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Doing your own screen printing.

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First off, I realize that there is already a thread on screen printing but seeing as this is coming from a different angle I figured it would be best to not invade that thread and start a new one.


Now onto my question.  Anyone have any recommendations on how to make a screen printing set up in your homes? Any tips on the best supplies and things like that?  Also how much did the initial cost of everything come out to being?  Thanks dudes.

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Hopefully you're not working with limited space

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So, you'll need to keep a few things in mind. This cost of supplies is pretty cheap to get started with some exploration, but can increase substantially as you decide to get more serious. 


A most basic set of supplies is a screen, some emulsion, some ink and your negative. I'd buy an emulsion scoop too since they are really cheap. I've typically bought at http://www.victoryfactory.com/ but you can hunt around. Also buy some screen reclaimer so you can reuse your screen. You will fuck up a bunch at the start.


Your screens are going to vary in mesh sizes and you'll want to change screens based on how you want to use them. Higher mesh counts for paper, lower mesh counts for fabric. Generally speaking, the more absorbent your surface is the lower the mesh count. Too high and not enough ink gets through, too low and you image bleeds. There are some other variables, such as metallic inks, at least the water based ones, don't run as well through screens as regular inks. It is just some trial and error. 


With inks, you got two high level options. Water-based and Plastisol. You can read all about the differences, for home use curing is the primary issue so read up on DIY curing methods. You can also buy some inks that are sewer-safe, so you can dump them where you want. 


For your negative, you can take it to Kinko's and have them run 11x17 transparencies of you can buy a cheap printer that'll print them at home. Again, I'd start with Kinko's to make sure you like screenprinting. You can carefully scotch tape transparencies together for a larger image, just keep in mind they can't print full bleed so you'll need to trim and line everything up. You don't need transparencies, anything that prevents light from hitting the emulsion with do the trick (stencils, opaque paper, etc.) but you'll obviously be able to handle high fidelity stuff from a printer. 


Exposure can be tricky, you can try with the sun, it'll just take some trial and error to get your time down. For a nice crisp image you'll want that trans right up tight with the screen so you could lay so glass over it in the sun or something probably. I'm not sure, in VT there is a city print making studio with a unit I can use. There are plenty of online tutorials about building your own but it is a process and like Madie said, you'll need some space.


I think the HARDEST part of home printing is registration for multiple colors. You can buy some cheap speedball (or other) hinges but trying to do multiple colors is a pain. The pin registration method is your best bet, short of buying a little 4 color press. 


Screenprinting is surprising easy to get started on, difficult to get really good at. But fun, so give it a go. I didn't get into any step by step here because it is all so readily available online and on YouTube, but I'm happy to try and tackle some specific questions. Some people here probably know more than me as well. 

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I know that my friend has made a couple of shirts before using photo emulsion. Usually what he does is prints out what he wants to make a screen of on a clear projector transparency. After that, he takes it and places it on the screen with a 100W bulb hanging overhead in a dark room for a couple of hours. After that, he screens a shirt. Granted this is only a one color screen, it's fairly simple

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Been trying my hand at this stuff for merch lately, it is a lot of trial and error each time you try something new. But I've gotten the hang of shirts and record sleeves so far. Trying posters soon.

I've like blick for getting ink fairly cheap. Also, I definitely want to invest in a scoop coater. Coating the emulsion is my biggest hurdle every time and I think the coater will solve that issue

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so i had a similar question for my friend who does this kinda stuff and this is how she responded - hopefully you find it somewhat useful



