View Full Version : How to Silk Screen in 10 Easy(ish) Steps

01-02-2009, 01:56 AM
This post goes out to all of you who made "Learn to Silk Screen" your new year's resolution. I intended to get it done in time for Meg's tutorials contest, but I drank too much Bailey's and went to bed early. But a day late and a dollar short, here we go:

1. Take your screen and prepare it. This is photo emulsion silk screening, and we are using the photo emulsion chemicals (which come with their own mixing directions and keep in your fridge for 6 months).


Use a squee gee to apply a thin layer of the chemical to the screen.


I have not been successful at getting my old images fully off the screens, but they don't seem to affect future use, so I don't really worry about it. But that's what you're seeing here.

2. Wait until the chemical dries.



3. Meanwhile, using the government's liberal small personal use policy, you will have copied the image you want onto a transparency (that you did rightfully purchase yourself). Or you can go to Kinko's. The image must be in half-tones--no colors, no shades of grey. Just black and clear. But any amount of detail is fine (this is the big difference from freezer paper stenciling).


ALso pictured there is a thin piece of plexiglass you will need to weight the image down.

4. Place your transparency on top of the dry, prepared silk screen. We happened to own a big shop-style halogen lamp, so that's what I use. Meg's done something crazy like go out in the sun to expose. But the halogen seems more predictable, so get a halogen lamp. Turn the lamp on high and expose the silk screen. You will need to engage in some trial and error to determine how long to expose with your light source. For me, with this set-up, it's 20 min.



5. Flush out the screen with luke warm water.


6. OK, we're ready to print. Fabric, squee gee again, fabric ink. The ink is thicker than fabric paint, FYI.


7. Apply the ink.


8. Cross your fingers, hold your breath, say a prayer, off comes the screen.


9. Voila! Into the oven it goes to be heat-set. Or you can iron it, but with the iron it can scorch, and the oven is so easy. Heat to 400, then turn off, put fabric in, leave for 10 min.


10. Done and all sewn up! (if you really paid attention, you could see I was doing two different silk screen images throughout this tutorial. There's an efficiency to doing several at once, what with all the supply-getting-out and clean-up).


This is the Farbenmix Amelie pattern some of you were considering getting. Cute, right?

Now go forth and silk screen!

01-02-2009, 02:22 AM
That is so cool! Now I have to get that pattern because it is so cute, where can I get it? Love the top!!
The drink looks good too~I love milk! : )
Thank you for sharing!!!

01-02-2009, 03:19 AM
Wow- thanks for the tut! Do you make your own screens or do you by them?

F and L
01-02-2009, 05:40 AM
Amelie is just adorable, and the silk screening so beautiful. What an amazing tutorial!

01-02-2009, 08:33 AM
Definitely going to try this now that my oldest is too cool for the prints I have.

01-02-2009, 08:54 AM
So cool! Thanks for sharing and yes Amelie is very cute, especially what you did with it.

01-02-2009, 09:01 AM
Wow! This was great! Thank you!

01-02-2009, 10:02 AM
Great tut! You mean now I have to pick up a new hobby! We have already run out of room for the ones I have now! :wink: May need to try that soon!

01-02-2009, 10:11 AM
Thanks for taking the time to do that!

01-02-2009, 10:54 AM
That is so cool!! Great job!

01-02-2009, 12:47 PM
Great tute - thanks marzipan!! I love, love, love that skeleton/amelie combo!!


01-02-2009, 04:02 PM
Looks great! Thanks for typing that up...not that I have any of that equipment, but I think it looks like lots of fun.

Cute Amelie! If you guys are ever down in LA, you should visit the Tar Pits. Very, very fun.

01-02-2009, 04:08 PM
Thanks for the tute! Where did you buy that equipment? Dh would love me to be able to do that for his tees....would it be hard to do letters? Can you print onto the transparency with your printer?

01-02-2009, 07:30 PM
Great job Mama! Great info.

01-03-2009, 09:45 AM
That is awesome! I want to try this this summer. How fun. Thanks!!!

01-03-2009, 10:03 AM
Thank you so much! Awesome tutorial :)

01-03-2009, 11:23 AM
Wow! You've managed to make this look do-able! I'm usually overwhelmed by the mere thought of silk screening - but I think I could manage this. hmmmm....

Do you buy your supplies locally or online (and would you buy this photo emulsion stuff at a craft store, or am I on the wrong track?)

01-03-2009, 09:03 PM
Awesome tute! You made it look so easy. I too am curious about where to get the supplies...

01-03-2009, 09:17 PM
Awesome, thanks!

01-03-2009, 09:27 PM
Thanks guys! I picked up my first round of supplies from dharmatrading (in person, but also available .com). We have two local art stores that I've used for the rest, but it's all readily available online.

Speedball is the main brand available, and they have their own much more comprehensive tutorial and directions.

Now go silk screen!

