Screen Printing 101

ChristyTutorials2 Comments

I finally got a chance to bust out my screen printing kit from Jacquard Products today. Of course, as always when I set out with a plan, Murphy’s Law kicked in and I haven’t gotten nearly as much done as I expected.

First, my little one decided to catch the cold that I’m just getting over. So that’s been awesome. Poor thing is mostly just sleepy, but when she’s awake, she needs to be within arms length of Mommy. And 9-month-olds have really short arms. Then, I realized that once again, I let both of my camera batteries die without charging them. I hate when I do that. So the few pictures I do have are of the iphone variety. And now, just as my screen is looking about dry enough to burn, it’s so overcast that I’ve decided to just wait until tomorrow and hope for some sunshine.

Butanyway. Let me walk you through what I did get done today. First, I made the design that I’ll be screenprinting. That part was relatively easy; just a saying and a simple design that I put together in Photoshop. I sized the image to fit on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, then printed it on transparency. Now it’s all ready to go when my screen is finally ready to burn.

Ready to burn. You might be thinking, she keeps saying that, and I have no idea what it means. Basically, I’m using a photo emulsion to turn my screen into a stencil. In order to transfer the image from my transparency to the screen I have to expose the whole thing to sunlight, which will “burn” the image onto the screen.

So, the first thing I had to do was prep the photo emulsion and then apply it to the screen. I worked in my bathroom, because I figured it would be the easiest room to clean if I made a mess, and I was able to get it nice and dark by covering the window and turning out the lights. Obviously, when you’re working with photo-sensitive chemicals you want to expose them to as little light as possible before burn time. The emulsion comes in two parts: one jar of a blue paste that’s about the consistency of thick paint, and a small bottle of powder. I filled the powder bottle with water and shook it for about a minute. Then I poured the solution into the emulsion paste and stirred really well. The result is a slightly thinner green paste. You want to wear rubber gloves while you do this, because the chemicals involved aren’t the best things to get all over your skin.

Anyway, once the emulsion was mixed, it was time for the fun part. I poured a ribbon of emulsion along the bottom of the outside of my screen, and used the squeegee to distribute it evenly along the entire surface. I squeegeed both sides of the screen several times until I was satisfied that I had a thin, even coating. Once that was done I left it to dry and cleaned my squeegee. Tomorrow at the first sign of sunlight I’ll burn the image, and then I’ll just need to procure a T-shirt for the actual printing part. Stay tuned.

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