This is a pretty nice, standard size & mesh count. You could for sure get away with a lower mesh count, something in the 80s or 90s.. just be careful if you have large print areas because it can get kind of messy. I think 110 holds ink and prints the best for most things. When you start doing halftones or anything with small details, I would recommend something like a 230 mesh count. 
As for the size.. it kind of depends on your set up-- make sure you get screens that will be big enough to accomodate your designs plus about 4-6 inches on each side. you can get away with images closer to the edge, but trust me- it usually isn't worth the headache... the more room you give yourself, the better.. things get real messy real quick.
Wood frames for the most part are just fine also... i guess it just depend on how serious you want to be about it. You have to make sure wooden ones are taken care of more- yaknow, so they dont warp. But, they do allow you to stretch your own screens if you decide that would be easier.. after considering the emulsion/screen filler removal process..
I have the most experience printing with acrylic paint. I usually bought Amsterdam brand (in bottles about the size of ketchup bottles). Before printing, mix your paint with clear matte gel medium- any brand really.. i have used Golden and Liquitex. You want the ink to run smoothly off a spatchula, not glop and gloop down. Not exactly "soupy" though... you still want it to be thick enough that it doesn't slip through the mesh of the screen without being pushed by the squeegee. speedball screen printing inks work just fine, too.. they can probably afford to be thinned a little with gel medium, which will make then go further and also dry a little slower. I think that is most people's biggest beef with speedball inks- they tend to dry in your screen before you are done printing.
I should also mention that mixing gel medium makes the inks more transparent.. which can be good or bad. If you want to maintain opacity, you can use white gel medium. but the only time that will probably be an issue is if you are trying to print on something dark.. like a black shirt. Using gel medium also allows for buildup layers without the use of halftones- so you can make your designs a little more complex.
screen tape- use this to mask areas of the screen you don't want printed, and to keep ink from getting around the edges of the screen between the frame and silk. you can use masking tape- but screen tape usually holds up better to moisture & multiple passes of ink/squeegee.
this guy is a wackadoodle, but he shows how to use screen tape : 
squeegees. to be honest, you can use a piece of cardboard. But if you are going to be printing a decent sized edition with the same screen, you will save ink, papertowels, and sanity if you invest in a good squeegee. and take care of her, please! dried ink is the worst and if it is on the rubber edge, it will mess up your future prints. You can always smooth a squeegee by running it across fine grit sandpaper on a smooth surface. the rubber's firmness is measured by durometers- 70 is a good standard. usually softer is for fabric printing while firmer is for paper printing. And obv, you want to make sure the squeegee is wider than your artwork and smaller than your screen.. i would probably get one that is about 80-85% of your screen's short end, and another that is about 75-80% of the long end. the bigger the squeegee, the more challenging it is to pull the ink evenly.
newsprint for test prints. really any paper- or even acetate can be reused for this.. just something to print on to make sure everything looks okay.
a shit ton of papertowels
spray waterbottles
So there are basically two ways to get your image onto the screen- screen filler and photo emulsion. emulsion is by far superior-- but also more complicated and expensive.
screen filler is pretty straight forward-- you just paint it on the areas of the screen that you don't want printed. So this way is by hand.... you would just print your design, set it under the screen, and kind of trace it with the filler. I don't have much experience trying to reclaim screens that have screen filler on them... I'm sure you could find some chemicals and tips online, though.
the way emulsion works.. is you either buy a screen pre coated with emulsion, or you can buy the emulsion yourself (store it in a refrigerator so it lasts longer). then,in a dark / dark-ish room (pretty much as long as there is not direct sunlight you are probably fine... it is not as sensitive as film.) you coat the screen with a thin layer of liquid emulsion using a scoop coater (http://www.silkscreeningsupplies.com/product/SC16). Next, you lay the screen flat (so the emulsion doesnt run down and streak) and leave it in the darkest room you can find until it dries.. probably about 24 hours.
You print your design on a transparency- I am pretty sure laser printers work better, but i think an inkjet would also work. You can also draw a design on acetate using a lightfast pen, or use a material called rubylith- which is a red acetate basically, but it is light fast.
To expose your image- you can use a couple of different set ups.. and they all take experimentation to get just right. I will just send you some resources because this is the most complicated step... but just know that you can simplify the shit out of everything i am telling you!
girl goes into some detail on one way to expose & one kind of exposure set up. DONT LISTEN TO HER- laser printers work fine.
this bitch is kind of scary, but i would imagine this is the kind of set up you would be going for. it is the most simple.
important variables are time, light wattage, and distance of light from screen.
so you burn the image, then you wash the screen with water and the emulsion that was exposed to light will stay, while the areas that were blocked by your image will wash out. MAGIC.
something like this might be an option to get started quickly and to remove some learning variables:
You could easily fit more than one design on that size screen, and just use screen tape and acetate to cover up the parts you are not using. This way you could really focus on perfecting your pulling skills without having to worry about if the image was exposed correctly. I'm not sure what their exposure process is, but I would assume that if you do this, it should be a design that you will be able to use for a while because the best way to reuse the screen might be to send it back to be professionally cleaned, or just have new mesh stretched over the frame. I could help you set it up so you would (hopefully) be able to avoid the multiple artwork fee, and definitely the additional art charges.
okay.. so.. i am leaving out a bunch of stuff. in short, here are somethings you need to get started:
screen / s
a way to expose your image.. so possibly emulsion, gloves, scoop coater, exposing setup, transparencies, and a darkish room
water spray bottles
acrylic paint
matte gel medium
wide tape ( at least 2")
scrap paper
paper towels
tupperware containers and spatulas for mixing and storing ink
a bathtub or large sink for rinsing screen, preferably with some sort of spray hose
masking tape
hinge clamps and a table or board to secure them to (http://www.dickblick.com/hinge/clamps/) preferred style: http://www.dickblick.com/products/speedball-deluxe-hinge-clamps/

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