01-03-2009, 10:05 PM
Audray, thank you so much for this. I was so excited to hear that you were doing this tute - I really want to try this. And I intend on following your instructions to the letter, including the Baileys (or Emmet's? haven't tried that one....).

And that Amelie ...my goodness, how cool is that? I need to get that pattern. But yours is just too cool.

01-03-2009, 10:14 PM
THat would be the costco brand...nothing but the best!

01-03-2009, 10:21 PM
That was an awesome tute! Makes it seem much less imposing...I think I'm going to keep buying from you though! :p Love that squid!!!!

01-06-2009, 02:38 PM
Wow, that is a great tute and I love the Amelie that you made.

sarah ruth
01-06-2009, 03:09 PM
You make it look so easy but then I think that I see those supplies at work all day I don't know if I want it sitting around my house too!

How does it hold up in washing and everything after heat setting it?

01-06-2009, 04:02 PM
Thanks guys! Lorraine, speaking of, your package went out yesterday :D. Look for a little squiddy something in there.

It holds up great in the wash--no special handling required!

01-06-2009, 06:17 PM
What an excellent tutorial

I just finished a level three printing class for my art degree and did a 3 color screen image. I never realized that I could shoot the screen at home. I was prepared to go to AIR our public print studio here in Pittsburgh to shoot my screens - http://www.justseeds.org/blog/2008/10/air_annual_benefit_o ct_18_1.html

I have always used the machine at school to shoot my screens. Very cool and informative and most helpful. Thank You. I was all set to do this at home but was trying to figure out the shooting part.

In my efforts to stay within compliance to the upcoming CPSA stuff I opted to buy a water based Eco line of inks. They don't require any ink heat set at all and dry super quick and set with the air. They have a learning curve though in trying to keep the screen clean for a good print as they dry so fast. Not cheap though. Here is the link to the Screen Printing Supplier we have locally that distributes nationally. And if you scroll down there is the Eco Aqua Pura I was mentioning.

thank you for taking the time to put this together. :)

01-07-2009, 12:52 AM
Hey, neat! THanks for sharing that, Mary Beth! And welcome to sewingmamas :) Show some of your work soon, please!

01-07-2009, 01:48 AM
Audrey, you are just way too cool for words.

01-07-2009, 03:18 AM
Perfect - It always seemed to scary - but when you factor in the "bevie" I think I may actually tack this (or at least part of it!!)

11-13-2009, 01:58 PM
Thanks for pointing me to this!! What size screen do you recommend? And how long does it take from start to finish, about? Do you need to prep the shirts?

You are awesome!

11-13-2009, 02:19 PM
fantastic! thank you.

11-13-2009, 02:20 PM

11-14-2009, 12:59 PM
Thanks guys :) I think I still have that bottle of Bailey's in my fridge.

Shannon, I like the 10 x 14 screens. It takes about a day to get a screen ready, but that's from cleaning the old one out, drying, prepping the new one, drying, making the transparency--doing the actual lamp part is only 20 min. And one it's made, maybe 15 min per shirt (with washing and heat setting and everything).

No special pretreatment for the shirts. I think you're supposed to wash them to take the sizing off, but I haven't been consistent about that, and no problems.

11-14-2009, 03:21 PM
I have all the stuff, just haven't done it yet. Keep looking at this tute though...

Quick question: all the books say you need clamps to hold down the frame. I don't see any clamps in your tute. Are they really not necessary? Just makes smudging less likely? The clamps are really what hold me back. Well, that and the whole "gotta do the screen in the dark" -- doesn't look like you followed that 'rule' either.


11-14-2009, 03:35 PM
is that a laser printed transparency or ink jet??

11-14-2009, 03:43 PM
No clamps. I think some screens come with hinges, but I bought the cheaper ones.

I don't put the chemicals on in bright light, but I'm not feeling my away around in a dark room either. I do let them dry in a closet, though.

I xerox onto the transparency. I think you have to do that.

11-14-2009, 03:48 PM
What's a ballpark estimate of the cost of all the materials needed to do this? I've been looking at the Yudu personal screenprinting system and it just seems like a ripoff to me.

11-14-2009, 05:21 PM
About $100. That should last you quite a while, as long as you don't go nuts with ink colors (ahem).

11-19-2009, 09:10 AM
No clamps. I think some screens come with hinges, but I bought the cheaper ones.

I don't put the chemicals on in bright light, but I'm not feeling my away around in a dark room either. I do let them dry in a closet, though.

I xerox onto the transparency. I think you have to do that.

I had a VAGUE recollection from a workshop one of my students took, that they had used sharpie on acetate, and so I looked it up!!

It turns out that you can use any method to apply the design to the acetate: laser or ink jet, photocopy, or sharpie marker.

That should make this process a LOT easier for some people.

Here's where I got the info, and after I read it, I remembered learning most of that via my art students...
http://www.dharmatrading.co m/html/eng/1179371-AA.shtml