use good quality ink, ideally that has been designed for use in screen printing because this will be the proper consistency and will soak into the material or fabric that you are printing on.
These are the very basic items that are required, along with something to print on, but there are other items that will make your job easier and potentially more enjoyable.
A screen printing machine can hold multiple screens on a rotating table so that you can more easily print multicolour designs. Latex gloves will prevent you from getting emulsion and paint on your hands. You will also need masking tape, and you can use a piece of glass or Perspex to cover the screens during certain stages of the screen printing process. It is also a good idea to complete a test print of a new design, so you should consider printing on paper first.
Buy Screen Printing Supplies From Screenstretch
Screen printing is a satisfying means of printing designs on almost any item. Whether you want to run your own t shirt printing business, or simply want to take up a new hobby, it represents a crafty and beneficial way to do exactly that. At Screenstretch we have considerable experience in the silk screen process, and we supply high quality and competitively priced screen printing products to clients across the country. Call us on 01942 888747, or email [email protected], with any questions about screen printing or to ask about our products. Alternatively, browse our products on the site and buy today.